The purpose of this post is to document and archive the ReVisioning Recommendation, previously stored in Gitbook. The last update to the actual text of the recommendation was made 11/5/21. One section of the original recommendation has been removed entitled “Feedback and Changelog” because the feedback portion of the recommendation is no longer applicable, and there will not be any further changes to this document. There will be separate posts to transfer the Methods and Findings sections of the recommendation due to Discourse’s character limit.
Our mission is to use technology for the people, in service of a more equitable and just world.*
Technology is power that can do good or harm. It can be a dynamic tool to improve democracy, inclusiveness and access, as easily as it can be used to exclude and create barriers for participation.
The Code for America community believes in a better path forward for technology, serving as an antidote to the industries and institutions that use technology to exacerbate inequity and harm. We do that by leveraging technology with values and intention, organizing and partnering locally to support underserved communities on their most pressing needs, and creating space for new people to join us every day.
*We define technology broadly, as the tools, practices, and skills related to engineering, design, data science, data analysis, product management, user research, and more.
We have a three-pronged approach to achieve our purpose that will orient all our strategic planning:
Organize* . We unite coders, designers, product managers, user researchers, data scientists - and anyone who believes in the power of technology as a lever for social change - to build community and create a force for tackling some of the most pressing societal challenges.
Deliver impact through partnership* . We partner with local and national organizations and community groups to identify needs of underserved communities and provide technology support by using our practices of human-centered design, user research and data-driven decision making.
Progress through practice* . We practice and model new methods of community participation and accessibility with the help of technology. We develop and nurture communities of practice, spearhead new strategies to center lived experience, and develop democratic processes to enable the diversity, inclusivity and equity principles our mission mandates.
Our Unique Value Proposition
We cast a wide net. We are the only place for civic technologists to explore their potential without prohibitive prerequisites barring their entry, at a national scale. We aim to create welcoming and inclusive spaces that anyone can join, which are critical for socializing new practices and advancing equity. We are an incredibly powerful platform for moving hearts and minds (and power) at scale.
We offer direct service. We are the only national network focused on using our technology power (skills, time, practices, and approaches) to directly support local communities and organizations – at both the local and national levels, and at all levels of technology (engineering, data analysis, data science, design, user research, etc.). We offer a direct service to the movements around us for justice and equity that no one else offers at the breadth and depth we do.
We apply a philosophy. Relatedly, we are the only national community driving a holistic view of the appropriate and reasonable application of technology, and bringing others along in that journey (and updating and refining that view and practice as we go). Further, we focus on authentic partnership and prioritizing effective service, and growing ourselves in the process rather than confining our service to only the things that fit into our “job descriptions”.
We lead the field. We pilot and promote new approaches that we see as the future of this field – namely democratic processes as well as centering and resourcing lived experience in government to transform power and resources for marginalized communities.
Governance & Participatory Process
We are continuing to explore our governance model with a distributed and participatory governance structure.
We recognize the importance of self-governing capabilities for the Network to support itself and to provide clear pathways for members of our Network to help shape its future. Recent participation data from NAC elections, peer to peer interviews, and experience with the NAC model show us that our Network’s methods of participation can be improved and distributed.
For decisions that our Network benefits from making together (e.g. adopting governance procedures, selecting locations for important events, weighing in on national actions) we recommend that our yearly Brigade Congress serve as an assembly where key decisions can be made (for both in-person and virtual participants). We will also consult organizations that do this well and pilot new approaches to grassroots governance.
As we further develop governance models, an open proposal system is one that we seek to use for Network-wide decision making, where applicable.
Open Proposal Process
An open proposal process is a method of soliciting ideas within a participatory decision making framework. The process invites broad participation, through both inviting proposals for a given process and inviting voting on proposals. For decisions where CfA resources are involved (both money and time), there is a transparent validation step. This validation step allows staff to review proposals and accept, modify, or reject proposals. Accepted proposals are then voted on. If a proposal is rejected, however, staff must provide a clear explanation of why the proposal is rejected and to do so in a timely and transparent manner.
View a diagram example of the open proposal process:
Changes from our current program
We are not leading with government partnership.
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.
We are leading with community partnership and accountability.
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.
We establish partnerships and validate community needs before we “build” new technology.
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.
We are developing communities of practice to scale our principles and practices and develop new ones.
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 creating separate (and complementary) structures for local & national organizing;
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.
We are updating and upgrading our mechanisms for participatory processes and decision making
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 are developing parameters around partnerships and projects with them.
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.
What we are not actively pursuing
Direct government partnership and service delivery though volunteer labor.
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 or projects where the brigade/volunteer team needs to maintain new technology into perpetuity.
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.
Advocacy as a leading strategy (rather, this will show up through a community of practice or via a national team).
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.
Jobs / hiring as primary focus.
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.
Bootcamp-type skill development.
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.
The resources we need to be successful
Our proposed strategic plan would require the following additional staff, starting in 2022:
Stipended Network Positions
5 Basecamp Community Builders - Quarterly Stipend ($10K - ½ FTE PM), Rotates ($200K annually)
20 Project Manager Stipends - 1 Quarter duration($10K - ½ FTE PM-ish), 1 per basecamp per quarter ($200K annually)
2 Full Time Employees for Community of Practice
2 Full Time Employees for National Action Teams
1 Full Time Employee for Partnerships
These positions represented an estimated $1.5M in salaries.
Cross-Functional Staff Support
To execute this strategy, we will need consistent and dedicated support from Finance, D-team, and People Operations. We propose .5 - 1 FTE on D-team, Finance, and People Operations to consistently support the Network portfolio and the vast community it represents.
Integration with product & tech teams for communities of practice.
We anticipate needing approximately 40 hrs/month from each Product & Tech (engineering, product, design, user research, data science) team to liaise with the community of practice. The Communities of Practice will serve as formal structures to help socialize our Code for America practices, and also up-level both HQ work & Network relationships and projects.
Fundraising (mechanisms for grassroots funding & redistribution/cost sharing).
Grassroots sustainability. To develop more financial power for community-based work, we propose developing a grassroots fundraising model for the Brigade program which is tied to member registration. Members would be encouraged to contribute annually based on their ability. Contributing is voluntary and on a sliding scale ($5 - $100). Half those resources will go directly to the “home Brigade” of the individual, and the other half goes to the national network, which 1) help cover shared costs (e.g. events, tech stack) and 2) help resource under-resourced projects, Brigades, and people. This would be a shift from the current reality, in which individual small-dollar donations are either nonexistent or do not represent a significant amount of funding for most Brigades or for the program as a whole. There are fundraising models from similar justice-oriented organizations, like the above, that we could learn from and adapt. To start, we would pilot this with a small number of interested brigades.
New Finance & Fundraising platform. We need a platform to easily collect donations from registered volunteers, allow Brigades to do project-based fundraising, approve expenses, and distribute funds. We recommend moving Brigade fiscal operations to
Open Collective to further scale our fundraising & finance capabilities to support both local Brigade and national projects.
Institutional funders. We will need to engage with our current funders for an update on our new strategic plan, and engage new funders for this work.
Organization goals & messaging refinement
We will need to make updates to our website copy, all other general talking points, Development team resources, and organization goals (e.g. CWI, OKRs) to better reflect our new strategic direction.
We need a consistent, persistent, and clear call for volunteers which should be easily accessible on the website, in our email communications, press interviews, blog communications, and more.
Support defining parameters of partnerships
We need input from the programs team on local partnership selection criteria.
We will need help with assets for Calls for Proposals - locally and nationally and with communications pathways to reach potential partners for national projects (i.e., Get Your Refund, Reimagining 911).
Support for social media campaigns, newsletters, and multi-channel communications
We need support from the Marketing and Comms team to build our community by reflecting back our wins and power to recognize our Network, build community, recruit more volunteers and strengthen and grow our Network.
With all of the changes we are proposing, we will need organizational clarity and consistency in how we communicate and where. We are in the process of defining clear communication channels for all roles within the Network and aim to make recommendations on changes to our communication platforms and infrastructure as a key part of ReVisioning implementation.
Based on years of staff feedback as well as direct feedback during the ReVisioning process, key communications priorities are:
Standardize communication channels and provide clear guidance of what gets shared and to which channels;
Prioritize communication so that any member can find out key information, quickly, without needing to be constantly “plugged in”; and
Make Network-wide communication accessible to members so that Brigade leaders are not the sole conduit of information from the Network to the local Brigade.
New and refined tech stack
As we restructure the governance of our Network and communication channels, we will need to define what platforms we use for which kind of communications. This could require upgrading existing Slack channels or establishing new knowledge and comms platforms (e.g. discourse/notion). Further, we will need to update our tech stack (e.g. AWS, Heroku, Figma).
Network Representation in Code for America Board
We recommend considering proportionate Community Leader or Movement perspectives on the Code for America Board to bring more parity and equity to the decisions made at this level of leadership. We also recommend that the Network have a Board Observer role.
With a new mission and set of strategies, we anticipate more opportunities to raise resources for the Network. The chart below outlines types of funding we have proven success with, or with a strong likelihood of success.
|Source||Description||Examples||Estimated Resources Annually|
|Institutional Support||Grants from foundations||Ford, Knight||$500,000 - $2M|
|Joint initiatives||Network resources for joint CfA initiatives (e.g. GYR, 911)||Citi Foundation ($2M), Microsoft||$500,000 - $2M|
|Training/Curriculum support||Funding for training, skill building, capacity building||||$500,000|
|Grassroots donations model (for Brigades)||Member-based contributions on sliding scale (opt-in)||||$1000 / Brigade|
|Grassroots donations model (for National)||Member-based contributions on sliding scale (opt-in)||||$25,000 (in year 1-2); $60,000 (in year 3)|
|General Operating Support||Network resources from GoS||||$500,000 - $1M|
|Earned Revenue||Fellowship government partners||||$500,000|
Goals for 2024
Our goals are the most accurate expression of intention of what we want to achieve by 2024. They are built on what we’ve seen working on the past and our aspiration to deliver more impact on the future.
We have structured our goals following our three-pronged approach, expressing the main needs and wants of our peers and the communities we serve:
Organize: express our desire to grow our people power, leadership and governance to generate impact locally and nationally.
Deliver impact through partnership: express our intention to make change by leveraging the expertise, network and community engagement of our partners.
Progress through Practice: express our commitment to build capacity on our teams, with our peers and the organizations we partner with to expand Code for America’s values, tech-expertise and human-centered approach.
Goal 1a: Scale up the # of active volunteers from 10,000 to 20,000 with a clear pipeline and pathways for new members within and outside the tech industry. Scale up total members from 25,000 to 40,000.
Description: We want to continue to grow to face new challenges, increase our impact, and increase our power as leaders in the civic technology field. This means better communicating who we are and the work we do and creating clear pathways for participation to engage a diversity of talent to volunteer with us.
Measure of success:
Number of active volunteers defined as participating in at least one project/partnerships per year
Number of total volunteers as defined by participating in at least one event every year (brigade meetup, Summit, Congress, NDoCH)
% of volunteers who from a variety of background, tech and non-tech
Goal 1b: 70 healthy brigades with an identified core team, leadership and internal governance model structure, and at least one partnership.
Description: We strive to increase the health, sustainability, and engagement of individual brigades with governance, partnership, and skills-based support. We recognize that strong, healthy brigades are better able to meet the needs of participants and community partners alike.
Measure of success:
- Number / % of Brigade healthy brigade teams structured with all established criteria (identified core team, clear leadership and internal governance model structure, active partnership)
Goal 1c: 5,000 National Action team volunteers
Description: Through our National Action Teams, we aim to create new pathways for participation that are accessible regardless of location and open to a variety of skills and interests that help us advance national-level opportunities
Measure of success:
- Number of National Action Team volunteers / # of volunteer hours
2. Deliver impact through partnership
Goal 2a: Help 10 million people annually and provide impact to local communities through partnerships.
Description: By partnering with local and national community organizations we are able to reach millions of people, sharing and advocating for our human-centered approach and leveraging tech solutions to improve the life of underserved communities.
Measure of success:
Activities: % of partnership-based projects with clear impact goals
Outcomes: # of partnerships / # of people engaged
Impact: # of people reached with our projects; $$ value of technology support invested.
Goal 2b: Help 5 million people annually through national partnerships
Description: National Action Teams will organize and mobilize to support national-level issues, in partnerships with organizations that can leverage our collective power (e.g. VITA/GYR, Transform911, Color of Change)
Measure of success:
Outcomes: # of partnership / # of people engaged
Impact: # of people reached / helped; $$ value of technology support invested.
3. Progress through practice
Goal 3a: Create and socialize a civic tech curriculum of CfA principles and practices, supporting 2,000 civic tech leaders
Description: by creating and socializing a civic-tech curriculum that identifies the practices, language and values we share, we can facilitate entry points to our mission for anyone in the country that aligns to the way we do things, and have a platform that supports us in building the capacity of our teams and partners.
Measure of success: capacity built as measured by # of leaders trained through curriculum
Goal 3b: Develop and sustain a community of practice that serves and upskills 4,000 participants.
Description: a community of practice is built around groups of skill sets we find within our Network community that contribute to achieving our goals (e.g., designers, user researchers, engineers). This community will be a space to facilitate peer to peer mentorship, collaborative learning, and up-level our skills by sharing practical experiences. These are spaces where Code for America staff, volunteers, and all who identify as Code for America members and supporters will learn from one another.
Measure of success: # of people actively participating in the community of practice groups
Goal 3c: Fellowship goals TBD by future fellowship strategy