Blogging for America

Let it snow!

Sure, this is one of the tunes you’ll hear from eggnog- fueled carolers this time of year, but it’s also what folks in Anchorage, Ala. are saying now that 191 of the fire hydrants in that city have been adopted by citizens.  Becky Boone, a program analyst at an IT firm in Anchorage by day and member of Anchorage’s CfA Brigade in her spare time, led the effort to stand up Adopt-a-Hydrant, getting citizens to agree to dig out their adopted hydrants when they’re covered by snow.

Becky put Anchorage in good company; almost a dozen cities around the country now use this app to ask citizens to take care of a city asset, whether it’s storm drains in my hometown of Oakland, Calif, or tsunami sirens in Honolulu.  Each of the cities that have rolled out an “Adopta” program is proving several very important points: that city governments can share and reuse each other’s software and approaches to problem solving, that passionate, active Brigades of volunteers can help cities implement new technology, and that average citizens can serve as the capacity that city governments lack — providing needed services through small, coordinated tasks that add up.

Becky’s work, aided by Anchorage CIO Lance Ahern, is just one of the many stories around the country that have made me smile (and even jump for joy!) this year. Fellows in New Orleans worked closely with the City’s staff and solved the problem of providing accurate information about blighted properties to residents; the fellows did, what had been expected to take three years, in just a few months. And they did it with a simple, beautiful, easy to use interface to boot. Kids in Detroit now have a way to know when the bus is coming, and can shorten the time they have to wait in the cold and dark this winter.  Honolulu residents can get accurate, easy-to-understand answers to their questions from the city and county government, thanks to a website built by CfA fellows and written by local volunteers.

I could fill your inbox with stories like these, each of them a triumph in its own right. But what makes me most excited isn’t each individual snowflake, so to speak, but what it all adds up to.  When a few flakes fall, they may not stick.  When the snow keeps coming, it starts to add up, and, at the risk of inverting my metaphor, that’s how it feels at the end of 2012 for the Code for America movement.  All these local government innovators — and all their great work — constitute a critical mass.

Thirty two days ago, we said goodbye to the amazing 26 fellows of the 2012 cohort.  In 13 days, we’ll say hello to 28 new faces, and get to know dynamic change agents in 10 city and county governments.  Our work wraps up, continues, begins again.  As we reflect on the year and get ready for what’s next, what I feel most is gratitude.  I’m thankful for all our friends in City Halls around the country, to all our Brigade members and captains, to all the entrepreneurs who shared four months with us as part of the first CfA Accelerator, and to the fellows departing and arriving who give a year of their lives to this cause. A heartfelt thank you to all of them, and I hope that some of you reading this will think about becoming a partner, a civic entrepreneur, a fellow, or a Brigade member at some point in the future.

Last but certainly not least, are our donors, who provide the fuel for all our efforts. That’s the role that’s easiest to fill; all you have to do is give, and any amount counts. We – and all of our partners, fellows, startups, and volunteers – would be hugely grateful for the support, even if it’s just a snowflake.  Let it snow!

 

Questions? Comments? Hit us up @codeforamerica.

Code for America Labs, Inc is a non-partisan, non-political 501(c)(3) organization. Content is licensed through Creative Commons.