A Year of Seeking Equanimity

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”
- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

There are many words we’ve heard used to encapsulate all that was 2017. Some of them are depressing, a few hopeful, others off color. Through all the ups and downs and roundabouts of the last year, though, one word stands out for us — equanimity.

Mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

Rather than an observation or a response, this way of being feels like the only sane path in today’s tumultuous world, one that allows us to continue the hard work of fighting for each other, for our humanity, for the planet.

In retrospect, much of our 2017 at CivicMakers, both personally and professionally, was spent seeking calm in the storm. Judi, quite literally, by starting a meditation practice. Lawrence by getting married. Cristelle by building a new home. Brian by becoming a father for the second time.

We struggled as a small startup, often overwhelmed by our own ambition, not to mention our inboxes. But amidst all the tumult, we dug deep and relied on each other to do some good, meaningful, fulfilling work of which we are inordinately proud. Here’s our year in review.

Refining our approach

2017 was a watershed year for CivicMakers for many reasons. It was our first full year operating as a consulting firm, while still maintaining our roots in community events. Cristelle Blackford joined as our Chief Engagement Officer. We moved into a beautiful office at the new Impact Hub San Francisco. And we were able to more clearly define who we are and what makes our work unique.

Early in the year, we reaffirmed our mission to “partner with organizations and institutions to advance human-centered, collaborative problem-solving through education, consultation and a community of practice.” Pursuing this mission led us to some deep insights about our approach that we’ve encapsulated as Public Impact Design, which integrates the principles of self reflection, human-centered design, and systems thinking. Here’s a sneak peak (thanks Molly McLeod!):

This multi-layered framework permeates all of our work, and we’ve also begun to teach the approach via our Public Impact Design trainings. (Don’t miss our first training of 2018 on February 23rd in San Francisco!)

Serving amazing clients

As a social enterprise focused on impact, we’re proud of our work with remarkable clients and partners committed to collaborating with their communities to design services, policies, and programs that reflect real world needs and lived experiences. We’re also humbled that smart, passionate, dedicated public servants have relied on us as a trusted partner to help realize big dreams.

City of Fremont Smart City Action Plan; San Francisco Public Voice civic user testing group; City of San Rafael Learning Lab

From creating a civic user testing lab for the City and County of San Francisco to developing a Smart City Action Plan and Team with the City of Fremont, we covered a lot of ground. Here’s a taste. Get the full rundown on our website.

Growing a vibrant community

Of course, 2017 would not be a year in the life of CivicMakers without some serious community. And when we say serious, we mean lovely humans having real conversations, sharing creative ideas, and having lots of fun. Last year we hosted 12 events and trainings for over 1100 people in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose & Sacramento. The topics ran the gamut from women in politics to social impact investing to data storytelling.

We also started a new event series called Civic Mornings which was wildly popular…because, breakfast burritos! … and of course our many inspirational speakers and partners. (Don’t miss our first Civic Mornings of 2018 on Friday, January 19th in San Francisco!)

Oh, and 2800 people now receive our LINKS newsletter, a twice monthly missive on all things civic innovation. Do you?

Last, but not least, there are a few very important people we would be remiss not to mention. First and foremost, Jim Rettew, for believing in us, challenging us, and being the best collaborator we could hope for. Kevin Bayuk, of LIFT Economy, for always providing critical strategic support, cheerleading and inspiration. To Tim, Kate, Brittany, Brandon, Jesus and the entire Impact Hub SF team, thank you for playing along with our crazy vision for community. And finally, thanks to Lauren Caldwell for all of her incredible contributions…all the best to you in the new year.

Looking ahead

Of course, there’s one person we haven’t thanked yet…extra special thanks to YOU! For reading this, for attending our events, for motivating us, and for doing world-changing work with us.

While we can’t predict the future, we’re confident that moving toward our shared vision of a world in which every community has the tools necessary to co-create solutions to their shared challenges will continue to help us weather any storm that comes our way. In fact, the future depends on it.

We can’t wait to see what 2018 brings! If you’re excited too, consider one of these ways to join us:

  1. Sign up for LINKS, our twice-monthly newsletter chock full of civic innovation.
  2. Attend a Public Impact Design training.
  3. Contact us to collaborate on a project.