For years, we have championed the influx of developers, entrepreneurs and technology startups in the Charlotte area. After discovering Code for America chose Charlotte as one of 10 cities to work with for 2014, we were honored to host their kickoff event. It's no secret we love Charlotte. That's why we leapt at the opportunity to utilize our Space Volcano for their press event, fund raiser and supporting brigade meet up.
Code for America or "Peace Corps for Nerds"
Code for America is a non-profit organization based out of San Francisco. Each year, they select 10 cities around the country, with one goal in mind; to enhance the connection and efficiency with which governments connect to its people and them with each other. For 2014, Charlotte was accepted to become a host city. Next, three to four talented and experienced developers and designers are chosen, as Fellows, to serve the host city for the given year. Danny Whalen, Tiffany Chu, and Andrew Douglass were assigned to Charlotte.
Innovation in process?
We've talked about innovation in the past, so we can assuredly admit that Code for America is truly working to inject some innovative ideas into Charlotte. They're not looking to simply improve processes that are already in place (that may, or may not be working), they seek to epitomize what it means to connect cities offline and online. They seek to increase the openness of city related data and information. They seek to mobilize brigades of inspired individuals. Coders, designers, project managers and problem solvers who are willing to donate their skills and time to ensure the long-term success of the idea seeds planted by the Charlotte Code for America fellows.
Technology changes in government? Open data for a city?
Since the program is typically funded about 50% by it's host city, the rest of the resources come from donations, grants and gracious community partners, like the Knight Foundation. With the support of people like Susan Patterson, director the Knight foundation and District 4 City Councilman, Greg Phipps, there's a clear recognition of the possibilities Code for America will bring to Charlotte.
While financial support is paramount, there is also implementation and sustainability to consider. That's where Charlotte's tech startup veteran and good friend of Skookum, Jim Van Fleet comes in. He doesn't just love to code, he loves to lead and inspire other people to get involved. Guided by the belief that open data and open source create a more engaged citizenry, he is heading up the effort to extend, amplify, and support the Code for America fellows. The voluntary Code for America brigade consists of coders, designers and volunteers that will serve as an extension of the Code for America project. They will work to sustain and build on the initial efforts.
Since, the Code for America fellows only spend a total of roughly a year in each city, there is a heavy emphasis on education inside government organizations about possible solutions. Before any recommendations can even be considered, the Charlotte Code for America fellows spend several weeks assimilating throughout different areas of the city. They have weeks of intensive meetings and information gathering. They practically live at city hall for community meetings to listen for governmental challenges and blockers. They listen to what is being said at neighborhood board meetings.
The ultimate goal is for them to truly understand the essence of the host city's needs. By doing so, they are able to accurately translate those needs into actionable designs for technology improvements. In effect, setting in motion the fundamental short term changes that catapult long term growth (and improvements) of the City of Charlotte. So far, we're very impressed with what they have been able to discover and optimistically look towards the transformation potential they bring to our home. Stay up to date with the Charlotte Code for America Fellows and discover how to get involved.