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Civic Commons Gets Funding, Andrew McLaughlin

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, June 1 2011

Andrew McLaughlin, Civic Commons' new executive director, in 2008. Photo: Joi Ito/Flickr

The fledgling open-source-for-governments project Civic Commons will launch as a nonprofit with the help of a $250,000 grant from the Omidyar Network, and with former Google executive and U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer Andrew McLaughlin at the helm, the organization announced today in a post from McLaughlin.

Open-government and civic hacking efforts have flourished in the past year. Code for America* — which incubated Civic Commons with another nonprofit, OpenPlans, and the support of book publisher O'Reilly Media — began just this year to put technologists into formal partnerships with governments. OpenPlans itself is something of a testbed, a nonprofit founded by investor-turned-entrepreneur Mark Gorton around transportation planning and bike-friendly cities that now seeks to sustain itself on project-based funding and revenue from contracts with clients like New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Portland's TriMet, and the World Bank, all of which use OpenPlans' open-source software.

OpenPlans' Nick Grossman will become Civic Commons' managing director. One of the organization's top staffers, Phil Ashlock, will also join Civic Commons, as will O'Reilly Media's Karl Fogel. Code for America fellows Michelle Koeth, Jeremy Canfield and Michael Bernstein are already at work on the project.

Civic Commons' plan, writ large, is to allow governments to share more of their technology infrastructure with one another. That means encouraging the use of open source software, but it also means sharing things like policy frameworks and practices. The organization seeks to help governments across the country share all of these things, not just software.

"Open-sourcing tools is part of the goal of Civic Commons," Grossman told me recently. "We're also really trying to disrupt procurement, because procurement in government software is an opaque, and slow, and non-innovative environment right now."

The Omidyar Network also supports Code for America — and, full disclosure, our Personal Democracy Forum 2011, where McLaughlin will be speaking.

* PdF's Andrew Rasiej is on Code for America's advisory board.
Updated with a photo.

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