“Hacking is just any amateur innovation on an existing system and it is a deeply democratic activity. It’s about critical thinking; it’s about challenging existing ways of doing things; it’s the idea that if you see a problem you work to fix it and not just complain about it.” – Catherine Bracy, Director of Community Organizing at Code for America
Canada has pledged to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees into the country over the next year.
Twenty-five thousand people who have fled unimaginable chaos and lost their sense of place will spread across a new land and immediately grapple with new bureaucracy, new rules, new laws, a new language, and a harsh climate. All this before they’ve had a chance to heal from the trauma of their recent experiences.
The challenges overwhelm. Among the largest: How does the Canadian government - and society at large - begin the process of effective integration, making sure to anticipate the needs of our most recent and arguably most vulnerable residents without crippling the system?
For the month of January, Civic Tech Toronto (CTTO) will dedicate itself to tackling a piece of the problem.
CTTO is one of the first civic hacking sub-communities to successfully bring the global movement to Toronto. For the uninitiated, civic hacking uses technology to better understand and solve civic issues and community challenges, then builds prototypes to deliver tangible solutions to organizations with the power to make real change.
Since June, the hack-trust at CTTO has applied their coding talents and desire to change the world toward finding better solutions for urban challenges.
Recent projects include a scraper that downloads planning application data from the City of Toronto website and throws it into an open database, making it easier for people to access and explore information about potential major construction projects.
Another initiative is the Plain Language project, which is seeking simpler, easier-to-understand explanations of important information on government websites and publications (for example, making it easier for newcomers to understand their rights as employees).
During the first four Tuesday nights of 2016, Architech will open its doors to these dedicated citizens. The hope is that, together, they can use their individual toolkits, technical skills and passion to do good and drive some small measure of improvement toward the Syrian refugee resettlement process.
From 6:30-9pm you can join us here at our downtown Toronto HQ as we use human-centred design (HCD) to isolate a specific resettlement problem to solve. From there, CTTO will reach out to people in a target community and present the solution to a receptive government audience. The project will be human-centered design at its best, creating actual social impact and giving people a space to do it.
HCD mentors from Architech will be on hand to help guide the process, while CTTO will bring in a variety of speakers and mentors from local government and community initiatives. Oh, and you’ll also be fed. Community-changing ideas require quality fuel.
We’re thrilled to host this important initiative that allows our team and peers to apply specialized skills toward projects for the greater good and work to make our city – and the world by extension – a better place.
For more information or to register, visit the CTTO meetup page.