Across the country, our cities are in crisis. Budgets are shrinking and demands are growing; local governments are being challenged to do more and more with less and less. Code for America (CfA) is a new nonprofit organization that is bringing the power of the web to solve those challenges.
Through its fellowship program, CfA recruits talented web developers, designers, and entrepreneurs to spend a year solving important problems facing communities. In small teams with diverse skill sets, they take on challenges such as building data sharing capabilities throughout city departments; creating dynamic, real-time evaluation platforms for public schools; and empowering civic leaders to mobilize their constituents for community action. The program allows local governments to develop new kinds of solutions that are lightweight, low cost, efficient, and scalable.
Partnering cities apply through a competitive process by describing a challenge for our fellows to tackle. Throughout the year, the cities and our fellows work together with a team of industry leaders and thinkers, researching, brainstorming, and even codeveloping the solution. For our inaugural 2011 program, CfA is working with the cities of Boston, Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Seattle, Washington; and Washington, D.C. To take on these projects, we chose 20 fellows out of our impressive applicant pool of more than 360 people. They have already begun to develop innovative technology for these cities such as website data scrappers and visualizations.
Applications are now being accepted from local government officials for Code for America's 2012 City Program. CfA is seeking more governments to work with our fellows to realize efficiencies, save money, and engage better with their citizens. City representatives apply by describing a project area, identifying potential funding sources for the participation fee, and listing executive level sponsors. When reviewing city candidates, CfA looks for problems that are common across jurisdictions. From our interviews with city officials, we have identified several substantial and core needs in cities across the country: simpler, online business permitting portals; unified and dynamic asset management systems; and action-oriented citizen engagement platforms.
If you believe your city would benefit from one of these projects or something similar, we encourage you to get involved. Representatives from your city can begin the application process online for the 2012 program.
Residents can also encourage their cities to get involved. For ideas on how to do that, visit the Citizen Action Center.