...is a social practice artist, educator, and organizer focused on civic engagement and community technology. For shy of a decade, they've advised and led innovation + policy initiatives that focus on increasing equitable access to information and public participation in civic life.
Laurenellen's approach flips the tech-for-the-sake-of-tech table. Rather than trust-falling into the "democratizing potential" of new technologies, Laurenellen works with communities (and governments) to co-create and identify tools that best fit local wants and needs. Laurenellen's methods are influenced by a variety of organizing and arts traditions and focus on leveraging existing communal assets and creativity to enable greater collaboration in governance. They train other practitioners (inside and out of government) to do the same. In 2014, Laurenellen catalyzed an international conversation about the lack of (and need for) this practice (co-design) in civic technology and related fields. [More at buildwith.org]
At the end of 2013, TIME Magazine named them one of 30 People Under 30 Changing the World. No pressure, right?
teaching local governments power-aware design for community engagement with The Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University
training and organizing with workers in fields ranging from tech to arts to labor and beyond how to change their internal management practices and external engagement practices for power shifts and equity; yeah, it’s pretty sweet
realizing how badly the need to rewrite this page — updates soon!
writing in the third person and finding it weird
Laurenellen was the Director of New America DC (NADC), a research program exploring whether and how national organizations can take leadership from the communities they seek to serve. NADC was focused on Washington, DC as a city(/state), but its lessons were designed to be broadly applicable to any institution seeking to understand how to use "build with" methods to work in deep, non-extractive partnership with local communities.
Prior to founding NADC, Laurenellen was a Civic Innovation Fellow at the Open Technology Institute at New America where they led research into engagement and organizing models that prioritize community leadership on the social impact projects meant to serve them. They also consulted with the Smart Chicago Collaborative on an investigation into what it means to build civic tech with, not for. In fall 2015, they published the book Experimental Modes of Civic Engagement in Civic Tech with their findings.
Laurenellen was also the founding National Policy Manager of the Sunlight Foundation. In addition to leading and co-founding Sunlight’s work on state and local issues, they co-authored Sunlight’s open data policy platform, helped dozens of cities, counties, and states write their first open data policies, and they directed TransparencyCamp, one of the largest community gatherings about open government in the world. They cut their teeth as an information freedom fighter, journalist, and web producer with NPR and affiliate stations and as a youth member of their hometown school board.
In the margins, Laurenellen's supported the US Department of Arts & Culture's People's State of the Union as an Artreach Coordinator, created an independent web and mobile platform for collecting and sharing historical and social data about public art in DC (ArtAround) with the DC government, helped launch one of iTunes’ Best Podcasts of 2013 (The Good Fight, with Ben Wikler), which hit #1 on the charts after its first week, gave birth to a v important dinosaur, and their neighbors to explore changes to public space with Indiana Jones and the Alley of Doom. They also produced the first season of Animal Planet's Dogs 101 and attended a chihuahua birthday party.
L(e) holds a BA in Government (with a heavy Psych emphasis) from Wesleyan University. They hail from New England and speak broken Swedish, limping Spanish, and with a New York accent if you get them excited enough. They are absolutely obsessed with parades and totally willing to give you comic book recommendations. Just ask.