The emergence of civic tech

communities / Article

December 4, 2013 by Katy Harris

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The following, written by Katy Harris, is cross-posted from Fathom's blog

Hot off the presses! Our latest project with the Knight Foundation went live today. Trends in Civic Tech is an interactive tool for exploring the rapidly growing field of “civic tech” — organizations and companies operating at the intersection of technology, open government, and citizen engagement.

The visualization includes organizations within the civic tech sector that received funding between January 2011 and May 2013. Each organization is represented by a circle, with color coding for how much of their investment came from private (cyan) and philanthropic (magenta) sources.

Earlier this year Knight teamed up with Quid to map this emerging field, combining semantic analysis and public investment data to produce a detailed picture of the civic tech landscape. Their publication, The Emergence of Civic Tech: Investments in a Growing Field, was also released today.

The civic tech landscape is divided into two overarching themes. Open Government organizations are focused on advancing government transparency, accessibility of government data and services, and civic involvement in democratic processes. Community Action organizations catalyze peer-to-peer information sharing, civic crowdfunding and collaboration to address civic issues.

Open Government and Community Action are further subdivided into eleven innovation clusters.

Private funding is abundant in clusters such as Peer-to-peer sharing (which includes Airbnb, Inc), while the balance shifts to grant funding in clusters like Data Access & Transparency (which includes the Sunlight Foundation).

Within these clusters are 209 individual organizations and companies.

Filled circles indicate companies that received funding from Jan 2011 to May 2013. Outlined circles had no investment data for this time period. The size of the circle indicates the dollar amount invested during the study timeframe. The company with the highest investment was Airbnb, in the Peer-to-Peer Sharing cluster.

Hovering over an individual company highlights how interconnected the civic tech sector is.

Faint lines connect the highlighted to the other companies in the study that are technologically similar. A complete list of these connections appears in the sidebar.

We entered into this project already believing in the power of technology to improve the lives of citizens and efficiency of government, so it was both illuminating and inspiring to help bring this first-of-its-kind picture of the civic tech landscape to life. We’re excited to continue our work with this visualization, to make it even more useful as a tool for civic tech practitioners and investors alike.

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