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Report from Day One

We welcomed the first class of fellows to the office, and to the program, yesterday. What a day!

Before we even made it to the new office (and more on our office saga later), the Twitterverse was alight with well wishes from as far as Chatanooga, TN, Washington, DC, and Sao Paolo, Brazil. Fast Company (who did a longer piece on us in the December issue) ran an update on their site to mark the day. It was great to be reminded how many people in the US and around the world are rooting for the fellows and for the program to succeed.

It was an intense, inspiring, emotional, and at times overwhelming day, as each of these twenty remarkable people opened up to their peers and started the process of getting to know each other and the staff and board members present. They shared their hopes and dreams for the year, as well as their fears and concerns, and found that while there was enormous diversity among them, their common desire to imagine a new model for city government was an incredibly strong bond.

Some of the hopes the fellows shared included:

  • I’d like to look back on this day and this year and see the start of a movement, that each of us carries forward into the world in our own way, that becomes far greater than we ever imagined.
  • I’d like to see interfaces to government be beautiful, simple, and easy to use.
  • I’d love it if people starting asking “What Would Code for America Do?”
  • I want to see trust rebuilt between government and citizens.

As a group, we talked about how we will want to work together, what kind of environment we want to create together, and how we’ll find the balance between a building a common platform and having the flexibility on each individual team to get the job done. There was a lot of anticipation and many questions about how we’ll work with the cities and the level of support for the CfA vision among the city staffers. Many fellows reported being comforted knowing that their peers shared the same concerns, but also the same hopes and the same level of excitement.

I love how fast the fellows starting DOING THINGS. Erik Michaels-Ober realized we all needed to follow each other on Twitter and wrote this so we wouldn’t eachhave to click every follow button. Someone found a webcam leftover from the Moto folks and rigged it up and started Ustreaming. Tim O’Reilly relayed a phone call from Aneesh Chopra asking the fellows to play around with a data set that’s going to be opened up and a team formed to start hacking up some apps by the end of the day. Everyone pitched in putting together chairs, washing dishes (the dishwasher broke our first day!) and making our office more like a new home.

I’m not sure we could have had a more promising start. Thank you to everyone here yesterday: staff, board, and most of all each amazing individual who’s taken the leap of faith to be a Code for America fellow.