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The 2011 CfA Projects Start(up)

Since our May announcement of the five Code for America cites, we have been working to better define the projects that our teams (made up of Fellows and city staff) will develop over the course of 2011. Initially the five cities were chosen because their applications reflected a deep understanding of the power the web as aplatform can bring to cities. Each of these applicants demonstratednot only cutting-edge thinking and a willingness to invest inlong-term change, but also a compelling problem they were committed to solving to make their government more efficient, transparent and participatory.

The cities chosen for the first Code for America cycle are:

Part of the promise of CfA is to bring the best thinkingfrom the web industry together with the best thinking from cities, andas part of that agenda we will be planning brainstorm days with eachcity over the next two months. We will invite web industry innovators and thought leaders to meetwith the key stakeholders inside city hall and further develop the opportunities inherent in the projects they’ve proposed.

Currently, Boston is committed to experimenting with a number of web applications to demonstrate that government can be agile and nimble, but also as a means to ensure users adoption of the application. The team of Fellows assigned to the Boston project will be structured as a mini start-up, where they will be responsible for designing the applications, managing the development process, working with all stakeholders, and eventually marketing it to end users. We anticipate the team will face all the challenges of a real start-up, so that while overcoming the hurdles they will be building a more sustainable and easily adopted application.

Seattle and Philadelphia want to address very similar opportunities in their cities. Both cities have active community groups, however they are often unconnected from one another: by nature this diffuses their collective effectiveness and makes it more difficult for government to engage with them. Seattle’s OurNeighborhood project will enable the city to collaborate with its citizens using effective social networking technology, and empower neighbors to more easily work with each other. Through OurNeighborhood, the public safety infrastructure of Seattle will be complemented by a powerful network of helpful citizens coordinating with the city to keep streets safe. The project will leverage the rich ecosystem of existing services with APIs to connect to citizens’ existing online identities, communities, and information streams.

Much like Seattle, Philadelphia is looking to re-imagine the way citizens communicate within their city. Code for America Fellows will develop a web app that engages individuals and enables them to develop groups and networks that support neighborhood services. Residents will have access to critical information about their neighborhoods, connect with other citizens that are interested in similar issues or services, all while informing and staying connected to government so it can better serve its citizens.

Boulder County is committed to the idea that “Every Door is the Right Door”: when residents need assistance, they should have direct access to vital local governmental services. To realize that public service goal, the county, in collaboration with area municipalities, is partnering with Code for America to build a one-stop interactive hub for citizens to learn about, help improve, and request county and local services.

The District of Columbia is a leader in the local Gov 2.0 space with data feeds, app contests, and commitments to open source and transparency principles. Code for America Fellows will work with DC staff to replicate the success of their city’s Gov 2.0 efforts through the development of a CivicCommons, an open-source repository of programs, policy information, and case studies. This repository will also serve as a place for Code for America applications to be made available to all other cities through an easy-to-use interface with supporting documentation on how to install and implement.

We look forward to iterating on these project concepts over the next five months and will share the progress of our brainstorming sessions with you in a series of blog posts, so stay tuned. We’re just getting started.