Civic Commons Takes off with Veteran Leadership Team & Major Foundation Support

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San Francisco – June 1, 2011Civic Commons, a new non-profit that helps cities and other governments build, share, and implement low-cost technologies to improve public services, increase transparency, strengthen accountability, accelerate entrepreneurship, and engage and empower citizens, announced today that it is taking off with an experienced leadership team backed by major foundation support.

Civic Commons will be led by incoming executive director Andrew McLaughlin, formerly Deputy Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. in the Obama Administration, and managing director Nick Grossman, formerly Director of Civic Works at OpenPlans.

Incubated by the non-profits Code for America and OpenPlans, with support from O’Reilly Media, Civic Commons is taking off thanks to a $250,000 grant from the Omidyar Network.

Governments across the country spend billions of dollars on information technologies every year, but much of that investment is duplicative and ineffective. Despite the fact that cities, for example, face the same kinds of problems everywhere — demands for efficient public services, needs for organizational management and accountability, all amid increasingly dire budgetary pressures — they nearly always attempt to solve them on their own, city-by-city, in isolation. In other words, governments typically reinvent the wheel.

Civic Commons is built on the idea that governments can work together to build common technologies, pooling their talents and resources to create open-source platforms, tools, applications, and documentation that will deliver dramatically cheaper, more powerful, and more manageable technology options to cities, counties, departments, and agencies at every level and of every size. Civic Commons believes that the astonishing information technology innovations of the last two decades — the Internet, open source software, cloud computing, wireless broadband, and mobile devices — are now ripe for embrace by governments. By facilitating thoughtful, structured collaboration among officials and technologists and producing high-quality, user-friendly software, documentation, checklists, and recipes, Civic Commons will help governments to capitalize on the technologies and innovations that have been transforming our lives in nearly every other area.

By helping governments to share technology, Civic Commons has set a goal of saving taxpayers over $1 billion in the next few years.

“It’s not just possible, it’s imperative for governments to embrace, adopt, and share the same new technologies that dazzle us on our computers and phones every day — technologies that can deliver better results, cost less, and empower citizens like never before,” said new executive director Andrew McLaughlin. “After two decades working at the intersection of government, technology, and policy in the private, public, and non-profit sectors, I believe that the moment for Civic Commons has arrived. Working together in a neutral, pragmatic, non-partisan framework, an emerging community of actors — government officials, citizens, technologists, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and academic experts — can transform the culture, operations, effectiveness, and efficiency of government.”

Prior to joining Civic Commons, McLaughlin served in the White House as Deputy Chief Technology Officer of the U.S., focusing on Internet policy, open government, cybersecurity, and building open technology platforms in health care, energy, and education. Previously, he has worked as Director of Global Public Policy for Google; Vice President and Chief Policy Officer of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet’s global technical coordinating organization; and Senior Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. He is currently a fellow of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, teaching a course on freedom of expression around the world.

Nick Grossman was one of the lead architects of Civic Commons from the start, while serving as the Director of Civic Works at OpenPlans, a social enterprise building open civic technologies. “We couldn’t be more excited to see Civic Commons getting off to a strong start. The team we’ve assembled, including such an enormous talent in Andrew McLaughlin, is world-class, and we are proud to take on the challenge of helping governments build better technology,“ said Grossman. At OpenPlans, Nick oversaw the development of open source software projects for government agencies, with a focus on sustainable transportation and local civic engagement. He will join Civic Commons as Managing Director.

“Civic Commons is taking on a major challenge, and this is the right team and the right time to do it,” said Jennifer Pahlka, Code for America’s Founder and Executive Director. McLaughlin and Grossman will lead Civic Commons staff — made up of developers, policy experts, and government veterans — in collaboration with Civic Commons’ Board of Advisors, which includes civic and industry leaders such as Tim O’Reilly, Andrew Hoppin, Brian Behlendorf, and Chris Vein. Open government advocates Phil Ashlock of OpenPlans and Karl Fogel of O’Reilly Media will be joining the organization as well, spearheading operations around Open311 and support for participating governments.

The Omidyar Network, already a strong supporter of collaborative, open government efforts, such as Code for America itself, was eager to help Civic Commons get off the ground with a $250,000 grant. “Civic Commons’ work is vital in this era of ‘doing more with less,’” said Stacy Donohue, investment director for Omidyar Network’s Government Transparency initiative. “Through collaboration, Civic Commons will enable the sharing of technology solutions and best practices across municipalities, thus reducing redundancies and costs while making local government more responsive to its citizens. Omidyar Network is proud to support the effort.”

About Civic Commons
Civic Commons helps government entities share code, documentation, checklists, and real world experiences, reform procurement practices, and engage citizens, developers, and vendors to transform government operations and the delivery of public services through low-cost, high-impact technology.

About Code for America
Code for America (CfA) connects the talent of the tech industry with local governments to make cities more open, responsive, and efficient. CfA recruits civic-minded, tech-savvy individuals to work with industry and governmental leaders to develop innovative applications that can be used in cities across the country.

About OpenPlans
OpenPlans is a nonprofit technology organization focused on open government and citizen engagement. A leader in Geographic Information Systems, transportation & urban planning tools, and “open city” information technology, OpenPlans produces and supports open source software for the civic sector.

About Omidyar Network
Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm committed to creating opportunity for people. Established by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, and his wife Pam, Omidyar Network supports nonprofit and for-profit efforts that enable people around the world to improve their lives and make powerful contributions to their communities.

Contact Information
For media inquiries, please contact: Abhi Nemani, 618-322-2220,