Policy and a Pint®: Using Technology to Solve Community Problems


When we think of community, we immediately think of physical space: a city, a neighborhood and the people who make up that space, which create unique enclaves like Frogtown or Lake St. In addition to these physical spaces, Minnesotans are connecting across an ever-growing virtual space. For some Minnesotans, they're not just posting pictures on Facebook, but tackling systemic challenges like homelessness, and creating better public services through technology. By re-thinking community engagement and adhering to civic tech principles, government, technologists, and concerned citizens are coming together to co-create effective tools and draw on government data to serve the public good.

Host Steve Seel is joined by panelists Bill Bushey of Open Twin Cities, Kelly Clausen of Hennepin County, and Terri Thao of Nexus Community Partners for a lively discussion about Minnesotans tackling systemic challenges like homelessness and creating better public services through technology.

Listen to the conversation above, or download the MP3. Find choice quotes from the discussion below.

On communities addressing problems that affect its population:

"As a society we are all facing some really tough nuts. Homelessness ... poverty ... aging societies ... disparities in education, health outcomes. Any number of these kind of large problems in our society are out there and they need solving. Part of the problem is that government cannot do this alone. And there are a lot of people out there in our community who have really, really great ideas. And they have amazing talents, and amazing skills and amazing backgrounds and experiences – all of those things can be brought to bear to create real breakthrough solutions."
— Kelly Clausen, Innovation Leader - Customer Engagement, Hennepin County

On crowdsourcing to create better technology for communities:

"How many people had problems getting health insurance because of a bad website (MNSure)? One of the big value propositions of civic tech is to actually have a lot more discussion happening at the front end, which means you actually end up with a far better defined problem, you end up with a far better defined possible solution, you end up with far better ideas – and then, you end up creating a technology that's probably in the end cheaper to build, and it's actually far more likely to actually succeed."
— Bill Bushey co-founder and Lead Organizer of Open Twin Cities

On a community's access to technology:

"When we're working with communities of color and low-wealth communities, there's a whole gap in information. And also a gap in opportunity. There are great technology tools. But what we know is communities don't always have the same access to information, and so how do we best get at that?
— Terri Thao, program director at Nexus Community Partners

Funded by Target, Policy and a Pint® is an event series cosponsored by The Current and the Citizens League that engages people in important conversations about public policy in Minnesota.

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    Policy and a Pint at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall (MPR / Leah Garaas)