Code for America believes that a healthy democracy is one in which government continuously strives to better serve the needs of the community, and the community enthusiastically and proactively collaborates with government to improve their city.
Fundamental to this collaboration is a strong bond of trust between government and the community it serves: trust that government works for the benefit of each and every person, and trust that residents will do their part.
This starts in our neighborhoods, our city halls, our community centers. It’s at the local level that government most directly touches our everyday lives.
In the four years Code for America has been doing this work, we’ve seen how modern technology tools and approaches foster collaboration and build trust — and help cities better address the challenges they face.
We have seen how residents lend both their voices and hands to the work of government to help build stronger and more resilient communities. We have seen how innovative applications and decisions based in data can improve government processes and service delivery. We’ve seen the transformative trust that can be gained when government services are designed to treat all residents with respect, empathy, and dignity.
This is what fuels the work we do: a vision where cities truly work for the people, by the people, in the 21st century.
After working with nearly a hundred local governments and their communities, we’re seeing patterns in those that can effectively serve their community and rise to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.
We believe effective governments:
Design for (and with) people: Create easy, convenient, and effective access to public services and information tailored to resident’s needs, comprehension, and literacy.
Listen to the community: Actively seek participation from all residents in decisions that affect them (regardless of language spoken, technical ability, or geographic location) and explain how that input informed decision-making.
Collaborate with others: Draw on the knowledge, skills, and experiences of residents, community groups, and other governing bodies to enhance existing capabilities of government.
Default to open: Drive transparency, accountability, and community engagement by making public data open and easily accessible.
Use good data for better decisions: Leverage data to drive insight and improvements into the way government processes and services work.
Strive for progress: Challenge and reform policies and practices that are outdated, inefficient, and compromise opportunities for innovation and empower public employees to try new approaches to improve service delivery and quality of life for residents.
We believe effective residents:
Get involved: Are active and engaged in civic life, share opinions, and take responsibility for improving the community.
Collaborate with government: Share time, expertise, and skills with government to build a better community together.
Support innovation: Demand ongoing assessment, improvement, and new approaches to problem solving and service delivery, while recognizing that not all new solutions will succeed the first time.
Are neighborly: Give each other the benefit of the doubt and act as part of a larger community, considering diverse viewpoints to ensure productive conversations and inclusive decision-making with one another and with government.
Modern technology tools and approaches play a central role in bringing each of the values to life and provide effective avenues for participation, collaboration, and better service delivery.
In subsequent posts, we’ll describe these values in more detail and highlight specific capabilities and technologies cities are deploying around them.
This is our current thinking which we will continue to evolve as we learn and grow. We invite feedback from each of you on these values, to help us refine and focus our collective work.