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USATalk/CivNet Progress Update

Since the last newsletter the USATalk/CivNet team continued making important strides toward developing the web’s first integrated collaborative platform supported by a network of organizations.

Helped along by IF’s first sizeable external grant (fifth bullet in the following list) and the increasing use of collaborative online work sessions, headway has been notable along numerous fronts, including:

  • Mission Statement Being Broadened. Recognizing that collaborative tools are useful in almost every sphere of life, the team is in the process of re-working its mission to include the spheres of business, family, and community while retaining its original emphasis on civic tech.
  • New Team Members. Financial officer Aaron Jaeger and platform architect Rick Wedgeworth (“Wedge”), both with extensive expertise and experience in their fields, are official on board and have begun to get far more engaged in the project.
  • Design.
    • Full deck platform architecture now complete in draft form—an important early fruit of Wedge’s involvement. The draft architecture explains whom CivNet will serve; how we will deliver services; the CivNet vision; and how we will enable, support, and build the vision.  Even in draft form the architecture will thus serve as an important guide to internal development and fund raising.
    • Multiple “user journeys”, i.e. possible user pathways through the platform we are developing, now complete, analyzed, and coded for inclusion in the initial version of the platform.
    • Basic mobile prototype that can illustrate the platform’s features and connectivity complete in blueprint form.
  • Network Building. CivNet partner Ballotpedia’s new collaborations with Twitter and Facebook are yielding Ballotpedia important advantages, in which IF ultimately stands to share, including: financial benefits equivalent to donations and expanded reach.
  • Second Discussion-Based Voter Information Pilot. The project:
    • Is a much-expanded version of the discussion-based voter information pilot we did roughly a year ago with USATalk/CivNet founding partner Ballotpedia, will involve 26 discussion sessions and 208 Chicago residents. Information on voter concerns will be made available on Ballotpedia’s website in advance of the Chicago municipal elections in February 2019.
    • Will be almost entirely underwritten by funds signed over to IF from a significant McCormick Foundation grant to Ballotpedia.
  • Fund raising. We have begun to develop a crowd-sourcing campaign to fund immediate expenses (e.g., filing for tax exempt status in states with prospective donors).
  • USATalk/CivNet was selected to be a “Showcase Presenter” at the November 2018 NCDD biennial conference.  A workshop dealing with the 2017 DesMoines voter information project was also approved.

We are encouraged by the quickening pace of development and look forward to more and speedier advances in the next several months.