In the News

Civinomics tech startup to test software at candidate forum

By JONDI GUMZ

Santa Cruz Sentinel, 9/8/12

SANTA CRUZ - Peggy Dolgenos, co-founder of Cruzioworks downtown, found a new way to figure out what the 175 members of the co-working space really wanted, and the answer surprised her.

Their top suggestion for improvement: Do something to keep the men's room toilets smelling fresh.

It didn't cost much and it wasn't something she would have thought of.

She credits Civinomics, a Santa Cruz startup that has developed software and an iPad survey application to gather and rate input to produce better decision-making.

"I think there's a huge demand for it," Dolgenos said. "You see people responding to each other. The best suggestions rise to the top."

On Amazon.com, people rate products, she noted, adding, "Why not a way to judge ideas like you judge your furniture?"

She sponsored a free meet-up Wednesday night for Robert Singleton, 21, brand manager of Civinomics, which has put 17 people to work.

The meet-up, which co-featured Alex Cowan, author of "Starting a Tech Business," was attended by more than 60 people.

"I loved the Civinomics presentation," said Thomas Wynn, a financial adviser in Ben Lomond and past president of the San Lorenzo Valley Chamber of Commerce. "I am very interested in the idea of increasing civic participation and improving political literacy."

The chamber, he said, "needs an efficient way to harness the collective brainpower of their members and community."

Chris Yonge, co-founder of MakersFactory, a community of more than 100 designers, animators and technologists at Cruzioworks, voiced similar sentiment.

"We're trying to get an idea of what everyone wants," he said. "Civinomics collates all this and gives us a set of metrics."

Singleton, who got involved in campaigns as a high school student, said he wanted a better way to deal with polarized politics, "bridge the information gap between elected officials and the rest of us" and produce "solutions not shouting matches."

Elected officials attend meetings where issues are discussed; it's often not practical for ordinary citizens to attend and they tend to question whether information provided by officials is unbiased.

The Civinomics iPad survey application provides information on a topic and allows input "on a spectrum" rather than the usual yes-no choice. It lets people suggest new ideas, and those ideas can be rated on a scale of 1 to 100.

"You can track your suggestions and your ratings," Singleton said. "It's important to have a space for dialogue. If people feel their voices are heard, they are more likely to support the decision."

Civinomics interviewed hundreds of people for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission recycled water project, and has done consulting for the Soquel Creek Water District, which is exploring a desalination plant with the city of Santa Cruz.

Asked how much the survey application would cost, Singleton said fees are not finalized but he expects there will be a monthly hosting fee, perhaps "a few hundred bucks a month" for municipal government.

Civinomics will get a big test when it joins with Cruzio Internet, Santa Cruz Next and Santa Cruz Geeks to sponsor a forum and ice cream social 6-9 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320 Cedar St., for Santa Cruz City Council candidates.

People who plan to attend are asked to register on EventBrite, where they can suggest a question for candidates. Those who attend will vote on the questions to be asked.

Follow Sentinel reporter Jondi Gumz on Twitter: @jondigumz

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Council candidate forum/ice cream social

WHEN: 6-9 p.m. Sept. 19

WHERE: Kuumbwa Center, Santa Cruz

SPONSORS: Santa Cruz NEXT, Cruzio Internet, Civinomicsand Santa Cruz Geeks

COST: $5

REGISTER: Go to http://insidescoop-santacruz.eventbrite.com

CAN'T ATTEND: Suggest a question at http://insidescoop-santacruz.eventbrite.com

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