How to organize a CityCamp.

The 101 of CityCamp

What is CityCamp?

CityCamp is a unique event that brings together ALL people from your community. You get to choose what happens when you get everyone together. It’s that simple. You can add the special sauce you think will work in our town.

Why hold a CityCamp?

Government and community members never have a chance to talk, think and work together in a safe place- we’re either angry at a City Council meeting or frustrated at a regular City town hall meeting where we don’t all get to talk to each other. CityCamp is the one chance to talk and think through ideas as equals - city staff and community members all have great ideas and valid concerns, what happens when we all get together at CityCamp? Awesomeness.

Who can run a CityCamp?

ANYONE! YOU! You can be a librarian or elected official, or a student or a hacker, it’s all ok. You can do this, and dozens of people like you have made CityCamps happen all over the USA and the world.

How do I run a CityCamp?

Read on! This playbook is the complete guide to pulling off a great CityCamp, and we have a wonderful community of others who have run a CityCamp too- ask us, and ask the community too.

About CityCamp

CityCamp is an unconference focused on innovation for municipal governments and community organizations. As an unconference, content for CityCamp is not programmed for a passive audience. Content (your agenda) is created and organized by participants and coordinated by facilitators. Participants are expected to play active roles in sessions. This provides an excellent format for creative, open exchange geared toward action.

CityCamp recognizes that local governments and community organizations have the most direct influence and impact on our daily lives. These events seek to create local communities of practice who are dedicated to design, process, and technology applications that make cities and other local communities more open and “user friendly.” CityCamp doesn’t need to be “all about technology” but technology does tend to be a central thread in most cities.


Each CityCamp has four main goals:

  • Bring together local government officials, municipal employees, experts, developers, designers, citizens and journalists to share perspectives and insights about the cities in which they live
  • Create and maintain patterns for using the Web to facilitate local government transparency and effective local governance
  • Foster communities of practice and advocacy on the role of the Web, mobile communication, online information and open data in cities
  • Create outcomes that participants will act upon after the event is over

Who should attend

  • residents
  • civic leaders
  • elected officials
  • public service employees
  • entrepreneurs
  • designers
  • developers
  • journalists

Common Themes

  • Arts
  • Civic Engagement
  • Civic Technology
  • Economic & workforce development
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Housing
  • Human services
  • Law enforcement/justice
  • Open government
  • Procurement and contracting
  • Public health
  • Safety & emergency management
  • Transportation


  • All CityCamp events are on the record by default. Participants should be made aware that they may be quoted, photographed, videoed and otherwise recorded. Exceptions must be agreed to by all parties present in a conversation in order for the conversation to be off the record.
  • Press are welcomed but should seek permission before using any content from the day.
  • Both public representatives and private citizens should participate.
  • All CityCamp events are participatory. Attendees at each CityCamp are expected to take an active role in the agenda.
  • CityCamp exists in the Creative Commons under the Attribution, Share-alike License.


CityCamp was founded by Kevin Curry and Jen Pahlka, and the first CityCamp was held in Chicago on January 23-24, 2010. Afterwards, in an effort to inspire cities around the world to start their own CityCamp, the brand was opened for re-use by anyone.

Creative Commons

No one organization will own CityCamp. CityCamp is an “open source brand” that exists in the Creative Commons. Open source ensures that CityCamp is maintained as a pattern that is easily repeatable and for anyone to use. Branding ensures that the pattern is recognizable and that independent organizers don’t misrepresent CityCamp. Instead it will be maintained by the CityCamp community supported by a cadre of local community organizers.


International CityCamp Day

International CityCamp Day is held annually on the second Saturday in October. (The first multi-event CityCamp Day was January 10, 2015.)

While some cities hold CityCamps throughout the year, International CityCamp Day brings together the global CityCamp community to celebrate their efforts. Some cities hold official unconferences at this time, while others use it to plan for a future event later in the year. Things are more fun when we do them with others, we work to support multiple events on this day for many reasons, for fun, for sharing and learning purposes and to help grow this movement.

Starting a CityCamp

If you would like to organize a CityCamp where you live, first check the CityCamp website to see if there’s not already an established one for your city.

If there’s not, follow the checklist to get started.

Add your city

CityCamp format

CityCamp is an unconference format and local organizers are free to choose whatever format they please, but generally include one or all of the following:

Suggested agenda

CityCamps formats vary from city to city. While some cities host just one day, others will hold a full weekend of events.

The Very Simple One-day agenda

  • 8:30-9:00: Introductions
  • Breakouts
  • 12:30-1:00: Lunch
  • Team presentations
  • 6:00-?: Happy hour celebration

Open Space Unconference One-day agenda

  • 8:30-9:00: Introductions
  • 9:00-9:30 Speakers
  • 9:30-10:00 Idea pitches for sessions
  • 10:00-10:30 Session voting and room assigning
  • 10:30-11:30 Breakout session 1
  • 11:30-12:30 Breakout session 2
  • 12:30-1:30: Lunch
  • 1:30-3:00 Breakout session 3
  • 3:00-4:45 Breakout session 4
  • 5:00-6:00 Session report back in big group!
  • 6:00-?: Happy hour celebration


Organizing and executing a CityCamp takes all types of volunteer roles. Planning teams representing multiple organizations is a good approach, giving your more diverse perspectives- also try hard to not default to “just another bunch of white guys”. Start on inclusion early. Here are some recommended roles for a planning team:

  • Event planning and logistics
  • Outreach and communications
  • Food and beverage
  • Venue logistics


Decide how many people you will host and choose an appropriate meeting place. A single, public meeting place is preferred. Where this is not practical or allowable, choose any available space that does not require special access. Layout matters, think about how people will flow between the big room and breakout sessions, how will they find the main room? But in the end, good events have worked out even in awkward spaces!

Suggested venue specifications

  • At least one large, open space room for general presentations
  • Multiple, smaller rooms for sessions and breakouts
  • Appropriate AV resources


Recommend registration platforms:

Outreach and communications

Submit your camp

After you’ve set up your CityCamp website and are ready to share with others, submit your camp website to the CityCamp directory.

Two ways to submit:

  • Contact @CityCamp on twitter or facebook.


Three options:

Social media

It is recommended but not required for individual CityCamps to set up some type of social media presence, especially on Twitter or Facebook. If you don’t want to create a new account for your event, do setup a local hashtag to promote it instead (this is super useful on the day!).


We recommend you set up some type of newsletter to communicate updates to your local CityCamp community.

Suggested services:

  • TinyLetter (free, lightweight)
  • MailChimp (free up to 2,000 subscribers)
  • You can also the outreach tools of your event management platform.


Hosts are encouraged to use location-specific social media hashtags to distinguish your event from others. Examples: #CityCampOAK #CityCampMN, #CityCampNYC, #CityCampSF

We also encourage the use of the main #CityCamp hashtag so that the general CityCamp community can follow along.

Hashtag should be posted in very visible places, like on whiteboards and collateral.


Make sure your event has the resources it needs. You may require financial support to pay for expenses such as venue, catering and social mixers. Hosts are responsible for ensuring that these needs are met. While sponsorship terms may vary, hosts must never allow any sponsor the privilege of setting the agenda for the event- this is not an event for vendors to dominate. Bartering services in exchange for sponsor promotion is encouraged. Some venues and caterers will discount and trade for recognition on websites and promotional communications.

Suggested sponsorship levels:

  • CityCamp Partner: $1,000
  • CityCamp Supporter: $500
  • Friend of CityCamp: no set amount (organizer’s choice)

Logo/style guidance

The CityCamp logo falls under Creative Commons licensing. You are free to reuse, modify or create your own.

  • CityCamp logo font: Ubuntu bold (free download)
  • Color: Local camps are free to use whatever color(s) they please.



  • Follow CityCamp on Twitter, Facebook and GitHub.
  • Create a CityCamp Planning Committee with appropriate roles/obligations
  • Set up event website
  • Set up social media (Twitter, Facebook)
  • Set up registration (choose free or paid tickets)
  • Add your city to the CityCamp directory
  • Secure a venue
  • Organize partner organizations
  • Secure sponsors
  • Create a schedule/agenda
  • Send invite/announcement to local leaders/organizations/media
  • Acquire necessary supplies

Event/venue supplies

  • Post-it notes (lots and lots)
  • Nametags
  • Sharpees
  • Voting sticky dots
  • Charting paper
  • Whiteboards
  • Projectors/AV
  • Food/beverages


If you have more questions, post a new issue ticket here.

Sample communications

Organization partnership letter

Use this letter as a template to recruit partners to organize a CityCamp with you.

Subject: CityCamp [YOUR CITY] and [ORGANIZATION]


We’re excited to announce CityCamp [YOUR CITY], which will take place Saturday, October 10, 2017, and we are inviting [ORGANIZATION] to collaborate with us on organizing the event.

CityCamp is a global effort that brings together local residents to build stronger communities where they live. CityCamp is an unconference focused on innovation for municipal governments and community organizations. CityCamp aims to:

  • Bring together local government officials, municipal employees, experts, developers, designers, residents and journalists to share perspectives and insights about the cities in which they live
  • Create outcomes that participants will act upon after the event is over

In this spirit, CityCamp [YOUR CITY] will bring together civic leaders, public officials, residents and experts and enthusiasts in technology, sustainability, transportation and social services[insert your focussed areas here] to help accomplish this.

We would be honored for you to join us as a CityCamp [YOUR CITY] partner. This would entail the following:

  • commit organizational and/or financial resources
  • participate in regular planning meetings where we will discuss and decide on program agenda/logistics and outreach

If you are interested in helping to organize CityCamp [YOUR CITY], please contact us by [DATE].

We look forward to working with you!

Sample sponsor letter

An exciting event comes to [City] in [month of event] and we’re asking for your support. [Lead organization] and the [key partner organization] will be holding a CityCamp at [VENUE] on [date]. This year’s theme is [theme name]. It is a rallying cry to focus on our challenges and the difference we can make in our local municipalities, especially in the context of the national election. We employ “Open Space Technology” during our sessions to facilitate purpose driven self organization and distributed power amongst group members during our sessions.

A CityCamp is an unstructured conference where municipal employees, civic leaders, technology folks, software developers, journalists, and engaged residents can meet and discuss the intersections of technology and local government—how innovative technology and data uses can improve civic engagement, increase efficiency and transparency, connect residents, and incubate the technology community in our city. These unconferences are not heavily structured up front; the agenda is completed in detail on the day based upon topics the attendees themselves suggest. We are hoping to draw close to [#] attendees.

We would love for you to be a formal part of this [city name] CityCamp. We’ll have [keynote speaker, official] opening the day, and will feature two great local speakers.

We are inviting you to join [city name]’s community of civically engaged technologists, designers, entrepreneurs, and innovators, along with government staff and leaders, as we re-imagine how collaboration and technology can help shape, grow, and sustain a healthy future for our City.

As a sponsor of this event we offer several levels of support and recognition.

Silver sponsors: $250

  • Featured logo on our event website
  • Social shout-outs and mentions on the day
  • Covers coffee and beverages or the post-event happy hour

Gold sponsors: $500

  • Prominently featured logo on our event website
  • Multiple social shout-outs and mentions on the day
  • Covers Breakfast and all supplies for recording the sessions and facilitation support

Platinum sponsors: $1,500

  • Prominently featured logo on our event website
  • Multiple social shout-outs and mentions on the day
  • Covers lunch, very important!
  • A 5 minute spot to pitch your organization and your role in [city]

We hope you will consider supporting this event and move our work forward to realize truly open, engaged government and community powered innovation in [city name]. We welcome the chance to talk with you about this event and how your organization can play a vital role. To learn more, visit [website]

Sample press release


CityCamp [city] Returns to [venue] [date]

An Open Government Unconference in [or your own subtitle]

Media Contacts:






(City, State) – [Month, Day, Year)] – CityCamp [name of city], a participant-driven civic innovation conference to be held on [date], from [start and end times], aims to redefine the way we perceive and collaborate with government. Organized by [partner and your org name] and other local civic groups, this event will convene more than [guestimate attendees] City staff, technologists, businesses owners and community members. The event will be held at [address]. Mayor [well known name speaker/intro] is participating in CityCamp [city name] as part of a [some relevant local effort…].

The event will open with keynotes from [featured speakers if you choose to have any]. The day will feature a series of workshops and sessions on topics including open-source technology inside government, transparency, public safety, civic engagement, public/private collaboration, improving access to public records and IT procurement [pick topics that work for your town].

CityCamp [city name] will once again provide a forum for government staff and citizens to gather, share ideas, work on common problems and explore what open government looks like in practice. [Only if this isn’t your first!] We will be building on relationships and innovations from previous CityCamp events and looking back at all the civic technology and engagement successes and struggles of [past year].

CityCamp [city name] welcomes media attendance, but asks that journalists respect this rare opportunity for City staff and community members to build relationships by talking freely about their work and goals for the community. Organizers request that journalists give full disclosure of their media role to groups in which they participate and that permission is requested from speakers to publish their views. For more information: [web link]

Your org name, tagline