At the 2015 Allied Media Conference, Una Lee called for the need to design systems that “create community ownership of products and processes” and “build on the brilliance of those most affected”.

That’s “building with”: the idea and practice of sharing the process of ideation, design, implementation, and iteration with the communities that we seek to serve, whether the instruments we wield are technology, policy, or other social services.

Below are the “People First” Criteria designed by Laurenellen McCann in February 2015 for the Smart Chicago Collaborative. These 5 criteria were used to guide her research on community technology and identify the leanest standard possible for translating the idea of “with” to a series of identifiable practices.

PEOPLE FIRST, TECHNOLOGY SECOND: 5 Criteria for Community-Led Civic Tech

  1. Literally start with people: Identify the real people and real communities you are part of, represent, and/or are trying to serve
  2. Cater to context: Leverage and operate with an informed understanding of the existing social infrastructure and sociopolitical contexts that affect your work
  3. Respond to need: Let expressed community ideas, needs, wants, and opportunities drive problem-identification and problem-solving
  4. Build for best fit: Develop solutions and tools that are the most useful to the community and most effectively support outcomes and meet needs
  5. Prove it: Demonstrate and document that community needs, ideas, skills, and other contributions are substantially integrated into — and drive — the lifecycle of the project