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Brigade Spotlight: CodeAcross Asheville

Code for Asheville held their CodeAcross event on Feb. 22, 2014. Following their event, Brigade Captains Scott Barnwell, Dave Michelson, and the Code for Asheville team shared this story about their event.

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CodeAcross Asheville had two primary goals around building collaboration between the community and local government. The first goal was to start developing an Open Data Policy to get adopted by the City of Asheville in 2014. To that end, the Asheville Brigade facilitated a workshop to go through the various components of an open data policy and to solicit feedback from the community. We used the Sunlight Foundation’s “Guidelines for Open Data Policies” as a framework for the discussion. Interestingly, two City Council members joined the workshop and agreed to being proactive rather than reactive in terms of opening up access to data. Also, several local media representatives discussed some of their difficulties in getting public records and that a strong and supportive policy would be welcomed. One outcome was the agreement to have the City and the Brigade work as partners to create a draft policy in the coming weeks/months.

The other major goal was to address one of city government’s priorities for citizen engagement: understanding and contributing to the annual budget process. To that end, the Asheville Brigade facilitated a budget workshop. In attendance were Asheville’s Mayor, two City Council members, the City Manager, and the City Budget Director, as well as a strong showing of Brigade members and other interested community members. The workshop focused on both short term and long term opportunities to get the community engaged in the budget process. Short term goals include developing useful budget visualization techniques. Longer term goals include budget simulation tools and economic impact modeling. Upcoming Code for Asheville hack nights will now begin implementing solutions for the short term goals.

CodeAcross helped bolster Code for Asheville’s credibility and professionalism in collaborating with the City of Asheville. There was one poignant moment towards the end of the day when Mayor Esther Manheimer asked the budget workshop facilitator, “And you are willing to do all of this work for free?” Eric Jackson responded “Yes”, and then a chorus of other Brigade voices in the audience added, “Yes, and me too.” Our elected officials realized that they have a Brigade of talented volunteers ready to lead the charge in citizen-government collaboration.

 


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