Strengthen Congress through Modern Technology: Hackathon Wrap-Up Commentary

March 20, 2024  

  • Congressional Reform
  • Blog

In September 2023, Sunwater Institute engaged with hundreds of people from the Congressional community during the 5th Congressional Hackathon. The bipartisan event aimed to foster collaboration on technology driven improvements to the Legislative Branch. The Sunwater Institute’s mission of trying to strengthen democracy through innovative technology was aligned exactly with the intentions of the event. 

Top 5 recommended action items developed at the event: 

– Generate Bill Summaries with AI
– Create a Legislative Branch Staff Directory
– Improve Social Media Tracking
– Create an Anonymized Constitute Casework Database
– Develop a House Calendar 

Notably, the first three recommendations listed are all integral capabilities of the Legis1 platform, powered by the Sunwater Institute.   

Bill Summaries Generated by AI 

Bill summarization, often a laborious and time-intensive task, can pose challenges, particularly when Congressional Research Service (CRS) summaries are unavailable. Recognizing the need for efficiency amid tight budgets and increased demands on staffers, Legis1 harnesses the power of AI to streamline the summarization process and provides AI-generated summaries for all current legislation in Congress. Additionally, Legis1 offers access to human-written CRS summaries when available, presenting staffers with a range of efficient options for comprehending proposed legislation. 

Create a Legislative Branch Staff Directory 

Legis1 boasts a comprehensive legislative staff directory, elevated with insightful analytics regarding each member’s office staff. The Legis1 staff directory includes a staffer’s phone, email, legislative issues in their portfolio, and their congressional work history. Legis1 has also developed and included the Staffer’s network on their profile, showing you which other staffers, committees, and legislators a staffer is connected to. By offering visibility into staffers’ backgrounds, and quarterly compensation, including their employment with other members or committees, Legis1 facilitates building and cultivating meaningful connections, thereby fostering efficient collaboration.  

Another major challenge identified in the Hackathon summary report, “Current directories lack information about staff members’ issue areas, making it challenging to identify the right contact for specific matters.” Legis1’s staffer search area provides the opportunity to search all staff by issue area. 

Improve Social Media Tracking 

Addressing the challenge of scattered communication data, Legis1’s Communications section emerges as a powerful tool. Staffers are often burdened by the arduous task of scouring multiple spreadsheets, to determine what a member has said about a particular issue or topic.  

The Legis1 Communications section solves this challenge by giving staff the ability to analyze and filter member’s communications across mediums like press releases, newsletters, social media, hearings, and floor statements. This information can provide context and insight into their messaging strategy. 

Sunwater Institute & Congressional Collaboration 

As part of our commitment to strengthening legislative processes, Sunwater Institute actively seeks to understand and address the challenges faced by congressional staffers. Events like the Hackathon provide invaluable insights, enabling us to develop tailored solutions that align with our shared mission of bolstering democracy. Explore more about Legis1 and join us in shaping the future of legislative efficiency.  

Learn More about Legis1 >>  

Read the Hackathon Report >>