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This is the archive site of Global Gov Jam 2011-2018. From 2019 on please visit


Finding Guides for the Civic Wilderness

Matching users facing complex government interactions with citizen guides who have navigated that Terra incognita.

There are thousands, if not millions, of people in every city who have lived through complex, stressful, and extended interactions with local or regional government agencies. They may have needed junk hauled from their street but not known whom to call; they may have had to find their way through domestic abuse support systems; they may have found dealing with multiple agencies too confusing and given up on starting a business. Without having known where to go, or what information to have at the ready, their interactions with bureaucracies can often be adversarial and stressful, making them feel that the government is not on their side and causing mass inefficiencies for the government.

There are also as many people each year who face these same problems, but don't know where to start.

GovSherpa is a simple and powerful matching system that connects people facing government problems beyond the scope of 311, the SBA, and other existing agencies, with volunteer "guides". We ask guides to tell their stories, outline their availability and special expertise; a database matches a user based on his or her needs to a guide.

Users can contact GovSherpa directly, or be referred by these existing services. The guides can connect with the users through their choice of modes: phone, text, IM, email, or even in person.

In our research, empathy plays almost as large a role as information – people want someone on their side as much as they want to know what to do. And we've seen how people want to share, if the barrier and time commitment is low enough (or even if it is high: emergency responders can build deep relationships in their community:

GovSherpa allows cities to open up the information currently locked inside thousands of individual experiences to help lower barriers to government services and increase the empathy and efficiency of cities, counties, and states.


Patrick Atwater
Cris Cristina
Zoe Madden-Wood
Dan Turner

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