Ash Center, OpenGov Foundation Launch #Hack4Congress, A “Not-Just-for-Technologists” Hackathon to Fix Congress

December 9, 2014
Ash Center, OpenGov Foundation Launch #Hack4Congress, A “Not-Just-for-Technologists” Hackathon to Fix Congress

Cambridge, Mass. – The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School and the OpenGov Foundation today kicked off registration for its January 30-Feb 1, 2015 “not-just-for-technologists” hackathon – #Hack4Congress.

Though the founders envisioned Congress as the linchpin of democracy in the United States – most Americans would argue that it is a fundamentally broken institution beset by hyper-partisanship and unresponsive to the needs of its constituents. Congress needs “fixes” – but where will these new tools and solutions come from? By bringing together academics, technologists, lawyers, and lawmakers, #Hack4Congress will help foster new digital tools, policy innovations, and other technology breakthroughs to address the growing dysfunction in Congress.

“The fix-it-yourself ‘hacker ethos’ runs deep in America, from Jefferson to Edison to Jobs,” said Congressman Darrell Issa, co-founder of The OpenGov Foundation. “Recently, the House of Representatives has rediscovered that spirit. Now, citizens can access legislation as open data, or contribute to crowdsourced legislation with Madison  a project we launched at the first-ever Congressional Hackathon. But we can do so much more. I’m excited to hear the innovative ideas and see the creative coding of #Hack4Congress over the coming months."

Help fix Congress! Join a multidisciplinary team at #Hack4Congress and help identify ideas and innovations to overcome the dysfunction gripping much of Congress. “Hacking” is not just for technologists. “Hacks” include innovations in policy, architecture, organizational process, art and design, and educational materials, as well as new software and technologies. Participants can add their own challenges and project ideas here.

“While the academic and tech communities certainly can’t fix every last issue with Congress, we can help address some of the underlying frustration the public has with the legislative branch – namely its unresponsiveness and lack of transparency,” said Professor Tony Saich, the Director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. “This hackathon is a unique opportunity to forge new policy and technological solutions to help better connect Congress and its constituents and restore trust in this important institution.”

Solutions presented at the end of the hackathon will be evaluated by a panel of judges. After a second hackathon hosted by The OpenGov Foundation for Washington, DC-area participants, winning teams will have an opportunity to present their projects to lawmakers and senior congressional officials on Capitol Hill in spring 2015.

Registration for #Hack4Congress is free.

Co-sponsors

#Hack4Congress co-sponsors include The Sunlight Foundation, Congressional Management Foundation, Microsoft New England, Represent.Us, CODE2040, and Generation Citizen.

About the Ash Center

The Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence and innovation in governance and public policy through research, education and public discussion. Three major programs support our mission: the Program on Democratic Governance; the Innovations in Government Program; and the Rajawali Foundation Institute for Asia. For more information, visit www.ash.harvard.edu.

About the OpenGov Foundation

We’re a scrappy little outfit working to open government. That means making it easier for people to access and use as much government information as possible. It’s a daunting challenge but one we gladly accept. We believe innovative technology can help deliver a government that listens, works for its citizen-users, and learns from them. We are dedicated to putting better data and better tools in more hands. Our goal is to make or adapt those tools to be easy to use, efficient, scalable and free. Democracy means everyone should have chance to be a hands-on contributor. For more information, visit www.opengovfoundation.org.

For more information, contact:

Daniel Harsha

Ash Center

daniel_harsha@hks.harvard.edu

Seamus Kraft

OpenGov Foundation

Seamus@OpenGovFoundation.org