SXSW Interactive 2015
Civic Engagement from the Dorm to Dakar
Within the past few years ago the US State Dept’s eDiplomacy office has launched initiatives to increase citizen involvement in the government and develop civil society. Since 2010 35 events called TechCamps -- one to two day conferences – have been convened with about 2,850 participants across the globe, in which civil society organizations have worked on challenges and real world problems alongside international and local technologists to develop solutions, and the events connected these organizations to global networks of volunteer technologists. The Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) program has given over 1,200 US college students the opportunity to to work with USG agencies without leaving home. The program has expanded since 2009 to 323 projects across 11 agencies in 2014-15, with 3,385 students applying. Following this success, State is launching the Virtual Fellows Program to recruit seasoned U.S. citizen professionals as virtual consultants on issues faced by State.
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- What is the benefit to society of working with the government and technologists to solve national problems, and to government of working directly with the public?
- How do you motivate Civil Society Organizations to work together to address their challenges?
- How do you find meaningful solutions to serious stakeholder issues in a short conference?
- What are some of the projects from TechCamps that have created an impact in their countries?
- What have been some of the challenges with bringing together civic society, government entities and technologists?
Robert Watts, Senior Engagement Advisor, U.S. Department of State