Strategies

Strategies

If goals describe what we want to achieve, strategies are how we are going to get there.
We have structured our strategies following our three-pronged approach, which represent the theory of change by which we drive impact in the world.
Strategies are the macro level plans of what we want to do, but to be realistic they should be further developed into 3-feet action plans, with clear deadlines and responsible owners - these are our next steps!

1. Organize:

We will organize volunteer power at three levels: Locally (brigades), nationally (National Action Teams), and through community governance bodies (functional decision-making)

Brigade Chapters: oriented to local issues & partnerships.

  • Description: Chapters operate on a geographic basis engaging with local partners to understand the most pressing needs of communities and develop collaborative solutions to tackle them.
  • Operation: Chapters are responsive to community needs primarily through partnerships. Partnership parameters will help provide structure, and chapters will be resourced with materials on how to pursue partnerships, engage in the human-centered approach, leverage technology, etc. Brigades will be supported through new mechanisms to engage in partnership-based projects, for example through an open call for proposals sent to community groups and potential partners. Brigades with limited capacity as well as volunteers interested in forming regional partnerships where no brigade is present will be directed to participate in a Brigade Basecamp Community where they will be able to connect with other organizers, find volunteer opportunities for their volunteers, and incubate their brigade teams and partnerships. 5 Brigade Basecamps will be facilitated by Basecamp Community Builders that receive a stipend and rotate annually. Basecamp community builders will replace the regional organizing functions assigned to the current NAC.

Registered Volunteers → Participatory Governance Bodies

  • Description: An assembly of registered Network members will be invited to participate in decision-making strategies for the Network in regularly scheduled and at-will meetings. A registered volunteer will be a new mechanism to track participation, roles, and volunteers benefits. Examples of decisions that rise to the level of the participatory governance body include: location of Brigade Congress, allocation of a portion of Brigade donations, and areas of cross-collaboration/project redeployment.
  • Operation: Participatory governance bodies form in response to the Network’s desire to engage with the organization in shared decision-making strategies around intent, implementation, and impact of work that directly affects them. The precise operation of these participatory governance bodies is an ongoing discussion and evolution in democratic experimentation. We will solicit support from other networks that do this well. This participatory governance body will replace the governance functions currently assigned to the NAC.

National Action Teams: oriented to national, issue-based teams & partnerships.

  • Description: National teams are a mechanism to get involved in the Code for America volunteer community, no matter where you live. These national teams focus on supporting national-level issues and interests (e.g. “Get Your Refund”, “Reimagining 911”). National Action Teams are the evolution of our Priority Action Areas, where priorities are selected on a 1-2 year basis, with input from community members, and final decision making by CfA HQ.
  • Operation: National Action Teams have centralized operations, staffing, and administration and are managed by CfA HQ, with participation available to new and existing volunteers across the country. As with Brigades Chapters, they’ll also operate on a partnership-first basis through mechanisms like an open call for proposals/ particular issue areas.

2. Deliver impact through partnership

We will deliver impact primarily by leveraging partnerships. This means that every project that seeks to build/leverage technology in service of the community should have a partner. We will support the development of partnerships through 2 main levers so partners know how to engage with us and Brigades understand how to prioritize partnerships to drive impact and community support locally.

Ways to partner with the CfA Network on the national level, through national action teams

  • Description: We operate more equitably and more effectively when we engage with partners that have a good understanding of communities they serve and the biggest needs. Partners help us ground us in community need, ensure solutions developed are sustainable, scale our efforts and increase impact of our work.
  • Operation: Through National Action Teams, we will engage partners at the national level and through issue-based collaborations (e.g. Color of Change, Vote.org, VITA, Transform911). We will also produce assets that give partners a full understanding of our volunteer community’s skill-sets and areas of support so they can proactively pursue avenues of collaborations with us. We will solicit partners through mechanisms like an open call for proposals as they relate to our National Action Team priority areas.

Local partnership selection guidance & open proposal process

  • Description: Brigades are best positioned to recognize and select partners which will drive the most impact towards their individual project and our collective Network goals.
  • Operation: As a community we will develop a set of guidelines for selecting partnerships and evaluating projects, ranging from focus on underserved communities, to probability of success, technical attributes, data collection, sustainability, etc.. This set of guidelines will be refined and decided by our participatory governance body (with input from Code for America HQ). Internal projects (e.g. those focused on improving network, brigade, or other internal infrastructure) do not require an external partner. However, every project should have a sustainability plan and commit to operating according to our values, practices, and Code of Conduct. Brigades will also be supported with resources to solicit proposals from local partners. We will allocate funds to provide a project management stipend to a select number of projects advanced by the participatory governance body.

3. Progress through practice

We will have a continuous commitment to building capacity, sharing knowledge, and refining Code for America principles and practices with our teams, our partners and communities we serve. For that, we will organize three main platforms of practice to help us leverage our knowledge and values and also continue to learn and build stronger relationships as we iterate with each other.

Communities of Practice

  • Description: A Community of Practice is a group of people organized around specific skill-sets and experiences, who are positioned to share those skills with one another. We anticipate developing communities of practice in areas such as user research, design, solutions engineering, data analysis and advocacy. By participating in Communities of Practice, members will also gain experience in community building skills -- including facilitation, active listening, and managing conflict.
  • Operation: These communities will be cultivated and supported by CfA HQ. We will start by establishing 1-3 communities for practice and building from there. There will be 3 pathways for individuals to join a community of practice:; (1) Brigade leaders can refer new or existing members to refine or develop a new skill based on the Brigade’s need; (2) Individual Brigade members can opt to join a community of practice based on their own development goals; (3) other members of the Code for America and Network community can join a Community of Practice to refine or develop individual skills. Communities of practice will -- if successful -- begin to mirror Code for Americaʻs disciplines structure, likely starting with user-research, design, and product or engineering. [Focus areas to be determined with stakeholder input].

Fellowship Program

  • Description: The fellowships program selects - on a yearly basis - fellows that have direct lived experience with challenges faced by community members, from homelessness to re-entry services to access to food and health benefits. Fellows are resourced (compensated and trained) and placed in positions of power to partner directly with local government to map and ideate to problems with which they have direct experience. Fellows leverage tools, methods and values from the “CfA-way” to implement changes for marginalized communities. The fellowship program is an important pillar of our work where we’re living our values of “building with, not for” -- and takes that ethos to the next level. Our fellowship program challenges and advances how both the government and technology ecosystems define and resource talent in service of meeting the needs of marginalized communities.
  • Operation: The fellowship program is managed and operated by CfA HQ. Fellows may come from within and outside of the current Code for America community and are selected based on their skills and experiences. Like other members of the Network, fellows will have the opportunity to share critical lessons from their work and learn from others in our volunteer Network through the Communities of Practice.

The “Code for America -way” curriculum

  • Description: The Code for America curriculum will be a compilation of what we believe in, our values, modules and approaches to work. This curriculum includes guidance and resources on our human-centered, data-driven and user approaches as well as how to use technology for the people, in service of a more equitable and just world.
  • Operation: A first draft of this curriculum is ready and can be further refined and developed into other formats (e.g. video, quarterly live orientation events). Our next step is to create infrastructure around it by offering training, marketing and using it to strengthen our identity, collect stories of impact, and support new members. We have started to adapt this curriculum for government partners and plan to create a version for community partners, which would also require multiple media formats (video, live training sessions, etc.).