Use Your Tech Skills for Good!
Earlier this year, Director of Civic Tech Matt Brooks discussed how people can get involved in TechEquity’s Civic Tech Team as part of our How to Be an Activist event. But what is the Civic Tech Team and how can you get involved?
What is the Civic Tech Team?
The Civic Tech Team is a group of volunteer engineers, UX designers, researchers, and data practitioners. It’s a technical team, but you don’t have to be a coder to participate. As part of the team, you’ll build applications, tools, and visualizations that support the work that ours and other value-aligned organizations are doing—particularly focused on policy outcomes and policy implementation.
It’s important to note that we’re not a group of solutionists that believe we can code our way out of political problems. Rather, our tools support existing advocacy and implementation work by TechEquity and our partner orgs. Additionally, every piece of code the team writes is open source. We firmly believe in civic tech being transparent and open to the public.
What are some current projects?
TenantProtections.org is a website where renters can figure out if they qualify for state or local rent control or rent stabilization and the max amount that their rent can be raised.
California has about 40 million people and just under half of those are renters, about 45%. The Tenant Protection Act of 2019 extended rent cap protection to an estimated additional 8 million people—and that’s on top of people that were already covered under local rent control laws.
Right now volunteers are working on an expanded version of the tool that will include even more information that renters across the state can support themselves with. For this kind of project, we mostly need coders, designers, and researchers.
A Better Legislation Tracker
The Civic Tech Team is also currently working on an open source package of tools to scrape and compile and track key information about the thousands of bills that are making their way through the California legislature at any given time.
The California legislation tracker hosted by the government can be difficult to navigate and lacks the sort of breadth, depth, and concisely written information that Californians need to stay updated on bills. You can join this project right now!
Mapping Inequities in Property Taxes
Another key project is a visualization around Prop 13—the original property tax bill that created that inequity. This project involves mapping the parcel-level commercial property taxes and highlighting the inequities caused by Prop 13 in the decades since its passage.
The Civic Tech Team originally constructed this in support of the 2020 Prop 15, Schools and Communities First, which was estimated to restore approximately $12 billion per year. This money would have gone to local schools and communities, leveling the playing field by taking those commercial property taxes and bringing it right back to the surrounding communities.
Although Prop 15 did not pass in 2020, TechEquity Collaborative is still part of an effort to pass a similar measure in 2024, which you could support as part of this project.
Jobs and Housing Visualization
Lastly, as part of the Civic Tech Team, you’d also have the opportunity to work on a visualization comparing job and housing growth across California.
California currently suffers from a housing shortage that, based on current data, is only bound to get worse if legislators don’t act quickly and efficiently. This visualization will demonstrate the dire need to act to legislators, encouraging better housing legislation in California.
So how can you get involved?
At the end of the day, the volunteer team is meant to be a fun learning experience that brings together people who care about their communities to create meaningful tools.
We need front-end developers and designers the most right now, but you can bring whatever skills you have to the table! Whether you’re a designer, a researcher, or a data person, or you have a completely different skill set that you want to contribute, sign up to get involved.