Editor’s note: Tom Snyder is executive director of NC RIoT, the Internet of Things users group based in Raleigh.
RALEIGH – I’m fortunate to get to interact with entrepreneurs every day as a major part of my job. I spend time with first time startup founders in the RIoT Accelerator and corporate “intrapreneurs” through RIoT’s economic development efforts. It’s a lot of fun and a great privilege.
Tuesday night, another important group of entrepreneurs came together that are less recognized than the startups and big corporations regularly in the news. For the past eight years, local volunteers have coordinated civic entrepreneurship across the region, merging efforts under the nonprofit NC Open Pass.
Local government has a massive challenge, operating and growing the communities in which we live. Luckily for citizens and government employees alike, there is a large and growing community of developers and volunteers tackling thorny problems that are outside the scope of municipal budgets. This is where the volunteers fill the gap.
Many of these efforts are housed under local brigades of Code for America. NC Open Pass steps in to coordinate the efforts more broadly and across a larger region to create more impact. A primary function is to help volunteers to connect to projects. Strong community supporters like Red Hat and HQ Raleigh have been long-time, generous sponsors of the organization, but largely this is a labor of love. It is not a money-maker.
If you’ve not been engaged before, co-organizer, Zach Ambrose summarized how easy it is to get involved, “the idea behind NC Open Pass is it is like a City Pass. You buy a single ticket and get access to all kinds of civic events and organizing, including Civic Camp, DataPalooza and attached events at All Things Open.” From these events, you have the opportunity to join a project as a coder, project manager, marketer or help in other ways.
There’s no expectation or requirement to actually write code to participate. But everyone at some level is an entrepreneur. NC Open Pass attracts people building something new, and motivated simply by the challenge to solve a problem. The folks presenting last night certainly fit that mold.
The NC Open Pass event hosted at HQ Raleigh’s Cannon Room last night offered a stage to civic entrepreneurs to showcase projects they have worked with and to recruit talent to new project opportunities. September 20-21, Open Pass will hold Civic Camp, a two-day team-building effort to add supporters to existing projects and kick off new initiatives.