Arthur Smid

Communications Specialist in Portland, Oregon

After writing a novel about software developers, illustrating the good and bad of the digital tools we use, I wanted to help implement open source software for public decision-making. A local chapter of Code for America provided the opportunity to learn more. I volunteered to help with outreach and communications, finding community partners for our projects. Through talking with researcher Travis Kriplean, who created software for online dialogue, and Hector Dominguez, the open data coordinator for the City of Portland, our team decided among the various software for civic engagement and set up a version of CONSUL. And of course the website isn’t the most important piece, what really makes it happen is the people in government who use these tools to communicate with the public.

I admire the use of open source software for participatory political processes in Madrid and Barcelona, Reykjavík, Taiwan. But anything like that is beyond what volunteers alone can do. I added a Resources section to my book with the intention of building awareness of open democracy and civic technology. In search of advance readers I reached out to coworking spaces in Eugene, Oregon and Mark Davis introduced me to the Eugene Tech community. He invited me to participate in events where I sold my book and after he started a Code for America brigade in Eugene, I volunteered to help make an online resource directory for White Bird Clinic.
The clinic has been around for fifty years, and for decades they’ve maintained a printed guide to social service providers called the Little Help Book. Our team put the information into an Airtable database and that populates our custom-coded website. The most challenging aspect of a resource directory is the maintenance of accurate information. Hours and available services change, especially during emergencies when people most need help. Through the Code for America network I met a community organizer who has been working on this challenge for years. Greg Bloom introduced our team to a format for writing and publishing data that can be shared among all the various organizations that maintain information about available social services.

Working as the project manager with White Bird Clinic and Open Eugene has been an ideal combination of communications, community organizing, and coding. Along with designing the site in Figma, I wrote the HTML and CSS. The core contributors, Daniel Coats and Colin Davey, wrote the JavaScript and I enjoy learning from them through paired coding. I like to collaborate on progressive causes. Let's talk about your project and how I might be of service.