Civic tech catalog's goals & user needs

I’ve been raising it on Matt Stempeck’s workshop on PDF CEE. What are the goals that are behind catalog creation and what are its users.

Matt was mentioning that the main goal behind Civic Tech Field Guide was to have data that allows to evaluate how civic tech sector is growing and/or failing, with donors as the main recipients.

Looking at the projects I’ve been involved:

TransparenCEE’s catalog ( goal was mainly to raise the visibility of projects in CEE that might not have English translations/about pages. I’m doubting have we reached this goal via catalog, it doesn’t have a lot of viewers. Workshops and talks on PDF CEE, as well as topical facilitated working groups were imho a lot better way to highlight these initiatives. Personally, the process of building this catalog has brought me a lot more of value than the end effect - throughout it I have been connecting to new initiatives and learning more insights about the ones I know briefly.

Code for Poland’s project catalog ( was there to bring volunteers to projects. It is working, each week we are CCed on a few “I want to contribute” emails sent via website.

In my work, I personally use such catalogs to check for projects in a given topic that I could reuse instead of writing something from scratch. What I’m missing though is the basic information how easy it is to replicate such project (number of deployments, there locations, open source? good documentation?)

Hi again!

I may not have communicated well during the PDF CEE workshop. Funders are indeed one user persona for our field guide, but the other reasons you list, like helping civic tech builders avoid duplication, and introduce new volunteers or newcomers in general to this work, are other important audiences for us.

I’m really interested in some way to (easily, maybe even automatically) provide a sense of a project’s recent momentum. So we could detect for signs of life – recent RSS posts, tweets, Github commits, etc. – and provide a clear, visual sense of whether a project has been active recently. Right now, we’re just putting dead or stagnant projects in parentheses in our guide, but I’d love to get to a point where it’s a bit more comprehensive and maybe even automated.


I like the Engine Room’s research that they did for Alidade (a really helpful questionnaire to help you ask yourself the right questions before even starting to look for a tool - sort of a pre-toolbox).

They found than most organizations built a tool from scratch, without checking if existing tools could do the job and didn’t even choose a tool at all, but delegated the decision to technical partners.

So in my opinion it’s a matter of demystifying technology and open source tools, allowing organizations to have a grasp on what exist and what doesn’t, letting them search using their own words, comparing, seeing what others are using, asking the community, helping them be autonomous from end to end, etc. That’s what toolboxes should be about.

Think twice before you build. Look for existing tools that can do what you need


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Yes, I agree fully. So with Clarity, Code for NL wants to support “curators” that are domain experts in some field of government to share relevant use cases of digital tools in their domain. The domain expert becomes a go-to person when looking for a solution. The use case contact becomes a go-to person when wanting to implement a specific solution. Only then the tool becomes relevant.


Last week I had a call with Matt Stokes from Nesta who is behind Digital Social Innovation project I was not taking the notes so what’s below is what I’ve remembered.

The goals and target groups behind DSI are two-fold:

  1. Discoverability of existing initiatives for practicioners; So before starting a new project one can check what has been done by others, what challenges they have encountered and how they resolved them, what can be reused, etc.

  2. Target group: funders, researchers, policy makers. They are interested in the big picture, analysis, what works and what doesn’t work, where are the gaps that needs to be filled, etc.

We have both agreed that it makes a lot of sense to collaborate closer, see how we can exchange data between us and collect more data needed for others. It seems that the next steps would be to discuss and standardize metadata that we all want to collect. See:

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Thanks Krzys. One very quick note: not for the website :slight_smile: please do all check it out!