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A Year of Seeking Equanimity

2017 Year in Review

“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, 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.

At CivicMakers, 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 reflectionhuman-centered design, and systems thinking.

This multi-layered framework permeates all of our work, and we’ve also begun to share the approach via our Public Impact Design trainings.

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.

Improved Programs & Services


City of Fremont

Developed a Smart City strategy – a living document that will guide the City’s direction and prioritization of projects, and helped stand up the City’s first cross-departmental committee to implement the plan.

“Choosing Civicmakers to guide Fremont’s Smart City journey has proven to be a solid investment. They helped us craft an interactive, visual, and sustainable plan, and provided long-term governance tools that will empower staff to carry the effort forward.”

Fred Diaz City Manager, City of Fremont, CA (former)

Startup in Residence

Helping to scale the premier government technology accelerator which connects government departments with innovative startups to develop technology products that address civic challenges.

California Health & Human Services

Through extensive user research and service design, developed a platform for collaboration around health and human service data across a diverse stakeholder ecosystem.

Increased Engagement


San Francisco Public Voice


Co-created a new program that allows any San Francisco department or agency to connect to a diverse group of community members, collect real-time feedback, and use the input to improve City services.

“CivicMakers was instrumental in helping us explore new innovative practices. With their help, we were able to experiment with cutting-edge techniques to engage the public and improve services.”

Matthias Jaime Director, San Francisco Committee on Information Technology (former)

Cristelle is at a farmer's market inviting community members to vote on budget items that are important to them.

City of Thousand Oaks

Designed and implemented a robust community engagement program integrating digital tools with pop-up workshops to both educate and consult with a diverse body of residents about the municipal budget.

Impact Hub San Francisco

Helped to engage members in programming and volunteer activities they’d like to see in the space as part of helping Impact Hub fulfill its robust Community Benefits Agreement.

Built Capacity


City of San Rafael

Co-creating a city-wide change management strategy and training program to embed a culture of innovation and continuous improvement that translates to more responsive delivery of services and resident satisfaction.

“CivicMakers has been a true partner… Their team listens to ‘who we are as a City’ and always provides sage guidance that is informed by vast experience.”

Cristine Alilovich Assistant City Manager, San Rafael, CA

Public Impact Design

We launched our signature Public Impact Design training, which we offered in four cities to nearly 100 civic innovators. PID blends human-centered design with systems thinking and reflective practice – three powerful, collaborative frameworks for problem-solving and creating change.

Suisun City

Designed and facilitated a hands-on community leadership training program aimed at empowering Suisun City residents to create and lead their own public health initiatives.

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.

CivicMakers CommunityWe 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.

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!