Civic Source was a newsletter about the way local governments use data and technology to make decisions that shape communities beneath the surface.

It has evolved into a space for speculation about the future of data rights in our communities, and ways to leverage data and technology toward collective liberation.

As a researcher, community organizer, and community member myself, I’m looking for peers to help me explore this unknown terrain. Where do you go to learn about data rights in community? What do you know that I don’t? Please subscribe to join the conversation or browse the archive to learn more about where I’ve been.

Why start Civic Source?

We are no longer in a place where we can, as a society, say no to data. But there is still a chance for us to collectively participate in the design of data and technology systems that affect daily life in our communities.

Many systems that run our society, from banks to social media platforms, run on data. They decide how conversations take place, how money flows, how homes are bought, and in some cases who gets access to the earth’s resources. In government, people submit forms for benefits through tech systems that store individual-level data. Governments create internal forms to purchase goods, like food or pencils, and that data tells us where public money is going.  

While nationally, tech companies might be battling it out with regulators to hold onto extractive and exploitative forms of power, our local communities can begin to use data and technology in ways that empower us and build a better future.

The next era of public data and technology systems must be designed by and for the people in our communities.

Community members, activists, social service providers, and researchers first need to know how data flows through research institutions, governments, and private companies to begin to leverage control over access to our personal and community data and build better systems for the future.

Data and technology affect every one of the most pressing policy issues in cities, towns, and rural communities, like food security, housing affordability, public health, or human services. To imagine new futures together, we have to find new ways to relate through shared understanding and cooperative uses of data and technology.

Letter from the author 

Since the start of my career, I’ve worked across dozens of cities and towns in the US helping governments to launch open data programs and make stronger connections with community organizations to share and apply public data. I’ve also grown as a researcher, organizer, and member of my own community by exploring the intersections between the technical aspects of my work and the liberation movements that have evolved and deepened my thinking about the future. I try to bring a spiritually and emotionally grounded lens to my work, because I believe that abuses of technology can separate and alienate us from each other and from our madre tierra.

My plan is to use this newsletter to share what I know about the radical potential of community data governance in collective or cooperative formations. If anything, this newsletter is an effort to make myself obsolete. I hope that by opening the door for others to learn from my experiences, we can generate new theories about how data and technology might work for our collective futures.

I write this letter from Karankawa and Carrizo/Comecrudo lands colonized as Houston, Texas. I am grateful to all of the stewards of this land and the ancestors who have made it possible for me to dream of a better future. And to all of us for being here and sharing knowledge with each other. Being in shared learning with you is one of my favorite things!

In solidarity,


Civic Source was created by me, Katya Abazajian, with flash grant support from the Shuttleworth Foundation and support from the Voqal Fellowship. Please feel free to share and circulate information from this newsletter with attribution. Special thanks to my friend Raquel Breternitz for designing the logo. 

Subscribe to Civic Source

Civic Source is a newsletter about how data rights can empower us to reclaim control over our collective futures.


spiritual explorer trapped in the data realm