← You're reading a post on Code for America's Blog Archive. Head back to our main site.

Geeky Gift Guide 2014: Creative Collaboration

candy change quote

During the holiday season, in the midst of last-minute holiday shopping and lofty New Year’s resolutions, it can feel like you rarely have time to stop and play.

I know it’s difficult, but my advice this holiday season is to think about how you can create spaces for imagination, reflection, and collaboration. Put some of your 2015 energy into building community in unlikely places.

At Code for America, I’m lucky to have many opportunities to use creativity to connect all types of people with the tools and the skills necessary to make their cities better. But sometimes we get stuck. In the grand Code for America tradition of geeky gift guides, I’ve compiled a few ideas to get those creative juices flowing.

If you just want to procure some geeky goodies, you can check out my past gift guides. I recommend you grab your last minute gifts from your local community shops or through Amazon Smile, where a small percentage of the proceeds goes toward supporting your favorite do-gooders, including Code for America.

Make Together

Clark Scheffy, a managing director at the design firm IDEO, is a champion for fostering creative teams. He puts a lot of stock in taking a team out of its everyday context and doing creative projects together. He took his team out to the beach at Point Bonita, just a few miles north of San Francisco, and challenged teams that don’t usually work together to built kites. It was an easy and fun exercise that resulted in people gaining a new appreciation of each other’s craft. Benjamin Franklin’s kite instructions, free.

Give the gift of GIF

GIF images are clearly having their Internet heyday, and its no wonder. With all the apps like  Echograph and Cinemagram that help you make GIF images from videos on your mobile device, it has never been easier to make GIFs that do everything from capture fun moments, cats, more cats, or even interactions you’re designing for a web project. You can also print your GIFs using Gifpop prints, $25 or more.



Maybe you’d like some quiet time to boost creativity, and/or recover from all that family time. Leave some doodling materials on a table, either at home or in your office lobby. This can be a great way to inspire new thinking in an unobtrusive way. Check out Archidoodle, $20, a book that prompts you to finish drawings of famous buildings from around the world.

In a similar vein, who doesn’t love coloring books? Outside the Lines: An Artist’s Coloring Book for Giant Imaginations, $12.34, allows amateur art aficionados to color in the works of artists like Shepard Fairey. I find coloring books extremely meditative, and a great way to get myself in a state of generating new ideas.


Finally, sometimes the greatest gifts of creative collaboration cost nothing. In the best spirit of the holidays, appreciation, and gratitude, Code for America designer Molly McLeod created an appreciation wall in our San Francisco office.


You can create an appreciation wall with just a few stickies, Sharpies, and large white pieces of paper tacked up on the wall. As you can see, dozens of people contributed messages in our office in its first iteration, and inspired people to talk about the messages, make a digital version, and to even give appreciations for appreciations! Appreciation Wall, $0/Whatever office supplies are nearby.

We hope these ideas inspire you to think about how a gift you give this holiday season can inspire your creativity you, and also become a platform to inspire gratitude, appreciation, and creative collaboration in others as well. Happy holidays!

PS – We’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention that a gift to Code for America is also amazing! Every donation moves our work forward to truly build a government that works for the people, by the people, in the 21st century.