Code for America began as an experiment. It started, really, with a question: will people stand up? We saw everywhere in the private sector tremendous innovation and change -- even market disruptions -- through technology. But those disruptions have largely missed the government, the institution built to serve us all. So we wanted to see how could we get them back on the innovation curve; in particular, we wanted to see whether we could recruit the talent from the web industry to spend a year helping local government work better with new tech.
Turns out, the answer was yes, resoundingly. Over the past 18 months over a thousand people have applied to Code for America. But here's the problem: we can only take about 20 fellows a year. (Well, yes, this is a good problem to have: a surplus of civic awesomeness.) The question then turned to, how do we scale? How do we give everyone a way to Code for America?
Today we're pleased to announce the start of our answer: the Code for America Brigade.
The online platform makes it easy and even fun to stand up civic applications in any city across the country. In the platform, there are apps like Art Mapper, which enables individuals to explore the public art in their city, and Adopt-a-Hydrant, which helps residents take care of their public infrastructure. Any of these apps can be used anywhere, and the Brigade will help passionate citizens deploy them locally.
There are three major components to the Code for America Brigade: the Web Platform, Local Organizing effort, and Community Engagement:
Web Platform: brigade.codeforamerica.org
A portal to help facilitate connections between community members, projects, and connect individuals with local projects and collaborators and to stand up and maintain civic applications such as Adopt-a-Hydrant and Art Mapper.
Led by Program Director Kevin Curry, founder of CityCamps, the Brigade has already tapped into the local hacker communities and deployed Brigades in 16 cities throughout the country. Curry will continue to tap the enthusiasm of the hacker communities and expand to more cities throughout the year, calling on both his organizing abilities as well as his broad net of enthused community members and government staffers.
Once established, the Brigades will use events and local area networks to increase adoption and sustainability of open source civic technology. Code for America will funnel its partnerships with various organizations, community groups, and governments to create a pipeline of resources and opportunities for the local Brigades to both help expand and support their work and network.
The Brigade is helping to redefine what it means to be a citizen, a constituent. It is about looking to ourselves and calling on our own abilities -- and working together to harness our collective power to build better communities. Let's build the Civic Web.