Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
May 24th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Dawn of Civinomicon

news1Local startup Civinomics aims to fundamentally change the way we participate civically

Last weekend, it appears that the landscape of political and civic engagement—an activity for which many citizens of this country have developed a healthy sense of cynicism—just took one big bounding leap into the 21st century. 

A three-day community event, called “Civinomicon,” brought more than 100 people to Cruzio downtown, where the young startup called Civinomics aims to make civic action, organization and, eventually, crowd funding, as intuitive as networking online with friends.

The Civinomics website is like a cross between Facebook and Twitter. The interface is designed for users to post initiatives, share ideas, vote on and challenge the viability of the content, the end goal of which is to produce actionable ideas with solid foundations of community support.

Civic enthusiasts are invited to sign up for free and engage with ease and immediacy on their computers, smartphones, or tablets.

“Civinomics is founded on two core principals: equity and transparency, in terms of how the civic process should work,” says Robert Singleton, the 23-year-old UC Santa Cruz alumnus who co-founded Civinomics alongside Manu Koenig, a Stanford University alumnus. “The aim is to try to get more people involved with the civic process with better information, mainly by leveraging digital information technology to overcome the barriers of space and time. We can't all be in a room together, but we can all share an online community and use that space to get ideas out there and crowd source them.”        

Civinomics began two years ago, and in that timeframe, Koenig and Singleton have conducted an intensive outreach campaign locally and around the Bay Area activating communities to get involved. Now operating with a small team out of the Cruzio offices (Cruzio cofounder Chris Neklason is a key investor in the operation), Singleton calls the platform a “one-stop shop civic portal.”

Neklason hailed Civinomicon, which took place on Nov. 15-17, as “a demonstration, celebration and exploration of democracy.” The first day was an opportunity to wine, dine and rally the crowd; day two invited attendees to join brainstorming workshops, which included public safety, economy, water, homelessness, transportation, environmental sustainability, education, and the arts; and on day three, people presented various ideas and initiatives.

On Saturday, as groups conversed on local issues, led by volunteer facilitators, participants with laptops and iPads published their ideas on Civinomics, populating the website with a surge in membership and content.

news1-2Mayor Hilary Bryant is one of several community leaders that participated in Civinomicon, Nov. 15-17.A variety of community leaders participated, including Mayor Hilary Bryant and councilmembers Don Lane, Micah Posner and Pamela Comstock.

On Civinomics, the content is divided into pages, including “Initiatives,” “Workshops,” “Ideas,” and “Resources,” and has subject tags such as transportation, economy and water.

One initiative that has received 13 affirmative votes is to “Develop and promote an integrated ecotourism campaign in support of making Santa Cruz an ecotourism destination,” authored by sustainability group facilitator Tiffany Wise-West.

The idea emerged on Saturday as a result of the “cross-pollination dialogue” between the Economic Development and Environmental Sustainability workshops.

“With its unique attitude toward all things green and an unparalleled landscape to appreciate, Santa Cruz has the potential to be a prime ecotourism destination,” Wise-West writes. “A broad and integrated public-private partnership campaign to promote EcoTourism in Santa Cruz would yield multiple benefits for our community and visitors to it.”

The estimated funding for the initiative, including a promotional campaign and bike share pilot program: $33,000.

Under a workshop posting titled “How Can We Grow The Santa Cruz Tech Economy?” a variety of ideas has been posted. One is to “Bring UCSC's PIE (Program in Innovation and Entrepreneurship) into an office downtown,” authored by Koenig. Another, by Daniel Chamberlin, is to “Create a program to get students internships in local tech companies.” 

Under a workshop titled “Reducing Property Crime in Santa Cruz,” Singleton posted the idea that the Santa Cruz Police Department do a series of stakeouts to pursue bike thieves and gather information about larger bike-stealing rings. His posting has 20 votes, 86 percent of which are affirmative, and has garnered a comment feed.

On Sunday, during the initiative proposals, Bryant pitched to the crowd an idea to invite a group of CEOs from Silicon Valley for a day of surfing—an event she would model after a golf tournament—to promote Santa Cruz for closer partnerships within the tech industry.

Fred Keeley, the Santa Cruz County Treasurer, former Assemblymember, and board member of the bipartisan organization California Forward, addressed the audience on Friday as the keynote speaker. In summary, he said it was about time something like Civinomics happened.

“I think that what Civinomics is doing is right in the wheel house of how people function in all other aspects of their life—in the same way that people used to have a checkbook but now make most of their payments online, or the way they used to have a landline in their home, and now have a [smartphone] device in their pockets, that's more powerful than all of the computing power the United States army had in Vietnam,” Keeley says. “The advantage of Civinomics is it allows people—who are now functioning in matters of seconds to do things that used to take minutes, or hours, or days—to operate that way also in civic engagement.”

Singleton hopes that Civinomics will allow communities to reclaim politics as being for the people, and

encourage participation.

“Politics is such a dirty word in this country and it's so divisive and so contrarian,” he says. “Most people don't want to be associated with the political system. It's not that people don't care about issues, it's just that people are apathetic because they hate the way the system is set up. It's oppositional. You can't go and cast an opinion without someone viewing it through an ideological lens rather than a pragmatic one.”

Civinomics, Singleton says, should serve as a civil space, regulated by a code of conduct, that allows users to present ideas that address issues and goals by sticking to empirical, data-driven evidence. And on the output end, serve as a launch pad for initiatives.

During Saturday’s group discussions, about a dozen people deliberated over the county's water shortage problems. The facilitator was Donna Meyers, a local water management consultant and member of the City Water Commission.

She says that, while the discussions were informative, it was hard to drive the dialogue toward solutions because the subject of the county's water problems is so complex and rooted in a variety of scientific information.

“The factual information is so incredibly important, so if the conversation isn't rooted in the facts, then we're just talking,” she says. “If Civinomics' goal is to get to solutions in a more proactive way, then we need to make sure that there's a factual base for those solutions to be built out of.”

The Civinomics online platform does have “Resources” pages that provide a foundation of factual information and allow users to educate themselves with objective sources.

However, Meyers says, some topics are so complex, the most effective method is to compartmentalize and not open the door to wide community input.

“We can end up inundating ourselves with so many different ideas, opinions and facts, that we do ourselves a disservice,” she says. “That's the power of the Internet—anyone can interact. But then the downside is—anyone can interact. It will be interesting to see if this model opens the door to chaos, or if it's constructive.”


Cruzio Internet, DSL, computer training and Coworking in Santa Cruz, CA.

Comments (1)Add Comment
Good in theory
written by Wilde One, November 21, 2013
At first, I thought this was a great online idea. But then I got involved with a couple of topics and the filibusters came out to play. If you could win a war just by the number of words, these folks would win. Unfortunately, it usually just shows how wacky they are.

More unfortunately, I tune out after hearing the same argument over and over.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Gate Openers

Up-and-coming artists like Ryan Bingham are a great reason to show up early to the Santa Cruz American Music Festival

 

Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Off Her Meds

Kristin Wiig runs wild—and transcends her sketch comedy roots—as a truly strange character ‘Welcome to Me’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Flats Bistro

Pizza with an artisan twist comes to Aptos Beach

 

What’s your take on Santa Cruz locals?

Santa Cruz locals are really friendly once you know them. I think a lot of them have a hard time leaving, and I would too. Ryan Carle, Santa Cruz, Biologist

 

Soquel Vineyards

If Soquel Vineyards partners Peter and Paul Bargetto and Jon Morgan were walking down the street wearing their winning wine competition medals, you’d hear them coming from a mile away. This year was particularly rewarding for the Bargettos and Morgan—they won two Double Gold Medals and five Gold Medals at January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

 

Enlightened Flavors

Squash & Blossom’s artisanal alternative-flour delights, beet kvass from Cafe Ivéta, and the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival