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While I’m self-publishing this book, I most certainly didn’t create it alone. Many people inside and outside of civic tech have provided encouragement, corrections, and material help. And the paperback form of A Civic Technologist’s Practice Guide wouldn’t exist without a project completion grant from the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University and its Digital Service Collaborative funded by The Rockefeller Foundation. I’m grateful for their generous support.
The first people I told about this idea were Dana Chisnell and my former leadership teammates at 18F, Rebecca Piazza, Sarah Milstein and Joshua Bailes. They all kindly said “heck yes, you should do that” and it’s hard to overstate how important that early encouragement is for a project like this. As I got started, I asked a large group of former colleagues and respected friends to check my work, and I’d like to thank Dana, Josh, Lane Becker, Tiffany Ashley Bell, Ron Bronson, Alan Brouilette, Eddie Fernández, Sha Hwang, Nikki Lee, Jack Madans, Jennifer Pahlka, Angelica Quicksey, Alex Soble, and Cori Zarek for reading chapters and entire drafts with a critical eye. Any errors that made it past this formidably knowledgeable group are mine alone.
I’m also indebted to Lane and to Randy Hart for conversations about procurement, and to Alex and to Sasha Magee for helping me figure out how to talk about language flexibility for engineers. Midway through the editing process, my father, Stevan Harrell, asked to read the book, and he provided both an outsider’s view of this introduction to civic tech and an experienced author’s take on the process – thanks, Dad!
My kind and indefatigable editor, Sally Kerrigan, was the best possible partner for turning an extended brain dump into a usable book. And Lisa Maria Marquis, who introduced me to Sally, deserves my thanks as well. As copy editor, Caren Litherland sorted out my inconsistencies and made the writing sound like me, only better. I’m grateful to Scott Berkun, Sam Ladner, Mike Monteiro, Kat Vellos, and MK Williams for advice and help on self-publishing. And the wonderful team at Oxide Design hit my brief of “a geeky survival manual in the American civic design tradition” out of the park.
No one writes a book without substantial support in other life arenas, especially during a pandemic. My professional coach, Samantha Soma, was an essential sounding board about a career choice I had to make to do this. And my crew of working-mom girlfriends, Jessica Gregg, Angela Ingenito, and Amanda Moore, were a lifeline this year as we traded flour for rice and commiserated about online school. I will also shout out my longtime UX research friend Erika Hall, for the pre-holiday coffee conversation that provided the spark for this whole project.
Finally, my own little family. When I got home from coffee with Erika with an outline I had written on my phone in a taxi, my other half, Jason Douglas, said not only, “of course you should do this,” but, “you should do this right now, and publish it before the November election.” He and our daughter, Audrey, have been not only unfailingly encouraging but enormously patient with me being on a laptop during family movie nights, working through weekends, and staring into space even more than usual. Thanks loves – you’re the absolute best!
About the author
Cyd Harrell is a UX researcher and product manager who got hooked on civic tech at early 2010s hackathons. When Facebook bought her employer in 2012, she chose to invest her career in public service technology work. Cyd has helped US city, county, federal, and state agencies unlock the power of technology to serve constituents. She has worked independently, with the Center for Civic Design, Code for America, and 18F. Over the years, Cyd has been a mentor and leader to many people in the field, and she is proud to have served as the first chief of staff of 18F. She is dedicated to a more inclusive, more capable, and better coordinated civic tech movement. Cyd lives in San Francisco with her husband and daughter. She is easy to find on Twitter and always happy to talk to civic technologists.