City Hall climbs social media ropes

“How do we create a more open, transparent and participatory government?” posed Jeff Friedman, manager of civic innovation and participation for the Mayor’s Office. “[Since] he came into office, the mayor and this administration have always looked for different ways to communicate and cultivate participation.”

One way the city ventured into new realms of open government is online with the help of a non-profit called Code for America, dubbed by Friedman as Teach for America for computer engineers. Given another year’s contract with the city last week, the group has worked the last year creating a new program, Change by Us Philly, which will launch its beta website in October.

It is a “social media platform that’s made specifically to help citizens as well as people who work for the government to get initiatives done in a public space,” Friedman said. “Think Facebook” is how Code for America describes the platform of Change by Us on its website.

Rather than disorganized and anonymous interactions between government and citizens, Change by Us Philly will strive to create an open platform allowing citizens and officials to exchange ideas, plans and resources.

Philadelphia has agreed to another year of Code for America’s work because: “There was a sense that in the city of firsts, this is something that we should get a crack at being first too,” Friedman said.

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