The power of collaboration: from crowd-sourcing pest control to anthropomorphizing your accounting software

Grab a coffee (or pumpkin spice latte, if that’s your thing), it’s TED time again. One Tuesday a month, the ClearGov Blog team shares short TED Talks we think civic leaders may find funny, inspiring, and actionable. This month the theme is collaboration.

As we head into the homestretch of 2019 — the last quarter of the first 20th of the 21st century — we appropriately set our sights on tech. The first two talks are presented by representatives of Code for America, a non-partisan, non-political 501 organization founded a decade ago to help bridge the gap between public and private sector tech.

Code for America’s mission is to leverage digital age tools to “improve how government serves the American public, and how the public improves government.” Each of these two talks is under 12 minutes and reveals smart, simple ways engaged citizens are working together to better their communities. From adopting and naming fire hydrants in Boston to vanquishing wild pigs in Honolulu, local governments are learning easy new ways to tap their most valuable resource: residents.

The third talk is all about cozying up to your computer — literally. Every workplace has software that was hailed as a time-saver and procured at no small cost only to be largely ignored by the people it was intended to help. Find out why anthropomorphizing your accounting software (that is treating it like a human co-worker) may be key to getting a better return on your tech investment.

Okay, no more spoilers. Without further adieu, here’s your TED fix for September:

Watch: Coding a better government

Coder and activist Jennifer Pahlka says, “we’re not going to fix government until we fix citizenship.” Find out why, after two years of working with local governments, Pahika says it all comes down to opossums.

Watch: Why good hackers make good citizens

Every day, city officials are asked to do more with less. Good news. Catherine Bracy, director of community organizing at Code for America has a hack for that. She says the solution is to give citizens a way to participate beyond attending a town hall meeting.

Watch: Why you should treat the tech you use at work like a colleague

Does your tech work well with others? Is it pulling its weight? Technology mentor Nadjia Yousif says, “if the accounting platform were actually a person, the finance director would feel responsible for managing it.” He or she would conduct performance reviews, and know when and how to retire software that wasn’t working. In this 11-minute session you’ll discover why taking your tech out for coffee may be the best way to get to know it.

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