rahulb's blog | MIT Center for Civic Media

Civic Innovation Workshop in Mérida, Mexico

What does civic innovation look like in México?  There are efforts across the nation to build skills, interest, and capacity for civic technology.  Last week I contributed to these by facilitating a workshop for youth in Mérida, Mexico on the topic of Civic Innovation.  It was organized and hosted at the amazing Workshop school, just outside of town, with the help of my colleague and friend Alberto Muñoz.  Their student-led, collaborative approach to learning was inspired by the Reggio-Emilia style; reminding me of my roots in the Lifelong Kindergarten group.  It provided the perfect setting for this hackathon-style workshop to help youth learn about how to apply their technological and creative skills towards the public good.  The participants ranged from 6th grade, to graduate school; a great mix of skills and interests.

Using Data for More than Operations

While at Stanford to talk about "ethical data" I had a chance to read through the latest issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review within the walls where it is published.  One particular article, Using Data for Action and Impact by Jim Fruchterman, caught my eye.  Jim lays out an argument for using data to streamline operational efficiencies and monitoring and evaluation within non-profit organizations.  This hit one of my pet peeves, so I'm motivated to write a short response arguing for a more expansive approach to thinking about non-profit's use of data.

Practicing Data Science Responsibly

I recently gave a short talk at a Data Science event put on by Deloitte here in Boston.  Here's a short write up of my talk.

Data science and big data driven decisions are already baked into business culture across many fields.  The technology and applications are far ahead of our reflections about intent, appropriateness, and responsibility.  I want to focus on that word here, which I steal from my friends in the humanitarian field.  What are our responsibilities when it comes to practicing data science?  Here are a few examples of why this matters, and my recommendations for what to do about it.

http://www.slideshare.net/rahulbot/practicing-data-science-responsibly

 

From User to Citizen - Erhardt Graeff at TICTec 2016

This is a live-blog of Erhardt Graeff's talk at the TICTeC 2016 conference. Any errors or omissions are the fault of the author, Rahul Bhargava, due to trying to type as quickly as Erhardt speaks!

Erhardt is evaluating online learning engagement as civic learning. He works a lot on case-studies for civic impact - to inform how we design these tools. Instead of focusing on specific problems, he is interested in growth of individuals to be able to effectively participate in democracy.

Hiring a Researcher / Community Manager for Media Cloud

Come help social change organizations understand media conversations about topics they care about, and assess how their media campaigns are doing in changing media narratives. You'll use our suite of quantitative media analysis tools built on MediaCloud to explore online media coverage of issues such as wellness and health and/or women’s rights and social norms in both the U.S. and in selected developing countries. 
 

Hiring a Technical Lead for Media Cloud

Come help us build the next generation of tools to collect and understand online media coverage about issues that matter! Our MediaCloud project is hiring a Technical Lead to shape both the concept and contribute to the hands-on development of our existing tools, and new ones. This is an amazing chance to work on software that can directly impact our understanding of public health communication and gender norms online.  Lots of big data, quantitative text analysis, and social good!

We're looking for someone to work with us locally (here in Cambridge, MA) or remotely (the team is already scattered all over the world). It'd be helpful to have experience with:

  • managing and building-out large software architectures for storing huge amounts of text data
  • leading a team of developers and designers, and good at delegating to them
  • communicating ideas to non-technical people
  • planning large architectures involving multiple technologies and software language

Read the full job description

Introducing DataBasic.io

We're pleased to announce the launch of DataBasic.io - a suite of simple web-based tools and hands-on activities that help you get started learning to work with data. The tools are geared towards journalists, non-profits, activist groups and students. Rather than just building data tools to make a pretty charts, we've designed these with learners in mind and we made them fun!

We’ve got three tools for you to start playing with – WTFcsv, WordCounter, and SameDiff. Pop on over to https://databasic.io and give them a try. Right now we’re supporting Spanish or English, and it is accessible to visually impaired via screen-readering software.

Don’t forget to watch the short intro videos on each homepage, and check out the activity guides.

What is Civic Innovation in India?

Three of us (Sands, Alexis & Rahul) were in India in mid January to lead a week long workshop for Indian undergraduates about Civic Innovation. Students and alumni from the MIT Media Lab have organized large Design Innovation workshops in India for the last few years, focused on a bottom-up approach to changing how engineering education happens in India. There are certainly exceptions, but Indian education is typically very traditional, and there aren't many opportunities for sharing ideas and approaches across disciplines.

Our goal was to work with the 30 participants in our track and explore a few questions:

  • What does "civic innovation" mean in India?
  • Can we help these students apply their skills to problems that matter?
  • Do our methods and approaches for doing civic work apply in India?

Field Trips

To explore what civic innovation means in India, and to provide some inputs into our design process, we took a few field trips around Ahmedabad.

Lasers, Food & Data (Telling a Story About Food Security)

Can a vegetable tell a story about food access in Somerville?  Yep.

"70% of Somerville Public School students receive free or reduced lunch" - laser-cut onto a cucumber

“70% of Somerville Public School students receive free or reduced lunch” – laser-cut onto a cucumber

In public settings, it can be quite hard to get folks walking by interested in a data-driven argument about your cause.  We often argue that a creative data sculpture can grab their attention… like maybe a vegetable laser cut with some data about food security!

The Open Web and Participation

Live blogged by Rahul Bhargava and Matt Stempeck Monday, June 23, 2014 - 3:45pm

The Internet lowers coordination costs, making it easier for groups of people to cooperate and work together. Despite this, it's often been hard to apply the lessons of online cooperation to the world of civics. A set of exciting new projects and initiatives offers hope for what's possible and a clearer sense of the challenges of using the web to participate in offline social change.

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