We Are All Innovators: Engaging Communities through Civic Technology

by the City of San Antonio, TX for the TLG 2019 Innovation Showcase program

Dec 19, 2018

Theme: Robust External Partnerships

San Antonio has experienced a rapidly growing technology and startup ecosystem in recent years, but the City has struggled to engage this sector, particularly startups who find it difficult to overcome bureaucratic barriers to doing business with the City.

To help breakdown these barriers, the CivTechSA program was launched in October 2017 as a partnership between the City of San Antonio's Office of Innovation and Geekdom, a local co-working space, incubator, and leader in the startup and tech ecosystem in San Antonio. The goal of the CivTechSA program is to connect students, entrepreneurs, and the tech community with the City to solve community challenges and grow civically-minded tech talent.

There are four pillars that engage different segments of the tech ecosystem: 6-12th grade students and teachers; university students; entrepreneurs; and startups. City departments submitted challenges ranging in complexity to be addressed by different pillars of the program, resulting in customized tech solutions for the City.

In the first year of CivTechSA, the 6-12th grade program focused on training teachers to incorporate civic engagement, technology, and entrepreneurial principles into their curriculum to inspire students to give back to their community and pursue entrepreneurial careers. University students were paired with City departments, who provided data and guidance for students to help solve challenges. The entrepreneur program included a variety of events and workshops, such as a startup weekend and datathon. The startup component was a 16-week residency in which 2 startup companies were embedded in City departments to solve specified challenges.

Participants at all levels of the program gain skills an knowledge about developing and pitching ideas, building a business case, and creating civically-focused startups. In turn, the City has been able to stretch the boundaries of how it addresses problems and engages the community, and expand its capacity for innovation. 

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