We the North! Civic Tech Organizing in Toronto: Origins and Extrapolations from an International City [Brigade Congress 2019]

Session: We the North! Civic Tech Organizing in Toronto: Origins and Extrapolations from an International City
Presented by: Emily Macrae, Alex Jung, Patrick Connolly (Civic Tech Toronto)

Original notes here: http://bit.ly/brigade-congress-toronto

Copied below!

2019-10-19 Brigade Congress, #WeTheNorthCFA

:link: bit.ly/brigade-congress-toronto

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:date: Date: Sat, Oct 19 @ 11:15-12:30pm ET / 15:15-16:30 UTC
:round_pushpin: Location: Cleveland Public Library
:hash: #WeTheNorthCFA
:family: Who’s here?
(Add you Twitter handle or name if you feel like it!)


Note: link.civictech.ca shortlinks are generated from this master list :link: link.civictech.ca/shortlinks using a schedule script :link: link.civictech.ca/about-gsheet2shortlinks

Links shared

Collab Notes

h/t Nick Floersch for live-noting :tada: (some formatting/additions by @patcon and mystery strangers)

  • History
    • Started 4 years ago; (one of) first groups in Canada (we don’t call them Brigades)
    • First hacknight: “beta”
      • :link: link.civictech.ca/beta-hacknight
      • Thoughtful list of people from many domains invited to first kick off :link: invite list
      • very intentional
      • participants were asked: is this interesting enough to do every week?
      • participants were offered: consider yourself a co-founder!
      • Inspired by Chicago, too
  • How the brigade works/is
    • General structure
      • Speaker at every meetup
        • [new] Attendees come for the speaker mostly
        • Philosophy of speakers
          • Important to welcome speakers in
          • Build them up in how we talk about them
          • How can we support them and not necessarily confrontational
          • We are holding hands with speakers, not pointing fingers
      • Roles
        • Roles switch up
        • The roles are identified and they change up monthly
        • MC
        • AV person
        • Welcomer/greeter
        • Sharing “generosity of leadership”
        • Positive pressure to change up roles
        • Not a virtue to keep doing the same role
          • Transfer of knowledge
          • Articulate values
          • Better understand the what and why
        • Use a spreadsheet for coordination
        • For each role there is a run sheet to let folks know what to do in that role
        • Mitigate burnout
        • Link to role sign-up sheet and descriptions of roles: :link: link.civictech.ca/roles or direct link to dir :link: link.civictech.ca/runsheets
        • Different assumptions of power for each role… we are all in charge, “we are all the government”
        • [name=patcon] Avoid merging small roles into larger ones; this creates more barrier to participation/leadership by removing opportunities for new leaders
        • New organizers may not even know the “old timers”, but it is maybe a “good smell” in terms of participation and flows of leadership
      • Invites to grow
        • Try to do active invites to get more folks involved
          • Example: Person might start out livetweeting or door greeting, and continue into more challenging organizing roles
      • Reminders
        • Automated in Slack every week
        • [name=patcon] Philosophy of community infra (WIP) :link: link.civictech.ca/infra-philosophy
        • [name=patcon] some via simple Slack reminders, but many via CircleCI script-runner for scheduled tasks, that’s kinda like a “public cronjob” :link: link.civictech.ca/scripts
        • Depersonalize reminder process to avoid nagging
        • Pulls info from spreadsheets to determine who gets what reminder
        • Automation should be wanted by organizers… doesn’t force itself on people in a bad way
        • Use emojis and symbols to keep things light
          • But also visual representation of topics/items (alternative learning types; information/text/data processing ≯ visual processing)
        • List of tools and resources for each role too
        • Automation doesn’t do the real work! It focuses energy
        • Does not pretend to be a human or do emotion work like sending a real “thanks!”
      • Gratitude
        • Reminders automated to encourage offerings of gratitude (“what went well?”)
        • Focus on sharing gratitude to avoid burnout
        • Thank you Chi Hacknight!
        • Gratitude runs in line with attribution
        • Thanks Cyrus for visual note taking!
      • Docs
      • Every week
      • All invited for pitch
        • all split after
      • Meet Tuesday nights
      • Post-hack-night huddle thread starts after every meetup
        • [name=patcon] used to organize in-person, but hard to do when some are leaving or coordinating post-hacknight social
    • Values
      • Rotate space - not focused on one space or sponsor
      • Work in Progress / Process-orientation
        • “Just enough process to hold things we value in place”
        • Co-organizers talk a lot about what we value and why
        • Less project driven and collaborating
    • Generosity and gratitude are key values
  • :running_man: Activity: self-organized brigade measure via thermometer method
    • :bar_chart: Photos of all activity results
    • Activity: thermometer (spread out along the wall, left side means very few, right side means a whole lot) :bar_chart:
      • How many people come to average gathering?
        • 30-40 - 25 - 8
      • Activity: how many “projects” (breakout groups)
        • 2 - 4 - 7
      • Activity: how long have you been involved in your brigade?
        • 10yr - 6mo
  • Visual Note-taker invitation to help engage
    • Pictures etc. explained
    • Cyrus
  • :running_man: Activity: Breakout - 3 corners of room/ 3 pitches
    • Process
    • Dolphin Tank
      • Like shark tank but friendlier
      • Why did people show up? What first brought you in?
      • asks: 1) people who have ideas/topics they think might make good breakouts, and 2) people who want to help workshop those challenges/ideas
      • People see the “way things move” modeled, the flows of leadership and what we value.
      • [name=patcon] place to share tips-and-tricks for this weirdo “project management/stewardship” world of community projects, building on what previous breakout groups have learned/tried.
      • [name=patcon] place to help new/undecided people participate in informing future projects that might get pitched.
    • How to Invite from people outside the space
      • Reconsidering metrics. How do we measure success?
        • Consistency is important, but plenty of reason to “count” the number of people that pass through even if they don’t commit long-term
        • [name=patcon] many people in city will say “i’ve heard good things, but haven’t made it out yet
      • Inviting really helps.
        • [name=patcon] “every tuesday” makes it as easy as possible for any community contributor to invite ppl they meet. Zero logistical overhead.
      • See someone who might make a great organiser? Let them know they’d be great at it, be friendly, and show them the ropes.
      • See someone who has a cool potential project? Be friendly, help grow the project, help them feel comfortable seeding something new.
  • weekly Civic Tech 101 breakout session is essential
    • Set a baseline
    • Get folks on slack
    • Baseline is a moving target
    • In-depth volunteering opp for growing organizers! Everyone adds their own flavour and customizes (without discarding past versions wholesale)
  • :running_man: : Activity: Mapping Sentimental Landscape
    • :bar_chart: Photos of all activity results
    • move around room to measure what people feel about “subjective feeling statements” on a topic
    • PROMPT question for provoking feeling statements: Should our communities grow? If so, how?
    • 3 corners mean Agree, Disagree, Pass/Unsure.
      • [name=patcon] new feeling statements emerge from asking participants why they are in a specific corner, esp “unsure/pass” corner.
    • inspired by pol.is tool and g0v.tw’s vTaiwan community
    • Statement 1) “I feel like more people that show up, the better.”
      • *people shuffled*
      • Some yes
      • #ask why UNSURE? Some that it is a false metric
      • #ask why DISAGREE? Sometimes the correct size is a sweet-spot number that is not big
    • Statement 2) “I feel like growth is more diversity of expertise at the hack night.”
      • *people shuffled*
      • #ask why UNSURE? A diversity is best if it is relevant to what you do
    • Statement 3) “I feel it’s more important to have diverse backgrounds that are motivated toward the same goal.”
      • *people shuffled*
      • #ask why AGREE? Diversity of thought can bring value because you never thought “that way”
    • [name=patcon] had intended direction, but ran out of time: to consider whether growth is size of groups, or instead more hacknights acting as incubators for civic projects in different neighboods with different concerns/focii, rather than getting everyone to each city’s one hacknight in one neighborhood.
      • out of time

Ok, we’ve got our notes cleaned up and fleshed out, and hopefully they’ll be useful to others:

Thanks to @nFlourish for notetaking in the pad, to @csethna for visual note-taking, and to the other 15 participants for making it a rad-as-fuck session from our point of view :smiley:
:speaking_head: @dotorithoughts, @emilyamacrae, @patconnolly

(I’ll be making a few more additions as we gather our artefacts like photos from our phones – consent given from all session participants with red lanyards)

@patcon I just flipped the top post in this topic to Discourse’s wiki mode. Want to see what it looks like when you dump that whole markdown doc here?

EDIT: Ah hey, originally preferred not to, but realized that you asked for copy-paste in Discourse rather than GDocs. Since discourse has view counts link HackMD, this sounds a-ok with me! Thanks!

1 Like

Hey @patcon and @emilyamacrae! Hope all is well up north.

We’re looking into replicating your awesome welcome side deck at Code for DC!

  1. Is that cool with you? Would you like any kind of attribution?

  2. Looks like the slide deck is using a beautiful background image as the template. Is there any chance you have the original photoshop/ illustrator/ indesign/ gimp file you used to make it?

Many thanks!

Hey @csethna! Oh jeez, I feel like everyone would be psyched to hear folks in DC were getting mileage out of it :slight_smile:

  1. Fine with me! I’ll share this post with others and relay any comments back here, but i think ppl will just be stoked
    • re: attributions. Thanks for asking! We keep the newest deck at https://link.civictech.ca/welcome-deck, but we also have a https://link.civictech.ca/101 deck. In there, we use a pattern for an attribution slide. We haven’t done that on the welcome deck, but I’d love to add one now that you’re asking. I’ll make a changelog slide and poke around to ensure prior attribution/history is reflected there too, and feel free to condense/reframe however you see fit when you fork. It’ll just be there if you want it for yours too. That work?
  2. That background image is actually using Google Slide’s master slide feature.
    • the AV role runsheet that lives in the runsheets directory mentions a bit about how ours get edited each week, but I’m sure a comment on the slide itself could just as easily hint ppl to how the master slide works :slight_smile:

If you’re able to share your gdrive or a link to the forked presentation, i’d love to share that if it’s fine with you. Thanks for sharing that you’re borrowing and passing good vibes upstream, cyrus!

ok, did a pass at adding an attribution slide: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1Swhufc_xfqC1kKNn0IA0NuhjWaAYrTAzaMi7rh6lPfk/edit#slide=id.g6bced51ec6_0_0

Feel free to condense it down or do whatever suits you. If you felt like seeding it with your own name and effort, I’m sure others will follow your lead when they eventually improve on it :slight_smile:

1 Like

Thanks :slight_smile: :us::heart::canada: