It’s hard to believe 2014 is nearly over. It was an amazing year for the Brigade network as a whole, as well as for individual chapters all around the world. As the year wraps up, we wanted to take time to celebrate this year’s wins and reflect on what we did together as a network.
Before we do so, however, we wanted to stop and say thank you. Thank you to the hundreds of Brigade leaders, thousands of volunteers, and hundreds of local government and community partners who dedicated their time, skills, and passion to make their communities stronger. These accomplishments are yours.
What We Did Together
2014 was a huge year for growth in the Brigade. Over the year, the Brigade Network grew to:
- 137 Brigades (up from 34 Brigades in 2013)
- 15,000+ members registered via Meetup (up from 5,720 in 2013)
To support this growth, the Brigade program focused on building an infrastructure to allow the network to scale smarter and stronger. This infrastructure included: rolling out core leadership teams, defining a simplified support structure, piloting a regional program, and building the CFAPI.
Core Leadership Teams
In 2014, the Brigade network was focused on making Brigades more sustainable by building out local chapters’ leadership from one or two Captains to a core team of leaders. Building out a core leadership team was (and is) important for the long-term sustainability of a Brigade because it makes a chapter less-personality driven and more resilient to leadership turnover. To support Brigades in this work, Code for America provided programming and training for core team member roles including Captains, Storytellers, Delivery Leads, and Community Organizers. The current count of core team members across the network includes:
- 92 Captains
- 30 Storytellers
- 24 Community Organizers
- 30 Delivery Leads
Simplified Support Structure: 4Ps
As more and more groups joined the Brigade network, the question of what Brigades need to do to be successful became increasingly frequent. To answer this question, we researched successes and failures of Brigades around the world and identified four key characteristics of successful Brigades, which we call the 4Ps. The 4Ps include: people, partnerships, plans, and participation.
Simply put, if a group is organizing people in a respectful and thoughtful way; executing on a strategic plan aligned with the Code for America Principles; engaging local government and community groups in partnerships; and learning and sharing with the Code for America Brigade network, we believe that they will be successful in driving the change they want to see in their community. In 2015, the 4Ps will guide the support we offer to Brigades.
In July 2014, the Brigade started a six month regional pilot in the Midwest, headquartered in Chicago and led by Christopher Whitaker. The pilot’s goals were to provide deeper support for Code for America Brigade cities in the region, as well as support for new Brigades getting started. The regional pilot helped jumpstart new Brigades in Cleveland and Rockford. The pilot also allowed for deeper engagement with existing Brigades in Nebraska, Detroit, and several other cities. In 2015, we’ll explore how other regions in the United States could benefit from similar support.
A network is only as valuable as the people who participate and contribute to it. To make it easier for Brigade members to contribute to the network and see what each other are up to, Andrew Hyder, Code for America’s Developer Relations Engineer, built the CFAPI. The CFAPI tracks projects, stories, and events for every Brigade chapter around the world. It powers the Code for America Brigade website, where you can easily locate Brigade chapters and checkout what they’re doing.
What Local Brigades Did
Built capacity in their governments and communities through partnerships, workshops, project collaborations, and more.
- The California Department of Public Health and Code4Sac collaborated to design and develop the CDPH open data portal.
- Code for Boston partnered with the City of Somerville to work with vendors on a full, user-centered redesign of SomervilleMA.gov.
- Code for Philly partnered with Girl Develop It for a “summer of open source” where Brigade members mentored and collaborated with GDI Fellows in projects.
- Code for BTV facilitated a human-centered design workshop for civic hackers, community members, non-profits, urbanists, city leaders and staff.
- Open Austin Open created the Open Government Briefing Guide and presented it to all candidates in the 2014 City of Austin City Council race.
- OpenOakland launched a civic user testing group, which pays Oakland residents to test out civic apps.
- Code for Philly’s Lauren Ancona joined the City of Philadelphia in their Open Data Office.
- Code for DC Brigade Captain Justin Grimes was sworn in by Mayor Vince Gray to serve on the Open Government Advisory Group for District of Columbia.
- Code for BTV held regular office hours at City Hall during which elected officials, government staff, individuals, and civic hackers could participate in free and open dialogue about Burlington’s challenges and opportunities.
- Open Houston held a writeathon at the Houston Public Library where 70+ participants and 15 city employees worked on 10+ projects targeted at improving government communication.
- Code for Jersey City liberated city budget data from PDFs, created budget visualizations, and co-organized a budget forum at City Hall.
- Open San Deigo Brigade Captain Jeffrey Johnson joined Mayor Kevin Faulconer to announce the launch of a redesign of the City of San Diego’s website to provide easier online access to city services, departments and resources.
Developed and deployed technology to make communities safer, smarter, and stronger.
- Code for NoVA deployed Project Play Alexandria to make it easier for residents to find safe play spaces for children.
- Code for Boston deployed Ungentry to contribute to the policy discussion about gentrification and possible displacement.
- Code for BVT stood up the Civic Cloud.
- Open Chattanooga deployed ChattCrimes, which visualizes local Chattanooga crime data on a map.
- Code for DC created Our DC Schools: Student Assignment Unpacked. This website explains and collects feedback on what the policies for DC Public School assignments mean for DC families.
- Code for Ireland deployed Save a Selfie to help members of the public pinpoint the location of emergency equipment in their local community.
- Code for Miami built the Florida Legislation Tracker, a browsable portal of bills coming out of the Florida legislature.
- OpenOakland launched OpenDisclosure to show the sources of local campaign contributions for the mayoral race in 2014.
- Open Nebraska deployed Nebraska Food Inspections to help community members quickly identify businesses and other food establishments that have had critical and non critical issues in the last three years.
- Code for Philly built CyclePhilly to help bicyclists record their trips. Data from the app can be used by regional transportation planners in the Philadelphia area to make Philly a better place to ride.
- Code for Portland built TrailEditor, which enables in-the-field trailhead editors.
- Code for DC deployed an Open Election Map for DC’s 2014 general election.
- OpenOakland launched SoftStory to help Oakland residents identify a building with a first story that lacks adequate strength or stiffness to prevent leaning or collapse in an earthquake.
- Code for Philly built Unlock Philly, which maps and visualizes data to help Philly residents find accessible locations and services.
- Open Austin deployed or is actively developing every project the Brigade curated for the National Day of Civic Hacking.
- Code for San Jose built CA Drought-an API platform for aggregating data on the California drought.
Organized days of action.
- CodeAcross 2014: 48 Brigades organized events for CodeAcross 2014 (up from 22 Brigades in 2013). These events brought together 2,484 participants (up from 780 in 2013). The impact of the day was huge, as Code for Asheville noted, “CodeAcross helped bolster Code for Asheville’s credibility and professionalism in collaborating with the City of Asheville. Our elected officials realized that they have a Brigade of talented volunteers ready to lead the charge in citizen-government collaboration.”
- National Day of Civic Hacking 2014: 47 Brigades organized events for National Day of Civic Hacking, which brought together nearly 2,500 people. Overall, National Day of Civic Hacking featured 123 events organized in 103 cities around the world with over 10,000 people participants. In addition to the amazing community organizing work accomplished over the weekend, the Brigade network collectively worked on over 150 apps!
Pushed the ball forward on open data.
- Code for Asheville Brigade facilitated a workshop to go through the various components of an open data policy and to solicit feedback from the community. This resulted in the city and the Brigade working as partners to complete a draft policy.
- Code for Seattle facilitated a set of open data talks from city folks who publish open data and from small companies that consume it.
- Code for Atlanta worked on a call for open data and came up with project proposals for what they would do if they had access that data.
- Friendly Code launched a community-run, city-supported data portal.
- Triangle Brigade hosted an open data conference for 218 participants that included an education track, speaker track, and hackathon.
- Code for Jersey City collaborated with local government on an Open Data Ordinance to be passed in early 2015.
- Open Pittsburgh and Code for Philly collaborated on the PA Gubernatorial Open Data Questionnaire.
Got the word out about the impact of their work.
- Code for Anchorage merges community and technology by Hope Miller
- Code for Hampton Roads 2014 Annual Report by Code for Hampton Roads
- Asheville, N.C., Community Gets Behind Open Data by Noelle Knell
- Air Force ready for branch’s first-ever hackathon by Greg Otto
- Technology: Triangle Open Data Day 2014 by Staff
- Code for San Jose Converts Raw Data into Civic-Driven Missions by Jennifer Wadsworth
- Jersey City officials recognize labor needs, diversity gap in technology at Hour of Code event by Michael Shurin
- Which Pa. governor candidates plan to adopt an open data policy? by Juliana Reyes
- Rebekah Monson: The Life-Hacker by Michael E. Miller
- Techies connecting residents with city government by David Harris
- Code for BTV was written up in the news 36 times in 2014.
Have a Brigade story you want to share with us? We’d love to hear it! Share your 2014 successes (and failures!) here.