Code for America

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Code for America
Codeforamerica logo.png
Founder(s)Jennifer Pahlka
EstablishedSeptember 2009
CEOAmanda Renteria[1]
EndowmentPrimary sponsors

Code for America is a non-partisan, non-political 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2009 to address the widening gap between the public and private sectors in their effective use of technology and design. According to its website, the organization works to improve government services for all, starting with those who need them most.[2] The organization began by enlisting technology and design professionals to work with city governments in the United States in order to build open-source applications and promote openness, participation, and efficiency in government, and now works with state, county, and federal government to spread the principles and practices of "delivery-driven government." It has grown into a cross-sector network of public sector change agents and a platform for "civic hacking".[3]

The Code for America Brigade Network includes 80+ brigades across the country committed to volunteering in their local communities.[4] Code for America also runs a Community Fellowship where brigade members work within local government to help improve digital services.[5]

Founding and History[edit]

Code for America building in San Francisco

In 2009, the founder Jennifer Pahlka was working with O'Reilly Media at the Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington, DC. A conversation with Andrew Greenhill, the Mayor's Chief of Staff of the City of Tucson, sparked the initial idea for Code for America, when he said "You need to pay attention to the local level, because cities are in major crisis. Revenues are down, costs are up—if we don't change how cities work, they're going to fail."[6] The two began discussing plans for a program that eventually became Code for America, "a one-year fellowship recruiting developers to work for city government".[6] With support from web entrepreneur Leonard Lin, Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly Media, and technologist Clay A. Johnson, among others, the organization was launched in September 2009.[6]

The Washington Post described Code for America as "the technology world's equivalent of the Peace Corps or Teach for America". The article goes on to say, "They bring fresh blood to the solution process, deliver agile coding and software development skills, and frequently offer new perspectives on the latest technology—something that is often sorely lacking from municipal government IT programs. This is a win-win for cities that need help and for technologists that want to give back and contribute to lower government costs and the delivery of improved government service."[7]

The New York Times described Code for America as "a new nonprofit project... which aims to import the efficiency of the Web into government infrastructures" and "[tries] to make working in government fun and creative".[8]

Code for America launched the international civic technology organization, Code for All, in 2012.[9] By 2017, Code for Canada, which is modeled somewhat on Code for America, was established.[10]

In 2018, in partnership with George Gascón, District Attorney for San Francisco, Code for America's Clear My Record software was applied to automate searching for cannabis-related criminal records eligible to be expunged after California voters passed Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, in 2016. On April 3, 2019, Judge Samuel K. Feng signed off expunging more than 8,000 convictions using the software; officials in Los Angeles and in San Joaquin County have announced that they will use the software for the same purpose in 2019.[11]

Fellowship Program[edit]

From 2011 to 2016, Code for America connected city governments and web professionals through the Code for America Fellowship program.[12]

The first year of the fellowship program began in January 2011. Twenty fellows were selected from 360 applicants, resulting in a 5.6% acceptance rate.[13] Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Seattle were the four cities selected to participate in the 2011 program.[14]

On January 4, 2012 Code for America began its second year fellowship program with 26 fellows and eight cities: Austin, Chicago, Detroit, Honolulu, Macon, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Santa Cruz.[15] The 2016 Code for America fellowship program ran in partnership with six cities: Kansas City, Missouri; Long Beach, California; New Orleans, Louisiana; New York City, New York; Salt Lake County, Utah; and Seattle, Washington.[16]

Each city partnered with a team of five web programmers or designers selected for the fellowship. Over a period of 11 months, the fellows and city government collaborated to develop a web application to solve a civic problem identified by the city in their project proposals.[17] The completed software applications are released as open-source for any city government to use or adapt.[18]

In 2018, Code for America launched a new Community Fellowship program in which members of its volunteer Brigade network pair with government in their local communities to help improve services for vulnerable populations over the course of 6 months. The first Community Fellowships were in Austin, Asheville, Honolulu, and San Jose.

Former Fellowship Projects[edit]

The inaugural 2011 fellowship program launched four projects in Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.[14] Each city partnered with a team of three web programmers or designers selected for the fellowship. Over a period of 11 months, the fellows and city government collaborated to develop a web application to solve a civic problem identified by the city in their project proposals.[13] The completed software applications were released as open-source for any city government to use or adapt.[12]

In 2011, CFA coders developed an "Adopt a Hydrant" website, so that volunteers in Boston could sign up to shovel out fire hydrants after storms. The system has now been implemented in Providence, Rhode Island, Anchorage, Alaska, and Chicago. Honolulu created a similar website, "Adopt-A-Siren", for its tsunami sirens.[19]

In 2012, fellows at Code for America created Honolulu Answers, a web application that provides simple, to-the-point answers to citizens' questions. The web application was populated with citizen input at a write-a-thon, which became a unique model for civic engagement. Both Honolulu Answers and the write-a-thon model have since been redeployed in a dozen cities around the world, including as Oakland Answers and Durban Answers.

In 2015, fellows at Code for America designed, to streamline the CalFresh application process.[20] In California, 40% of people who are eligible for CalFresh, the state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, were not receiving benefits. California has the second lowest participation rate in the country.[21] Although an online application is available in California, it can take up to an hour to complete, is more than 50 web pages long with more than 100 questions. It also doesn't work on mobile devices, despite the fact that most low-income people rely on smartphones for access to the Internet.[22] GetCalFresh takes an average time of 11 minutes to complete and, as of 2016, was being used by 9 counties to help over 1,000 people.[21] In addition, it leverages mobile phone access among applicants to encourage questions and answers, all over text.[23] Current efforts are focused on scaling this solution.

List of Active Brigades[edit]

State City Brigade
Alaska Anchorage, AK Code for Anchorage
Arizona Phoenix, AZ Code for Phoenix
Tucson, AZ Code for Tucson
California Fresno, CA Code for Fresno
Sacramento, CA Code for Sacramento
San Francisco, CA Code for San Francisco
San Jose, CA Code for San Jose
Santa Rosa, CA Code for Sonoma County
Los Angeles, CA Hack for LA Brigade
Oakland, CA Open Oakland
San Diego, CA Open San Diego
Walnut Creek, CA Open Walnut Creek
San Mateo County, CA OpenSMC
Colorado Boulder, CO Code for Boulder
Denver, CO Code for Denver
Fort Collins, CO Code for Fort Collins
Connecticut Hartford, CT Code for Connecticut
Delaware Wilmington, DE Open Data Delaware
District of Columbia Washington, DC Code for DC
Florida Fort Lauderdale, FL Code for Fort Lauderdale
Miami, FL Code for Miami
Orlando, FL Code for Orlando
Tallahassee, FL Code for Tallahassee
Tampa Bay, FL Code for Tampa Bay
Georgia Atlanta, GA Code for Atlanta
Savannah, GA Open Savannah
Hawaii Honolulu, HI Code for Hawaii
Idaho Boise, ID Code for Boise
Illinois Chicago, IL Code for Chicago
Indiana Bloomington, IN Code for Bloomington
Indianapolis, IN Code for Indianapolis
South Bend, IN Hack Michiana
Iowa Iowa City, IA Code for Iowa
Kentucky Louisville, KY Code for Kentuckiana
Louisiana New Orleans, LA Code for New Orleans
Maine Portland, ME Open Maine
Maryland Baltimore, MD Code for Baltimore
Massachusetts Boston, MA Code for Boston
Michigan Lansing, MI Code for Lansing
Minnesota Minneapolis, MN Open Twin Cities
Missouri Kansas City, MO KC Digital Drive
St. Louis, MO OpenSTL
Montana Missoula, MT Code for Montana
Nevada Las Vegas, NV Code for Las Vegas
New Hampshire Manchester, NH Code for New Hampshire
New Jersey Hackensack, NJ Code for Hackensack
Jersey City, NJ Code for Jersey City
Newark, NJ Code for Newark
New Mexico Albuquerque, NM Code for ABQ
New York New York, NY BetaNYC
Buffalo, NY Code for Buffalo
Syracuse, NY Code for Syracuse
North Carolina Asheville, NC Code for Asheville
Cape Fear (region) Code for Cape Fear
Chapel Hill, NC Code for Chapel Hill
Durham, NC Code for Durham
Greensboro, NC Code for Greensboro
Charlotte, NC Open Charlotte Brigade
North Carolina Open NC Collaborative
Raleigh, NC Open Raleigh Brigade
Ohio Columbus, OH Code for Columbus
Dayton, OH Code for Dayton
Cleveland, OH Open Cleveland
Toledo, OH Open Toledo
Oklahoma Muskogee, OK Code for Muskogee
Tulsa, OK Code for Tulsa
Oregon Portland, OR Code for PDX
Eugene, OR Open Eugene
Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA Code for Philly
Pittsburgh, PA Code for Pittsburgh
Puerto Rico San Juan, PR Code for Puerto Rico
Rhode Island Providence, RI Code Island
South Carolina Greenville, SC Code for Greenville
Tennessee Nashville, TN Code for Nashville
Texas Bryan-College Station, TX Code for BCS
Dallas, TX Code for Dallas
Austin, TX Open Austin
Houston, TX Sketch City (Houston)
Utah Salt Lake City, UT Code for Utah
Vermont Burlington, VT Code for BTV
Virginia Charlottesville, VA Code for Charlottesville
Virginia Beach, VA Code for Hampton Roads
Radford, VA Code for New River Valley
Washington Seattle, WA Open Seattle
Wisconsin Milwaukee, WI Code for Milwaukee



  1. ^ "Who We Are". Archived from the original on 2012-11-17. Retrieved 2011-01-15.
  2. ^ "About Code for America". Retrieved 2014-04-20.
  3. ^ "What We Do". Archived from the original on 2011-01-24. Retrieved 2011-01-15.
  4. ^ "The Code for America Brigade Network | Code for America Brigade". Retrieved 2019-09-26.
  5. ^ "Code for America Announces 2019 Fellowship Program". Retrieved 2021-11-02.
  6. ^ a b c Kamenetz, Anya (2010-11-29). "How an Army of Techies Is Taking On City Hall". Fast Company.
  7. ^ Wadhwa, Vivek (2011-12-16). "Code for America: An elegant solution for government IT problems". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2011-12-20.
  8. ^ Bilton, Nick (2010-07-06). "Changing Government and Tech With Geeks". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "Code for All". Retrieved 2021-11-02.
  10. ^ Sawhney, Gabe (2017-04-05). "It's time for Code for Canada". Medium. Code for Canada. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  11. ^ Lee, Dave (2019-04-29). "An algorithm wipes clean the criminal pasts of thousands". BBC News.
  12. ^ a b "Code for America Chooses 20 Developers as Fellows". Mashable. 2010-11-02. Retrieved 2011-01-15.
  13. ^ a b "Code for America Fellows to Work with City Governments". Government Technology. 2010-11-03. Retrieved 2011-01-15.
  14. ^ a b "Hacker Driven Code for America Kicks Off Today". Fast Company. 2011-01-05. Retrieved 2011-01-15.
  15. ^ "". 2012. Code for America. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
  16. ^ "The 2016 CfA Fellowship | Code for America". Code for America. Archived from the original on 2016-12-20. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  17. ^ "Code for America Fellows to Work with City Governments". Government Technology. 2010-11-03. Retrieved 2011-01-15.[verification needed]
  18. ^ "Code for America Chooses 20 Developers as Fellows". Mashable. 2010-11-02. Retrieved 2011-01-15.[verification needed]
  19. ^ Raja, Tasneem (June 2014). "Is Coding the New Literacy?". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2014-06-21.
  20. ^ "". Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  21. ^ a b "CalFresh". Code for America. Archived from the original on 2016-12-20. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  22. ^ America, Code for. "California counties make it easier to apply for CalFresh - Code for America". Code for America. Archived from the original on 2016-12-20. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  23. ^ "Code For America Improves CalFresh Application via SMS". Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  24. ^ "List of brigades". Retrieved 2019-10-25.

External links[edit]