Starting a Brigade from Scratch: First Meeting Debrief

Howdy! I thought I would post on here to encourage those who may be considering starting a Brigade. I’ve only hosted a single meeting so my experience is extraordinarily limited but figured this could be useful to others who want to make this happen in their community but feel a bit overwhelmed by the process. It’s honestly very easy to get started! So let’s answer some of the questions I had two months ago when I was considering the idea.

  1. Ok I’m interested. what’s the first step?
  • I’ll be honest, I felt a little overwhelmed when looking into starting a Brigade. Am I fit to lead? Where will we meet? Will anyone come? But all you need to do is take it one step at a time. My first course of action was to check out whether there were any Brigades near me already, and when I realized there weren’t to submit a quick inquiry to Code For America through this easy form. I had someone reach out to me in the next day or two to schedule a phone call. The call was only 30 minutes and I got to ask all my questions, very informal but great. Explain your background, why you’re looking to start a Brigade, and even your reservations about doing so. Ask if they’ve heard from anyone else in your community and if so try to get their info to work with them. Super easy, super simple first step.
  1. Well now that I have my initial questions answered, what do I do?
  • Host a meetup! Code For America (whomever you spoke with) should be able to get a Meetup page created for your community at no cost to you and make you an owner of that group. All you need to provide is a name (ex. Code for BCS) and a brief description of your Meetup group (ex. Copy ours if you’d like!). Go ahead and schedule a first meetup and attach a quick agenda (like this one), I’d recommend hosting the first one at a fast casual restaurant with a patio that can seat 10-20 people. From there folks in your community who are on Meetup will find you, but also draft a standard email and reach out to contacts in your local government (IT Department, Public Communications, Community Development) as well as community organizations (businesses, universities, non-profits). You should be able to do a quick Google search to find contact info, and many times those folks can forward you on to many others who would be interested as well. Our first meetup was solely to gauge interest and see if people would actually show up to a Brigade event. We had 6 people!
  1. Well the first meeting was a success and it appears there is interest from my community, where do I go from here?
  • Congrats! You’ve caught up with me. You’ll need to sign an MOU (memorandum of understanding), do some training, and get it rolling! Below are my next steps:

    • Find a collaboration/messaging platform for members
    • Start small
    • Find a space
    • Cultivate government and community partnerships
    • Identify a single project
    • Begin hosting regular hack nights
    • Expand the project portfolio

Hope this may be helpful to anyone like me who felt lost on what to do. I’m hoping things will turn out well! Wish me luck. May the force be with you.