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

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

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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
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Note-taker:

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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
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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!

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