Democracy 2015

March 27th–29th, 2015


City of Philadelphia - Municipal Innovation Lab
1401 John F Kennedy Boulevard, 16th Floor, Philadelphia, PA

  • Meals
  • T-shirt

The Event

Do you wish your interactions with our City were up-to-par with the latest commercial apps and services? Do you want a future where Philly is the role model of a modern city for the entire world (again)? Even if all you have is an itch and no idea how or skills to scratch it, this is your chance to do something about it without anyone’s permission.

This event will bring together technologists, community organizers, and democracy and civic-engagement enthusiasts/experts for a weekend-long rapid prototyping session. Ideas presented and discussed at the preceding Friday night’s Community Needs Assessment provide a starting point for project ideas, but all ideas related to democracy and civic-engagement are welcome. The only restriction is that all work done during the event must be released under an open-source or creative commons license.


Register for the two parts of the hackathon separately on


Code for Philly Innovations


Friday, March 27

@ Caucus Room, City Hall

5–7:30pm Community Needs Assessment

This Friday night event will be open to all Philadelphians to come discuss how technology can improve democracy in our city, generating project ideas for the Apps for Philly Democracy: Hackathon taking place over the following Saturday and Sunday.

Attendees will enjoy libations and light refreshments while hearing quick pitches from local organization representatives and fellow citizens about available data sets and known problems. Presented ideas will be posted along the walls and every attendee will be issued a number of “upvote” stickers to affix to their favorite ideas as they mingle around the room. New ideas can be posted by anyone at this time too.

Teams will be free to choose to work on whatever they want over the hackathon, but the posted ideas and votes they accumulate provide an easy starting point for building teams.

RSVP for this free event at

Saturday, March 28

@ City of Philadelphia Municipal Innovation Lab (Municipal Services Building, 1401 John F Kennedy Boulevard, 16th Floor)

09:00am Doors and registration open, breakfast and coffee served.

Walk around and look through the idea placards posted during last night’s community needs assessment and think about what you want to work on

10:30am Opening remarks

Hear an overview of the event and an introduction to civic hacking and hackathons

11:00am Team formation

Hang out next to the placard for your favorite project idea and discover who shares your interest

11:30am Hacking begins!

Find a spot to setup shop with your team and get started. Visit the mentor lounge at any time if you need guidance

01:00pm Lunch served

06:00pm Dinner served

11:00pm Doors closed for the night

Get some sleep!

Sunday, March 29

@ City of Philadelphia Municipal Innovation Lab (Municipal Services Building, 1401 John F Kennedy Boulevard, 16th Floor)

09:00am Doors open, breakfast and coffee served

01:00pm Lunch served

02:00pm Presentations begin

Present and/or demo your project to the judges and your co-hackers

05:00pm Doors closed

Data / Resources

New releases

These data sets have been released recently or will be by the start of the hackathon:

  • Election Results
  • Lobbyist Registration & Activity
  • Campaign Finance
  • District, Ward, & Division Boundaries
  • Polling Places API
  • Elected Committeepeople
  • Registered Voters
  • Voter Turnout
  • Election Boards (polling place staff)
  • Unofficial Candidates

Past releases



Who is Code for Philly?

Code for Philly is an open, nonprofit group that helps people in Philly work together to solve problems and improve life through technology. Some of us are programmers or designers, others are makers or problem solvers, a handful are urbanists or journalists, but everyone is a civic hacker. We believe in the power of knowledge — orchestrated by code — to drive transformative and sustainable change in cities. We don’t wait for permission to improve our city because it’s our home to improve. Inclusive, collaborative, and creative, our members develop diverse projects that take on some of Philly’s most pressing issues.

What is a Hackathon?

Simply put, and as the name might suggest, hackathons are hacking marathons. This means that we get together for a weekend to create new projects from the ideation stage to functional (or at least semi-functional) prototypes. It’s also a great excuse to eat food, drink lots of coffee, hang out with friends and meet new people. Friday night begins with a happy hour to socialize a bit and come up with a few project ideas based on problem statements and/or available data. Project ideas are posted along the walls and every attendee gets a number of “upvote” stickers to stick to their favorites as they mingle through the projects. On Saturday morning we hit the ground running with teams self-selecting around favored project ideas from the night before. Teams then have until Sunday afternoon to prototype a solution and put together a brief presentation to present to a panel of expert judges. The judges challenge teams to defend their ideas and award available prizes to the most fitting projects, but everyone is encouraged to continue their civic hacking efforts at the weekly Code for Philly hack nights.

Who Should Come? / What if I’m not a coder?

If you’re passionate about Philadelphia, if you think democracy needs to be improved, and if you believe in the power of code to facilitate change, you should come! Civic hacking and hackathons benefit from participants of all types of backgrounds and levels of expertise. Technologists with advanced, professional skills can take the lead in project design and development. Intermediate and beginners take on tasks that support their learning and contribute to project advancement. Even those with no technological skills at all can play vital roles in researching, designing, and launching projects. Subject-matter experts are essential to the quality, sustainability, and scalability of a project. Content experts and partner organizations contribute extensive, nuanced knowledge of the subject matter; they help guide and structure a project so that it tackles key needs, creating the greatest possible impact.

What Does Hacking Democracy Mean?

For this hackathon we’re taking a broad view of democracy that includes elections, community/neighborhood collaboration, transparency and knowledge accessibility, participatory decision making, government efficiency, and service accessibility/quality — everything connected to how we work together well as a city. Code itself might have a limited ability to directly impact these issues, but code can help collect, organize, distribute, and present knowledge. The right knowledge, the right place, and the right time can change everything. Let’s bring technologists and engaged citizens together to build the tools for Philly’s 21st century democracy.

Why is it Important and Why Should I Come?

Philadelphia long held a reputation of a political system that was “corrupt and contented”. The sentiment expressed in part poor municipal governance. It also expressed a complacency of the general public not holding the institution accountable. That depiction has quickly changed in recent years with a progressive mayoral administration and increased participation from its residents. With a global movement of open data and government transparency, there are new forms of civic engagement that enhance democracy. But institutional change can only go so far.

Nearly everything about how our city operates was established in an era where knowledge was moved around primarily by paper and bureaucracies — what would it look like reimagined with today’s technologies? Philly once revolutionized the world’s concept of city and we now have the opportunity to do it again. As a community, we want to show what we’re capable of doing. We have the wisdom to know what we want and the means to achieve these goals, but most important is that we are able to bring together individual talent for a collective purpose.


Flagship sponsors


City of Philadelphia Innovations

Code for Philly

Food and Beverage sponsors


Victory Brewing Company