A new, civic chapter

Last Friday marked my third anniversary at Change.org. In that time, Change.org has grown from 6 million users to well over 75 million, and I’ve held on tight to many different hats–managing global social media on the comms team; growth hacking on the product team; and, for the last two years, building the B2B marketing program on the business development team.

Yes, it’s been a rocketship ride unlike any other, but now the time has come to try something completely different, yet oddly familiar.

Next week, I’ll be joining the govtech company Accela as Senior Product Manager to build and launch a new civic engagement mobile app. We’ll be using open data provided by local agencies to provide an easier way for citizens to interact with their communities and local governments. This is a perfect opportunity for me to get back to local government, jump tracks from marketing to product, and build something that could have a tremendous impact. Overall, I think it’s going to be a LOT of fun 🙂

One of the reason I’m so excited about this move is that, over the past year or so, I’ve become increasingly passionate about the potential for technology to transform our beleaguered democracy. I’ve also found myself re-engaging with civictech and govtech issues that I thought about for 7 years at StopWaste.org and SF Department of the Environment. But this time around, I’m also thinking about the process of our democracy.

So much of the civic tech space aims to deliver government services more efficiently, or deepen citizen engagement, either with our political institutions or each other. However, I’ve begun to feel that we are simply recreating the same broken system. Can we do no better? Considering how ineffective our representative democracy has become, I’m convinced that rebuilding our democracy is the most important task at hand. There are so many issues that good people are organizing around–social justice, the environment, international development–but each is hampered to a similar degree by a system weighted against them by wealth, privilege, and complexity. To make progress on any of these issues, we need a more direct, inclusive, participatory democracy, and we need it soon.

This realization and resolution has led me to co-found a new community called CivicMakers for people building a better democracy everyday. My vision is to grow a corps of citizens experimenting with better process for collective governance, and to find ways to use technology to make the mechanics of our governance process as direct and inclusive as possible. We’ve hosted 3 events so far with really wonderful turnout that also garnered some nice press coverage. And it was through CivicMakers that I met the good folks at Accela who loved the vision, and saw lot of overlap with their brand of civic good.

Not only is this new role at Accela closely aligned with my passion for revitalizing our democracy, as Senior Product Manager I also have an incredible opportunity to jump career tracks from marketing into product. There will be a learning curve, but with my web development experience and the product work I’ve done at SF Environment and Change.org, I’m confident that the product manager role will suit me well.

Ultimately, I’m ready to build something new–a more just and equitable way for us to to live, work and play together as a society. I know we can do this. In fact, we’re the only ones who can.