Our Partner Constellation

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Partnerships!
Partnerships are the fertile ground from which all civic tech impact springs! Partnerships are also a huge focal point of the Network Teamʻs work to implement ReVisioning in 2022. These relationships (between volunteers, brigades, local governments, and community organizations) sit at the center of both where we have been and where we hope to go.

It should go without saying that the most important asset we have in this effort are the relationships that the Network already has with municipal governments, community-based organizations, and impacted populations.

But how do we understand this network of partner relationships? Perhaps, more importantly, how do we collectively take stock of them so we can nurture and grow them in depth and impact?

In your end of year activity reports, many of you shared existing partnerships, supportive organizations, and organizations you hoped to continue to connect with. To try to visualize the extent of this network, the Brigade Team has been working on a Dashboard for those relationships and we need your input. Notably, what are the relationships that are most important to you in 2022, and what are the priorities that are most important to those partners? As we learn what those are, we will update the dashboard. Here is what this looks like for a few brigades who already agreed to share their partnership ecosystems:

Code for Boston

Code for Chicago

Code for Houston

Or check it out live as it is coming together by clicking the link below.

This Network Map is a prototype tool for Brigade volunteers to explore the partnerships that are happening across the network and make connections to other volunteers in service of deepening community partnerships around their brigade

As partnership has emerged as a priority for the Code for America Network, many of you have asked about guidance and resources for cultivating the kinds of relationships that we are looking for. We developing and releasing those throughout the year, but those materials will only ever be a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to forming strong, productive relationships. In fact, we believe the most relevant source of advice and inspiration to brigades about partnerships is likely to come from other brigades (indeed ReVisioningʻs emphasis on partnership was sourced from Brigade experiences in the first place).

We have taken the liberty of highlighting partnerships from folks who shared them with us either through last year’s Brigade Showcase decks or End of Year reporting or what we found on your websites. ( If you would like to update the information below, please let us know ). For any of the partnerships you have been involved in (on this list or otherwise): what is the most important thing you did to build a relationship with this partner?

  1. BetaNYC - NYC Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA)
  2. Code for Anchorage - Alaska Native Heritage Center
  3. Code for Asheville - Buncombe County
  4. Code for Atlanta - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  5. Code for Boston - Greater Mattapan Neighborhood Council (GMNC)
  6. Code for BTV - Vermont Legal Aid
  7. Code for Buffalo - Partnership for the Public Good
  8. Code for Chapel Hill - Town of Chapel Hill
  9. Code for Charlottesville - City of Charlottesville
  10. Code for Chicago - Park District of Oak Park
  11. Code for Connecticut - Green Up Vermont
  12. Code for Dallas - City of Dallas
  13. Code for Dayton - City Commissioners
  14. Code for DC - Modernization Staff Association
  15. Code for Denver - Energy Outreach Colorado
  16. Code for Durham - Triangle J Council of Governments (TJCOG)
  17. Code for Fresno - Root Access Hackerspace
  18. Code for Greensboro - Transform GSO
  19. Code for Hampton Roads - City of Virginia Beach Public Works
  20. Code for Houston - Impact Hub Houston
  21. Code for KC - Wyandotte County
  22. Code for Kentuckiana - Kentuckiana Works
  23. Code for Nashville - Vanderbilt Social Venture Think Tank / Vanderbilt Community Garden
  24. Code for Nebraska - Policy Research & Innovation
  25. Code for New Hampshire - City of Nashua
  26. Code for New Orleans - Tulane University Data Science
  27. Code for NoVA - NOVA Web Development
  28. Code for Orlando - Orange County Neighborhood Services
  29. Code for PDX - City of Portland
  30. Code for Philly - Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE)
  31. Code for Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh Food Policy Council
  32. Code for Puerto Rico - Universidad de Puerto Rico
  33. Code for Sacramento - Caltrans
  34. Code for San Francisco - Dev/Mission
  35. Code for San Jose - Center for Employment Training Immigration and Citizenship Program
  36. Code for Tampa Bay - Tech4Good
  37. Code for the Carolinas - UNC APPLES Service-Learning
  38. Code for Tucson - Arizona Department of Environmental Equality
  39. Code for Tulsa - Hunger Free Oklahoma
  40. Code for Upper Valley - Little Rivers Healthcare
  41. Code for Utah - Utah Bitcoin Community
  42. Open Austin - City of Austin
  43. Open Cleveland - Participatory Budgeting Cleveland
  44. Open Columbia County - Columbia County District Mayor
  45. Open Columbus (Ohio) - Mid-Ohio Food Bank
  46. Open Eugene - City of Eugene
  47. Open Maine - Greater Portland Council of Governments
  48. Open Oakland - City of Oakland
  49. Open Raleigh - Wake County
  50. Open San Diego - San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG)
  51. Open Seattle - City of Seattle
  52. Open SGF - Hack 4 Good Organization
  53. Open Twin Cities - Techquity

Finally, one of our Brigade Programs priorities in 2022 is to strengthen connections between brigades and volunteers in different cities. If you see a partnership that you would like to learn more about, please reach out to that Brigade. If you don’t know how to get in contact, contact us! We love making connections!

What do you think? Would love to hear your thoughts on partnerships in the comments!

  1. What partner relationships are most important to you in 2022?
  2. What priorities are most important to those partners?
  3. What are the most important things you have done to build a relationship with a partner?
  4. What brigade partnerships are you interested in learning more about?
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Partnerships is where all the action happens. Working in a silo doesn’t work.

  1. Our relationship with the Utah Justice Coalition, and the UtahDAO is where all the attention is at.
  2. Repealing the death penalty, and helping Utah legislators understand blockchain tech.
  3. Meet with them.
  4. Not sure, I need to become more familiar with them.
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  1. Our current most important partner relationship for 2022 is Caltrans.
  2. Caltrans collaborates on public facing initiatives like workgroups (i.e. Trash Monitoring), challenges (Water Quality), and open data (California Open Data Portal). They are interested in having the community participate in these initiatives.
  3. We have found these public facing initiates to be a way to naturally collaborate and build relationships with Caltrans since they are open to the public and overlaps with our skillsets.
  4. California GovOps manages the California Open Data Portal (https://data.ca.gov/) and others (CalData | GovOps). We believe this could be a great partnership not only for Code for Sacramento, but others in the network - especially California based brigades.
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Hi @bentrevino, Thank you for this post!

  1. Code for Fresno has Root HackerSpace which is an important partnership to us.
  2. Our local Fresno Community and the advancement of those young and old in the tech field. With space completely dedicated to the public with a 3D Printer, Sewing Machine, painting, computer building, Coding, and all of the materials are provided free of charge.
  3. The most important thing I have done is go to their meetings and functions. I have also made sure to donate materials when possible.
  4. The Brigade Partnership I am interested in learning more about is The Fresno County Court House and DMV. There is a communication breakdown between the two entities. Due to this breakdown, the cost to our citizens is tremendous and/or halts one’s life.
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This doesn’t relate to the four specific questions posed, but, one thing I want to flag is that I personally have some degree of hesitancy about proactively approaching outside organizations (as opposed to them coming to us) and offering to be able to help them. The main reason is that what I’ve seen over the years is that, realistically, volunteers can often be inconsistent and unreliable, and also a lot of the volunteers who come in our door don’t always have a high skill level (as they’re main motivation for coming is to get more experience). I would feel bad about telling an organization doing important work — whether it be a government agency providing critical services, a community organization serving a vulnerable population, etc. — that we can help them with something when I don’t actually know that to necessarily be the case. I wouldn’t want to lead them astray.

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I do think one big area for collaboration with outside organizations, where I would feel a lot more fine about proactive outreach, is for one-day events that do not necessarily require a high skill level of the volunteers/participants. This way, it doesn’t depend on volunteers to continue showing up consistently, and also doesn’t depend on their skill level.

Examples of this that I’ve seen in action are usually UX-focused things where people give their opinion on the usability of certain things. One example that comes to mind is the thing that CfA organized for National Day of Civic Hacking in 2020(?) where people tried going through online benefits applications and made notes about usability.

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@GJordanDetamore , great point! Although I believe a big factor in assisting a major agency is to establish from the beginning that the project is meant to be a hand off. The agency itself will take over monitoring completely once finished and with proper training.

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Chiming in for OpenMaine & the Maine Ballot team:

Our current goal is a pilot partnership with one Maine municipal clerk, which if successful could lead to a broader partnership with the Maine Town and City Clerks Association and/or Secretary of State office. We just started outreach and contacted clerks from Augusta, Bath, Brunswick, Freeport, Orono and Waterville for intro meetings. To prepare for these meetings, we built an extensive user research questionnaire and initial product mockups (will share designs at Thursday meetup and can post in Maine Ballot channel).

The pilot partnership will ideally help us gather user research and re-work product designs based on clerk feedback. Our pilot could culminate in launching an MVP e-filing system allowing a clerk to receive, manage and publicly post local candidate’s nomination papers, petition signatures and campaign finance reports online. This will hopefully lessen clerks workloads, make our local elections more transparent and align clerks with new municipal campaign finance laws in Maine.

I will note that in some ways we are approaching this pilot clerk partnership backwards— project before partner. Though I do think having a product concept in mind, in our case an e-filing system, then building off that based on user feedback, in our case clerks, can help build meaningful partnerships. Regardless, we will have a lot more substantive information to share once we do a few clerk meetings.

This past year, @mmazanec22 helped OpenMaine + our partners at GovWebWorks present to Greater Portland Council of Governments for an intro to town website usability. You can view the presentation (+feel free to copy it!) here.

We’re also excited about an emerging partnership with Maine Renters United through our rent board project. That still needs some time & attention.

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At Code for Boston the Greater Mattapan Neighborhood Council (GMNC) connection happened via Powerful Pathways when their founder, Allentza was inspired by our 2014 Ungentry project around Gentrification and census data.

Through our project inquiry form, it led to a provisional exploration in 2018 where we had several stakeholder round-tables at hacknights and then when the founder got a Sasaki Foundation grant after Summer 2020, we launched an exploratory project in early Summer 2021.

We’ve consulted several GMNC stakeholders in an early user testing session in Autumn 2021 and I believe Allentza also serves with them somehow.
Allentza spoke about the collaboration at our 2022 demo night and that is available on our YouTube.

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Wow, thanks everyone for sharing! :heart:

@MarkM @brendanbabb @Jay @Yeti-A @tyrekshepard @tyrekshepard @mzagaja @nFlourish @tajaran @DavidEBest @janmic @Patrick @timCFG @kmcurry @gracerodriguez @aarondeacon @Lscott1967 @paulb @bretwalker @wduffee @ryan.b.harvey @jelkner @kryskreative @HughPDX @angiemille @AquaAllen @anniesteenson @EvilJoester @JMMaok @DainialPadraig @cmoreno @diana_varnes @lianilychee @melissa24 @vijayyadav06 @Sharayah @jess @Niels @ChrisTheDBA @jerryhall @nikolajbaer @jannielung @linkalis @eebbesen

Would love to hear about your partnership experience if you have time :slight_smile: Also, feel free to take a look at some of the responses above if you’re curious about other Brigades’ community connections!

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Greg, really appreciate you sharing your thoughts and feelings on this here. I think you bring up some important points. At Code for Boston when we engage with partners we spend a lot of time onboarding them and helping educate them about what we can and cannot promise, and the appropriate stakes involved. This means we need projects that are timeline flexible, and typically estimate a delivery time of a product as about a year (realistically 6 months to a year is an MVP for many of our groups given it’s volunteering on Tuesdays). What I am starting to see an a desire for a hybrid model of sorts where a partner looks to use grant money to have a software developer that spends a dedicated amount of time a week on a project (paid by the partner) to supplement the volunteer efforts.

One other thing I want to share is while it is sometimes a challenge to find the higher skill more experienced folks to help on projects, constructing more tailored recruiting asks makes a significant difference in engaging them. The wide net asks for help on a project in general sometimes are ok, but if we really need an expert in say UX or APIs then a Google recruiting form explaining that particular need is more likely to yield folks with those skills that are interested in a Code for Boston project but did not feel like they could meaningfully contribute in the past.

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  1. What partner relationships are most important to you in 2022?

We have three partnerships we are trying to maintain permanently that allow us to spin off as many projects as we can handle: one with the city and county governments, one with a legal aid nonprofit, and one with a center that helps nonprofits with operations and administration (and connects to a huge network of small nonprofits in our area).

  1. What priorities are most important to those partners?

For city/county government: software that makes data more accessible, and allows data to be shared across departments, and in some cases (with proper permissions) with the public. For legal aid: data analysis and software that brings the insight and benefit of the technology to a non-technical audience, such as state legislators, or to individuals on temporary work permits.

  1. What are the most important things you have done to build a relationship with the city of Charlottesville?

The city government is a peculiar partner in that it is not really one organization, but a collection of departments and offices that work in pretty siloed conditions. Instead of building a relationship with one partner (“the city”), we work with a department and try our best to deliver a good product, then we ask for a referral to another department, and in that way we circumnavigate the city government in a horizontal way. We got started by poking around to see who in the city government uses or is interested in open source software, and we discovered a brown-bag lunch group where people from different agencies meet once a month. We sort of just showed up to one (not sure we were technically allowed) and asked to speak for a few minutes at the end. We introduced ourselves and said what we are aiming to do, and we got interest from the fire department, who became our first partner. They referred us to the office of human rights, and then later human rights referred us to public works. So I guess the main lesson is the importance of internal referrals when working within a big organization like a city government.

  1. What brigade partnerships are you interested in learning more about?

I think we have all we can handle right now with the partnerships we have set up in terms of sourcing projects. I would like to know more about partnerships that brigades have set up to get help recruiting and onboarding volunteers and collaborating in a larger civic tech community.

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Wow! I’m happy to see the connections that the Network has built. The visual adds more clarity. Thanks for highlighting the Orange County Neighborhood Services, @bentrevino!

It’s a new relationship born out of Code for Orlando’s efforts to hunt out the problem monsters plaguing our local community (an act we affectionately call Operation Supernatural :laughing:) and prepare for National Day of Civic Hacking.

Hmm, our paths probably wouldn’t have crossed at all if I had not subscribed to the City of Orlando and Orange County Neighborhood Services Division newsletters almost a year ago. After that I tracked their events and added relevant ones to the Code for Orlando Community + Tech Calendar. When a related county department hosted an economic development workshop that fortunately aligned with our schedules, a Brigade volunteer and I took advantage of the opportunity to introduce ourselves and truly participate, not push a project pitch. It just so happened the Neighborhood Services Program Manager was there.

I’ve connected with the Neighborhood Services Program Manager over Webex and email a few times, but it hasn’t been as consistent as I’d like. Relationship building requires time, dedication, and care, which is challenging for only 1-2 volunteers.

More Food for Thought

  1. Looking at the recent goals my Brigade drafted, especially regarding housing and economic development issues, I hope to see other volunteers steward partnership activities and strengthen our relationships with the Orange County Neighborhood Services and the Farmworkers Association of Florida.

  2. The Orange County Neighborhood Services and Farmworkers Association of Florida consider education and understanding of their offerings as major concerns. Relatable, no?

  3. Asking questions, being present and nurturing the relationship with compassion are important. Checking in regularly, sending thank you notes, and engaging in events and social media are powerful gifts of acknowledging that these changemakers matter and feel seen.

  4. As for brigade partnerships we’re interested in learning more about… we’ll get back to you. That’s a question I’d love to pose for my Brigade.

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  1. What partner relationships are most important to you in 2022?

They’re all important for different reasons.

Project Partnerships
Between Friends, Cannabis Equity, Parks District, Chicago Arts, Chicago Defender
These projects provide things for our volunteers to do and inadvertently we provide impact to these organizations in a no-cost endeavor.

Partner Support
Chicago Reader, Flatiron
These partnerships haven’t been used too much but they have been helpful in funneling potential partnerships and volunteers our way.

  1. What priorities are most important to those partners?

For Project Partnerships is meeting with them on a regular cadence and following up with tangible updates each time. We’ve made it clear that the expectations are that we can’t promise deadlines, but we can promise some incremental progress each time we chat.

For Partner Support is ongoing follow-up and value we can both get from the partnership. For example, Flatiron probably likes the value of building connections with a professional network (for those of us who work in tech outside of the brigade) so they an funnel their students to us post-boot camp. So long as they can still benefit from this then it would make sense to them to continue this partnership.

  1. What are the most important things you have done to build a relationship with a partner?

For both groups is meet regularly and follow-up things we said we would do. Volunteer efforts need proper follow-up and initiative to ensure there is trust that we aren’t wasting their time. This includes being honest with what we can’t do as well.

  1. What brigade partnerships are you interested in learning more about?

I’m curious to hear more context on some of the relationships above. There seems to be a lot of them listed so I’m not sure if they are all active partnerships or some of it is historical.

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Hi, sharing a few partnership perspectives on behalf of Code for the Carolinas.

  1. Because Code for the Carolinas supports and connects the local Brigades in the Carolinas, we place a high priority on those internal partnerships.

One type of partnership we have is with UNC APPLES Service Learning. Service learning students commit to 20-30 hours of volunteering per semester aligned with course subject matter. We invited the local Brigade, Code for Chapel Hill, to also engage with these student teams. US News & World Report provides this listing of schools with service learning programs, if your Brigade would like to try this type of partnership.

  1. It is important that we support rather than compete with the local Brigades, and that we connect them for knowledge sharing rather than engage with them in any sort of hierarchical way. We have a graphic on our website that illustrates this on our About page.
  2. We are in early stages of building partnership activity. One thing we have done is describe our partnership model on our web page, emphasizing that we catalyze change that becomes part of the partner’s organization.
  3. We would be very interested in partnerships that have both a National Action Team and Brigade Network component.
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The four way partnership among Code for NOVA, NOVA Web Development, NOVALACIRO, and the Arlington Career Center (ACC) has been developed intentionally over the past 10 years. Our local brigade was started at least in part with the aim of connecting IT students at the Career Center with exposure to industry professionals. NOVA Web Development is a small worker cooperative three of whose four worker / owners are former Arlington Career Center students. The board and staff of NOVALACIRO is likewise closely connected with ACC. The threads which unite these groups together are a desire to work towards economic and social justice while meeting the real needs of the students and our local community in the process.

We were recently introduced by CfA to the Next Systems Studies program at nearby George Mason University and the upcoming Democratizing NOVA Summit they are organizing for April 23rd. We will be attending this summit with high hopes that our small grouping of local organizations is beginning to grow into a movement.

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Code for Anchorage was lucky to have our Land Acknowledgement bot kind of blow up in use. It leverages https://native-land.ca/ data to tell you what indigenous land you are on if you submit a city, state, zip code or city, county and country. It defaults to the US. You can text it, FB Messenger and a webpage - https://land.codeforanchorage.org/ The application has been used by over 1/2 million people in multiple countries.

1.) Alaska Native Heritage Center (ANHC) and other Alaska Native groups.
2.) We need to find out what their priorities are.
3.) ANHC is an informal partner because I have worked with the director, Emily Edenshaw, on a past project (Forget-Me-Not) helping unsheltered Alaska Natives get back to their hometown through volunteer donated airmiles. I admire and respect her work and leadership.
4.) There are many Indigenous Peoples’ groups in Alaska that have done work on Land Acknowledgements. I’m cognizant that the primary people working on this project, myself included, and our contact at Native Lands Digital, are white males, and interested in other brigade partnerships that have navigated these waters.
I’m also interested in how to provide benefits for Native Lands Digital and also local Alaskan groups and how to take the action of someone learning what land they are on to an additional step of learning more about local people or on ramps for further learning or participation around indigenous lands. I’m interested in other brigade partnerships that have grown initial interactions into stronger partnerships.
And finally interested in partnerships where an application was already created and is now looking for meaningful partnerships which is the opposite of how it should be done. Where we should find out partners’ needs first and then collaborate on a project.

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Wholeheartedly agree! We’ve also struggled in Open Twin Cities to figure out how to “right-size” what we think we might be able to offer vis-a-vis outside organizations. It seems like some brigades have a larger base of consistently engaged volunteers who are able to self-sustain projects a bit better than what we tend to see. For us, it’s felt unfair to overpromise (or even simply promise) specific things that may not materialize from our volunteer base.

With that said, I like your comment below about one-day (or short-lived) events that have a very deliberate engagement strategy for volunteers with a broad range of skill levels. I agree that some of the NDoCH projects in recent years that are more in the “usability audit” vein of things have hit the mark pretty nicely. I think more engagement ideas of this nature are helpful.

One other model I’ve recently learned about is DataKind’s “DataDive” events. It seems like this organization is pretty well-versed in what is reasonable to expect from volunteers, and has some quality controls in place to make sure their events are a good experience for partnering organizations. They even wrote a playbook about it! Does anyone have experience with this kind of framework?

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