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My Journey with Code for America: From Discovery to Brigade Captain

Many of you have heard of Code for America by now and the amazing work this organization is doing to improve communication between citizens and their government agencies through technology.

If you haven’t, Code for America believes that in order to improve government, we must improve citizenship. The organization helps cities create 21st century interfaces to government that are simple, beautiful and easy to use. Deploying technologies that make it easier for your agency to engage with citizens to improve your city not only builds trust, but it also changes the conversation between government and its citizens.

Back in 2012, I didn’t know anything about Code for America. As the senior software architect for a provider of civic engagement solutions headquartered in the Bay Area, however, I was eager to evangelize the Accela Civic Platform and what it had to offer developers. This quest to bring our message to developers would lead me to accidentally stumble upon the first meeting of Open Oakland, the Code for America Brigade serving the City of Oakland, in October 2012.

Open Oakland had a vision of changing how citizens interact with their city. I was so intrigued by these young, passionate software engineers. They were meeting on a volunteer basis—on their own time—to write apps for the government that would change the way civic engagement is happening. More importantly, I was stunned by the amount of grassroots Brigades that were springing up ALL across the country. Over the next couple of months, I dove into what Code for America was up to and started watching the Open Oakland Brigade.

What an awesome journey it has been over the last year for someone like me who has a deep passion for technology and innovation, a strong understanding of government and a personal desire for civic good. Today, I am a Code for America Brigade Captain for the Open Salt Lake Brigade (my hometown), and I am helping to drive this grassroots movement within my own community.

Code for America Brigade Captain Summit

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A few weeks ago, on Oct 14th, I was privileged to take part in the Annual Code for America Brigade Captain Summit in San Francisco. The Summit hosts all Brigade Captains (approximately 60 individuals) from all over the United States and several other countries. The Summit is an opportunity to foster discussion and set expectations for Brigade leaders. Additionally, tools are provided to help captains organize a sustainable Brigade, effectively engage with our local city governments and understand what resources from Code for America are available to the Brigades.

The day was an invaluable chance to become energized by others who share our vision of making a change for civic good; and, most importantly, we were able to network with each other to learn what was working (and maybe not working) for others. It truly was an amazing event to take part in, and left me motivated and inspired to do more.

What stood out to me the most was the energy coming from the group.  Everyone was highly engaged and passionate about this movement we are all part of: a movement to change how government functions through technology. Did I mention we are all volunteers? Yes, we do this for free. We also have a group, a Brigade, where we can share our passion and collectively focus our desire to make a difference.

In my next post, I'll share what the Open Salt Lake Brigade is up to.

Open Salt Lake Brigade: An Inside Look
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