Civic Hacking 101

What is Civic Hacking?

At Code for DC, we often refer to what we do as “civic hacking”. But what is that? In it’s most basic sense, civic hacking means finding creative solutions for civic problems. We often focus on the technical side of things, but that is by no means the only approach, and the best solution often changes from issue to issue. For example, a low-tech civic hack could involve walking around a neighborhood with a clipboard to collect and share data not tracked by the city. Civic hackers often work with the local government and/or community organizations.

Take a look through our list of projects to see the sort of civic hacks that we’ve worked on. If you’re new to civic hacking and aren’t sure where to start, we have a few ideas.

For a more in-depth introduction to civic hacking, see check out this chapter in Josh Tauberer’s Open Government Data: The Book.

Do I Need to Know How to Code?

Definitely not! To be successful, a civic hacking organization needs people with many different skills. We also need designers, UX/UI experts, community organizers, subject-matter experts, data scientists, interested residents, and more. If you don’t know how to code, but want to learn, this overlap makes civic hacking a great area to do a learning project.