Code for America

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= volunteer coding for Open Government initiatives in cities




"Code for America helps city governments become more transparent, connected and efficient by connecting the talents of cutting-edge web developers with people who deliver city services and want to embrace the transformative power of the web to achieve more impact with less money. Inspired in part by Teach for America, CFA works with city officials and leading web development talent to identify and then develop web solutions that can then be shared and rolled out more broadly to cities across America.

Code for America is a non-partisan, non-political organization.

Our team is made up of web geeks, city experts, and technology industry leaders.

Early funders include the Sunlight Foundation, the Case Foundation, and the Louis & Anne Abrons Foundation." (

2. Shareable:

'Code for America was founded in 2009 by Jennifer Pahlka, who helped organize the first Gov 2.0 Summit in collaboration with TechWeb and Tim O’Reilly. Though she was initially focused on the federal government, a conversation with Andrew Greenhill of the City of Tucson about the difficulties facing cities prompted her to refocus her attention on municipalities. This inspired Code for America, a non-profit that works with city governments and residents to identify pressing needs that can be addressed through web applications.

“People don’t realize what a huge financial crisis cities are in, and that they need to come up with new ways to get by in the next decade,” says Pahlka. Beyond the immediate effects this can have on the lives of residents, dissatisfaction with city governance can sour them on the entire civic process. “It ties back to citizens’ expectations and interactions with government,” she says. “On a day to day level, citizens are interacting with their cities.”

Serving citizens and improving civic engagement are core goals for Code for America. “Early on, we settled on three major things we were trying to do: openness and transparency, engagement, and efficiency,” she says. “There are a lot of efficiencies to be gained in the government, but we’re most interested in opportunities where we are opening it up to the citizens and doing all three.” Perhaps most crucially, the organization requires that all web applications their Fellows develop for pilot cities can be deployed by other cash-strapped municipalities.

Code for America chooses a limited number of cities from a set of applicants each year to target its efforts. Once chosen, the non-profit dispatches teams of Code for America Fellows—volunteer software engineers, designers, community organizers and more who pledge a year to the program—to work with city managers and citizens to identify web-based solutions to the cities’ needs.

“We’re looking for cities where there’s enough political will and broad support for trying different things,” Pahlka says. “It’s not hard to find a city where there’s one or two people interested in a new approach, but it’s harder to find cities where that appetite for change is more broad-based.”

In 2012, Code for America is focusing on eight cities—Austin, Chicago, Detroit, Honolulu, Macon, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Santa Cruz—expanded from three in 2011, the first year of the program. I spoke with members of the teams in Chicago, Detroit, and Austin, to find out how Code for America turns its lofty goals into effective solutions to city governance and civic engagement issues." (