#Hack4Congress Boston: Making our lawmakers more responsive to the public

#Hack4Congress winners: Taylor Woods, Chris Baily, Kat Kane, Jessie Landerman.
Hack4Congress winners: Taylor Woods, Chris Baily, Kat Kane, Jessie Landerman.

This past weekend, I was fortunate to be a judge at the inaugural [#Hack4Congress](https://hackpad.com/Hack4Congress-kiKLDML5Rr9) put on by Harvard’s Ash Center and the OpenGov Foundation. The event brought together individuals from a wide swath of backgrounds all interested in tackling the ways that Congress might work better. Teams competed in five categories, with the best overall being selected to travel to Washington later this year to present their ideas to members of Congress and their staff.

The pre-selected categories:

* Improving the Law Making Process * Facilitating Cross-Partisan Dialogue * Modernizing Congressional Participation * Closing the Representation and Trust Gap * Campaign Finance Reform

Obviously all are significant problems and two days isn’t a long time to tackle any of these. The participants were certainly up to the challenge and quickly sequestered themselves into 13 groups discussing what could be done on their issue of choice. Given the opportunity to wander around and offer help, it was refreshing to see the motivation that these teams brought. Many individuals had never considered the problem before but were dreaming up innovative solutions in the way that only a fresh pair of eyes can.

The five category winners were all strong candidates, from a public archive of [Dear Colleague letters](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dear_colleague_letter_(United_States)) to a method of [A/B testing](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A/B_testing) campaign finance proposals to reach a national consensus, they presented innovative changes to how Congress should operate. Among the impressive field of project teams it was well agreed upon that two in particular best met the challenge of the day. The runner up was the [OpenHearing](https://www.dropbox.com/s/b9bpmtgeahi4auf/6%20OpenHearing.pdf?dl=0) proposal that would see Congress introduce a platform for digital testimony. Many judges, myself included, felt that this would enable individuals that are not typically able to testify to be a part of the testimony process. Ultimately the winner was the great [Congress Connect](https://www.dropbox.com/s/2gd9459zmzkd17d/8%20Hack%20HIll%20Hack%20Preso.pptx) proposal, a way for ordinary citizens to schedule and prepare for a meeting with their lawmakers or their staff.

The Ash Center and the OpenGov Foundation are already planning two more #Hack4Congress events, one on the West Coast and another in D.C., and the finalists of all three will wind up presenting before Congress. If you have the opportunity to participate in either of those, there’s a real opportunity here to get good ideas in front of people that can actually get them implemented. I’m hopeful that some of these ideas can be implemented to make Congress more responsive to the needs of the public.