Summer of Smart Launches to Harness Creative Technology and Urbanism communities to Make Lasting Transformation on Bay Area Politics and Civic Life

  •  Jun 9, 2011
  •  Press Release

First-of-its-kind movement connects software developers, designers, and activists with San Francisco mayoral race

“We have no idea what can’t be done—so we’re getting everyone together to do it…”

San Francisco boasts many of the world’s most accomplished creative technologists and community activists. Mash them up with a high profile mayoral race and you have the Summer of Smart, a four month experiment in urban innovation and open government that may well leave a lasting legacy in the Bay Area and beyond. Only this time, the flowers in your hair are optional.

Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA), the Bay Area nonprofit dedicated to creating social consciousness through digital culture, launched a new initiative to develop innovative solutions to pressing urban issues. The program, called Summer of Smart, will directly engage San Francisco’s innovation, urbanism, and social change communities with the upcoming mayoral race, giving technology and its role in government a prominent voice in the election. The initiative will be conducted in partnership with San Francisco Department of Technology and a broad array of local and national organizations.

“Cities across the world are recognizing the value of sharing data freely. We hope to continue the evolution of open data and its connection to civic engagement through Summer of Smart’s focus on rapid innovation and project sustainability,” said Jon Walton, CIO for the City of San Francisco.

The program will feature events throughout the summer to generate applications and focus dialog on how technology can enhance the capabilities of city government and improve life for urban citizens.

Debate, Discuss, Develop : Summer of Smart kicks off on June 16th with SFOpen11, a debate on technology and open government between nine mayoral candidates presented with GovFresh and Change.org. This will be followed by the second annual CityCampSF unconference on June 18, where new approaches to civic engagement will be discussed among some of the city’s leading figures in technology, government, and urbanism. The discussion and input from these sessions will directly channel into the first of three Urban Innovation Weekends the following week.

These 48-hour weekends — or multidisciplinary “hackathons” — form the core of the program, where developers, designers, community leaders, urban planners, journalists, artists, and other creative minds will rapidly prototype solutions to some of the city’s most recognized needs.

The first weekend is focused on Community Development and Public Art, and will be held June 25 and 26 at GAFFTA’s headquarters in the Warfield Building. Each weekend will begin with a keynote address and several community presentations. The first talk will be given by John Gage, former Chief Researcher at Sun Microsystems, founder of NetDay, and a champion of using technology to help achieve environmental and community goals.

The second weekend turns to Sustainability, Transportation, and Energy, and will take place July 23 and 24. The third will focus on apps for Public Health, Food, and Nutrition on August 20 and 21 and feature keynote speaker Ann Veneman, former US Secretary of Agriculture and former UNICEF Executive Director.

Peter Hirshberg, Chairman of the Board of Directors at GAFFTA, said, “The mayoral race is a unique time when people and media across the city are focused on possibilities — not just on problems. This is the perfect environment to showcase how home-grown innovation can impact both the capacity of government and the lives of its citizens.”

Leading community organizations are partnering with Summer of Smart to insure programmatic diversity and a broad audience. These include San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR), Code for America, Change.org, Shareable.net, and New America Media, with sponsorship support from Adobe Foundation and Craig Newmark.

Applications produced at these weekends will be featured by media partner The Bay Citizen and the Summer of Smartwebsite, and will be open for public comment and community feedback. They will be shared with the city’s mayoral candidates and civic leaders as the summer progresses, who will lend their perspective and guidance. The initiative will culminate with a final public forum and presentation of the leading applications, where candidates will share their views on the prototypes and how such tools might be integrated into their own administrations. Beyond the publicity, opportunities, and feedback provided throughout the summer, select teams will be offered fall residencies in GAFFTA’s Research Program to fully develop their projects.

For more information and to register for Summer of Smart events visit: