Changes from our current program

Ten years of experience in this work has shown that volunteer-led government partnerships and projects are incredibly difficult to source and maintain. Procurement issues also often get in the way of Brigades directly supporting the government in both volunteer and contracted capacities. While we will certainly not prohibit government partnerships if they are well scoped and meet the partnership guidelines, we anticipate that these partnerships will be the exception and comprise <10% of partnership relationships.
This is an important shift from our stated mission compared to our current practice and future aspirations. Our stated mission is that Brigades support local government in volunteer capacities. With this shift, we are expanding the scope and reach of Code for America directly to communities -- bringing our reality and our future into closer alignment.

Local partnership with community groups and organizations will be our bread and butter, and who local chapters are accountable to. This is where we live our values of being human-centered, empathetic, and focused on the most marginalized communities. This is where we can most effectively, accountably, and sustainably offer direct value and impact to our communities.

In this future, we are putting a stake in the ground around developing technology that is both asked for and needed. We will commit to not pursuing technology development projects without grounding them in real user need and delivery, primarily via partnerships. Internal projects will not require an external partner.

Communities of practice are a mechanism to organize and support talent and relationships at scale. It is also a primary mechanism for making the principles and practices of Code for America widely accessible. We will formalize and resource these communities, and develop new ones as the need and practice demands.

We are formalizing structures we’ve explored in the last year, by creating clear pathways for local and national organizing. All brigade partnerships and decision making will continue to be managed locally. National Action teams (which will also house priority action areas), will be managed centrally.

This includes transforming the National Advisory Council’s current roles into separate community-building and project development roles with stipends and introducing new participatory decision making process through the implementation of registered volunteer roles. The exact shape and scope of new participatory governance and decision-making structures will be done in consultation with NAC, brigade leaders, and other impacted stakeholders.

We need more clarity on who we support through partnerships and why, to bring our structures and messaging up to speed with reality in terms of who we partner with, and for partnerships to anchor our “with, not for” ethos. Guidelines for local partnerships will be informed by local leaders and stakeholders. Criteria/parameters for national partnerships will be determined by CfA HQ.

The community fellowship program is where we actively pursue and resource local government partnership. Time and experience has demonstrated that these relationships often require paid, formal capacities for success -- due to both procurement needs and the high-touch, high-bar, time consuming nature of these relationships and support. Outside of fellowships, we are not actively prioritizing resources in service of seeking out and delivering on government partnership. As noted, we will certainly not prohibit government partnerships if they are well scoped and meet the partnership requirements.

Projects without a partner serve to exacerbate problematic dynamics in civic technology, where well-meaning individuals create work based on their own interests. We will not encourage projects intended to serve marginalized groups without a partnership in place.

The majority of our community has repeatedly noted that advocacy -- if pursued -- should be supplemental to our work, not our primary focus. We’ve also gotten consistent feedback that we lack the current skills and resources for advocacy at scale. To begin this work, we should start small, iterate, and expand from there -- using our communities of practice and/or national action teams to explore this work in focused and responsible ways.

Helping people to get jobs in government, tech, or nonprofits is a positive externality of our work, as opposed to our primary purpose or focus.

We are not positioned to teach people how to code, design, or other core technical skills. There are many other successful boot camps and organizations that do just that. We should make resources available to direct folks to those places if that is what they’re looking for.
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What we are not actively pursuing