A reflection on 2020 Priority Action Areas

Give Your Input
We’re winding down 1-2 Priority Action Areas, and adding 1-2 new Priority Action Areas in 2021. Where would you like to see our Network focus our collective energy? Participate now by voting on ideas and submitting your own.

In 2020, the Network decided on four priority action areas to focus on during the year. These four areas are areas where we focus energy around shared projects and resources via our distributed Brigades across the country, and where we feel we can have outsized impact. The four Priority Action Areas chosen for 2020 were: Rapid Response, Voting Rights, Creating Pathways to Record Clearance, and Court Notifications. You can view the Priority Action Areas Announcement here, and read more about the selection process here.

2020 Progress
Our efforts in Priority Action Areas in 2020 showed us that we can effectively and collaboratively streamline energy that exists within the Network towards outsized impact. Some highlights from our work in 2020 in Priority Action Areas include:

  • Reaching over 5 million people through Priority Action Area work in 2020
  • Creating pathways for elevated leadership for Brigade members and leaders through the PAA structure through workshops, working groups, new project teams, and trainings.
  • Forming strong partnerships with organizations focused on work in our Priority Action Areas such as Vote.Org (Voting Rights), FEMA (Rapid Response), World Central Kitchen (Rapid Response), National Expungement Week (Creating Pathways to Record Clearance), Center on Budget Policy and Priorities (Rapid Response)
  • Holding a national day of action, National Day of Civic Hacking, which furthered our PAA goals. 2020 NDoCH resulted in over 1,000 participants on the day, over 40 events across the country, and over 70 design audits created to help state governments provide services to their communities. As a result of this work, the Network was invited to audit HealthCare.gov.

Deep Dive
For each Priority Action Area, we aimed to:

  1. Create a Core Team- Core teams are created as part of each Priority Action Area in order to elevate Brigade members and leaders to leadership positions in each action area. These members and leaders are able to lift up ideas, harness energy within the Network, and provide critical execution of work in each area.
  2. Engage in a PAA Related Partnership- Partnerships are a core part of the Network team’s work over the past couple years. Focusing on partnerships allows us to live our values by using our skills to contribute to efforts being made in the spaces we seek to have impact. Aiming to have one partnership for each PAA allows us to fully dive into this topic area and increase our impact by providing distinct contributions to a partner organization.
  3. Create Project Canvasses- One way the National Advisory Council and Network Team focused on supporting the Priority Action Areas is to ensure that successful projects in each Priority Action Area are lifted up and are easily accessible to other Brigades, should they wish to redeploy or share in similar projects. Teams for a number of successful projects in each Priority Action Area created project canvasses to help other teams engage in similar projects.

Here is how we did:

Rapid Response

Core Team
As COVID hit the country, the Network team and a core team of Brigade members and leaders sprung to action to organize the Network. They:

  • Organized regular standups
  • Helped spur COVID-19 Brigade project creation and iteration (100+ Rapid Response projects created and worked on)
  • Kept track of ongoing work
  • Created and Updated a Discourse Post with COVID Projects
  • Furthered the work on our network’s Brigade Project Index

World Central Kitchen, FEMA, Mapbox and Code for America began working together in late March to mobilize Network volunteers to crowdsource official school data on the availability of free or reduced-priced meals to families around the country. Read more about the partnership here.

Project Canvasses
You can view the project canvasses for Rapid Response here. Included in these are project canvasses for Local Transparency, Accountability, and the Fight for Racial Justice. We created project canvasses for data driven projects that could be used in support of racial justice initiatives in response to the fight for racial justice this year.

Voting Rights

Core Team
Due to timing constraints, we did not create a core team for the Voting Rights Priority Action Area.

We partnered with the non-partisan voting information organization Vote.org this year to ensure the links on their website were accurate and up to date with the changing times and new sources of information during this unique year. Ten volunteers from across the country joined the Voter Information Team, and their work reached over 3 million people, read more about it here.

We also teamed up with the University of Southern California’s Center for Inclusive Democracy (CID) to work on expanding their Voting Location Sitting Tool. Read more here.

Project Canvasses
You can view the project canvasses for Voting Rights here.

Creating Pathways to Record Clearance

Core Team
Record clearance has been a popular project area in the Brigade network for years, and a group of Brigade leaders had already self-organized around the issue. This group created and actively engage in the #cleanslate channel on Slack, and hold regular weekly calls. The Network Team worked with these volunteers to identify areas where Brigades need support to further their work in record clearance. From this, the idea for the Record Clearance Working Group came to fruition which had workshop sessions in December 2020.

Code for America’s relationship with National Expungement Week has stayed strong, since our partnership last year on NDoCH. This year, National Expungement Week asked for Code for America’s assistance in the “Letter to the Editor” effort, advocating for automatic record clearance. The Network Team offered to fill in the gaps of where NEW organizers weren’t present, to help send the LTEs. After a couple rounds of outreach, there has been a low level of engagement, however we will be recommitting to this effort in the beginning of 2021.

Project Canvasses
You can view the project canvasses for Creating Pathways to Record Clearance here.

Court Notifications

We have not tackled court notifications as a PAA yet. Because of the unexpected reality of 2020 and dealing with COVID-19, we refocused our priorities and made an intentional focus to throw a significant amount of energy into COVID-19 response. This meant that we prioritized Rapid Response, and made a decision to focus on some of our other Priority Action Areas later down the line. However, we fully intend to tackle this PAA in 2021. Additionally, this does not mean that Brigades haven’t been actively progressing work in the Court Notifications area. One exciting development is the work to redeploy Courtbot in Delaware, an effort that is currently underway!

Plans for 2021

In 2021, we are going to continue our Priority Action Area work in three main ways. We plan to:

  1. Finish 2020 Priority Action Areas- We put a lot of time and effort to execute the collective input process for 2020 Priority Action Areas, to lead a process that was successful in Network members championing the work. In 2021, we should look to capitalize off of the amazing energy around Court Notifications already present in the Network, and engage in work in each of our three goal areas for this PAA (creating a core team, engaging in a partnership, and creating project canvasses).

  2. Deepen Impact- Fully executing PAAs takes time and intentional effort. It makes sense to continue the work we’ve already invested in the 2020 Priority Action Areas in areas that still have energy (and winding down areas that have less energy in 2021). Deepening our impact may include:

  • Exploring larger-scale projects with 1-2 projects in a Priority Action Area
  • Investing further in the redeployment of particular PAA projects
  • Providing more resources to Brigades for PAA work like providing access to new tools and creating working groups with CfA staff
  • Participating in additional partnerships around our PAAs
  1. Add 1-2 Additional PAAs- While we want to be able to deepen our impact in our already chosen Priority Action Areas, engaging the Network in topics we are excited about boosts energy and allows for the Network to focus in more topic areas. We will put the Voting Rights Priority Action Area on hold and maybe one more action area per discussion with NAC, and add 1-2 new action areas to both deepen our impact in currentPAAs that are still relevant, and adding new action areas to help expand our reach and organize energy around new kinds of work.

Let us know below what you would be interested to work on in 2021! Participate now in our discussion on 2021 Priority Action areas by submitting your own ideas and voting on others.