Cyd Harrell

A Civic Technologist’s Practice Guide with Cyd Harrell

February 4, 2021

On Tuesday, January 12, 2021 the Shorenstein Center hosted a conversation with Cyd Harrell and Shorenstein Center Fellow Kathy Pham to discuss Cyd’s new book A Civic Technologist’s Practice Guide, with a focus on ways to contribute, project types, essential skills, working in regulated spaces, and allies.

A Civic Technologist’s Practice Guide is a field overview and survival manual for technology people working in the public sector. In it, Cyd Harrell outlines the types of projects, partnerships, and people that civic technologists encounter, and the methods they can use to make lasting change. She focuses on principles and sets of questions to help technologists find the right way to do the most good, starting with finding the people already doing the work. Based on her years of government tech partnerships, Cyd offers practical advice on how to build alliances with public-sector partners, what tech (and non-tech) skill sets are most useful, and how to show up in spaces dedicated to stewardship rather than profit. You’ll also find tips from experience on how to introduce new methods and tools, and how to connect with others in the field and work sustainably on hard problems.

You can view a recording of the conversation below:


Cyd Harrell’s career spans 25 years in the technology industry, with stints at Aldus, Charles Schwab Electronic Brokerage, and as VP of Research Practice at Bolt | Peters (acquired by Facebook in 2012). During her time at Bolt | Peters, she oversaw more than 200 user research studies for all kinds of clients and research questions.

Since 2012, Cyd has focused on civic technology, working with the Center for Civic Design, where she led research for Field Guides 7, Designing election department websites, and Code for America, where she headed User Experience and then Product. Cyd joined the federal government’s 18F in 2016 and served as a Strategy Lead and then as 18F’s first Chief of Staff. Through these direct partnerships at multiple levels, Cyd has built a strong perspective on tech & innovation in government. She is currently consulting as Service Design Lead with the Judicial Council of California, helping improve the UX of the civil justice system.