This post was written by guest columnist Robin Withall, a marketing visionary and open government blogger. Follow her on Twitter @rwithall.
Several days ago civic tech startup Citizinvestor shared with its followers their company values. What stood out to me was their eighth core value:
For good, for profit
Profit and social impact are not mutually exclusive. We believe the best way to create real change is by creating new value in the marketplace.
There is a misconception that if a company is for profit, it is inherently not “for the people.” -- not surprising considering the turbulence we’ve seen on Wall Street over the past several years.
Thankfully, dozens of civic tech companies, along with organizations like Code for America and the Knight Foundation, are proving otherwise.
The intersection of ‘for profit’ and ‘for good’
Mark Headd, Philadelphia’s Chief Data Officer and civic innovation thought leader, provides great insight into what a civic startup looks like. He explains in his blog, Civic Innovations, that civic startups have particular qualities that make them attractive to both governments and citizens. Both parties have an interest in seeing these kinds of startups succeed because both will realize benefits when they do. Mark provides an excellent definition:
“Civic startups are those companies that, through the pursuit of their core missions, produce what economists call a positive externality. In other words, there are benefits inherent in the services these companies provide that are not reflected in the cost of that service.”
Here are three examples of startups who embody Headd’s definition.
Citizinvestor: the Public Sector’s Answer to Kickstarter
Citizinvestor (whose core values are the basis for this post) is essentially Kickstarter for government. Citizinvestor is a crowdfunding and civic engagement platform for local government projects. Any government entity can post public projects to Citizinvestor.com where citizens can make a tax-deductible donation to the projects they care about most.
ArchiveSocial: Ensuring Social Media Compliance One Tweet at a Time
ArchiveSocial enables public agencies to engage with citizens via social media, while automatically ensuring compliance with state and federal records laws such as FOIA. It provides a legal safety net, and eliminates the time and effort required to respond to public records requests. Essentially, citizens benefit from increased engagement with their government, and the promise of government transparency (i.e. freedom of information) being fulfilled.
SmartProcure: Changing How Government Does Business
SmartProcure is an online information service that provides access to local, state, and federal government procurement data. With 60 million government purchase orders in their database and counting, SmartProcure enables government agencies to make more efficient procurement decisions and save taxpayer dollars, while simultaneously enabling businesses to sell more effectively and competitively to government agencies.
We want to hear from you! What are your favorite civic startups?