Drupal for Good (or Public Service Therapy)

By Tim Erickson
Posted January 15, 2017
Photo from the 1963 March on Washington for Civil Rights

This week represents a major transition in the social and political climate of the United States (and in many respects, the world). I’ve been thinking a great deal about what that means for me and what my role is in this transition. 

I spent much of the prior decade (~1998 - 2009) immersed in the field of civic engagement, public participation, and deliberative democracy. Unfortunately, I was never quite able to figure out how to make a living at this. Over the last few years, my focus has shifted towards general purpose web development with a heavy emphasis on Drupal and the Drupal open source community. The current political climate is pulling my attention back in the direction of civic engagement. I’m looking for ways to combine my interest and knowledge of civic engagement with my technical skills and personal connections in the Drupal community.

Recently, I’ve had a number of discussions with Matthew Tift about the future of Drupal and the Drupal Community as a force for “good.” For now, I’m going to leave the definition of “good” vague and open to discussion. Matthew has written some thoughtful blog posts about the Drupal Community, Contribution, and Drupal as Political Act. Matthew and I have been discussing ways to stimulate more discussion around the idea of Drupal as a tool for “good” and to encourage opportunities for members of the Drupal Community to collaborate on projects that directly seek to “make the world a better place.” 

To get things going, we’ve discussed ways that we might engage with members of our local Drupal Community to directly address issues of social or civic concern. We’d like to start with hack-a-thon type projects or by volunteering our coding, project management, and technical skills on civic projects that address our shared values and concerns. We recognize that our community holds a diversity of political opinions and values and seek to find projects that will engage as many members of our community as possible.

We would like to start our work at home in the Twin Cities, but share our ideas and lessons with the Drupal Community at large. We’d like to model projects that can be repeated in other communities and encourage others to join us. 

Personally, I feel the need to do something good this week. Something that will help set the tone in this time of transition. I’m looking for a few other folks interested in getting together on Friday or Saturday (Jan 20 or 21) to use our profession skills to advance projects for “good.” I have some ideas of what those projects might be, but am open to other suggestions. 

This is very much a last minute effort and my initial expectations are small for this first event. If we only get 3-4 of us together, it’s a start. We are unlikely to finish anything of substance in a single day, but the goal is to begin to build momentum that will carry over to future events. We’d like to see regular opportunities for members of the local Drupal Community to collaborate on public services projects and to give everyone in the community an opportunity to share the public services projects they are already committed to with the broader Drupal community. 

If this is something you would like to be a part of, please let myself (@StPaulTim) or Matthew (@MatthewTift) know. 

 

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