Code for America and the National Advisory Council proudly invite you to the fourth annual Brigade Congress!

Join us for the fourth annual Code for America Brigade Congress where we’ll convene civic tech enthusiasts from across our Network. At the event, you'll connect with Brigade Network volunteers, government and community partners, as well as civic tech professionals from across the country. Together, we'll learn the skills we need to level-up our work in the civic tech ecosystem and our local communities. 

With a packed agenda filled with training sessions, free-form unconference sessions, and lightning talks, attendees will share their vision of what’s next for our national Brigade Network.

Come ready to share stories from your Brigade on what has worked, what hasn't, and how we can apply those lessons to future wins. We’ll tackle how to prevent burnout, solve difficult problems, and build your Brigade into a community engagement powerhouse. But beyond that, we’ll talk about our shared values and how Brigades across the country are working for change.

Keynote Speakers

Jeannette Eicks

Jeannette Eicks is a Research Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Legal Innovation at Vermont Law School where she teaches Evidence, eLawyering, Cybersecurity Law, Privacy Law, Big Data and eDiscovery, and VLS’s start-up law practicum. She engages law students in collaborative legal technology projects with industry partners and individual lawyers as entrepreneurs projects focused on creating triple bottom line companies. Projects such as Text-a-Lawyer, Pocket Lawyer and VaultEdge had their beginnings in her Building Apps for Social and Environmental Justice course. Professor Eicks authored the “Evidence Challenge,” a serious game published by LexisNexis as well as an assortment of articles on modernizing legal education. She has been a CEO, CIO and the chair of a Computer Science department and enjoys the splendid outdoor activities available in Vermont.

Mutale Nkonde

Mutale Nkonde is the founder and CEO of AI For the People, a nonprofit communications firm who mission is to use art and culture to challenge tech neutrality narratives.

Prior to this, Nkonde worked in AI Governance. During that time, she was part of the team that introduced the Algorithmic Accountability Act, the DEEP FAKES Accountability Act, and the No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act to the US House of Representatives.

Nkonde holds fellowships at the Digital Civil Society Lab at Stanford University and the Institute of Advanced Study at Notre Dame. She is a member of the TikTok Content Advisory Council, a key constituent 3C UN Roundtable for AI, and an affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Amy Jo Hutchison

Amy Jo is a lifelong resident of West Virginia, having always resided in the Northern Panhandle. Her lived experience developed her passion for organizing with poor folks, especially single moms. Her determination to help create a WV in which everyone is seen and valued is personal as she wants her own children to grow up and stay in West Virginia, while not inheriting her struggles.

She names the greatest privilege that comes with her job as an organizer with Our Future WV as the ability to travel the state and meet people where they are, literally and figuratively. Amy Jo believes that our systemic issues are the same all over the country, so if she is doing her job as an organizer well, there's no reason for any of us to feel as if we're standing alone. Together, we can turn our pain into power.

Amanda Renteria

Amanda has had a unique and diverse career starting out in the financial industry, moving to education as a teacher in her small hometown community, and finally spending the majority of her career in public service. She has served as the Chief of Operations at the California Department of Justice overseeing 1,000 public servants and an $850M budget, National Political Director for Secretary Clinton managing the political and outreach strategy for the 2016 Presidential Campaign, and as a Chief of Staff in the United States Senate during one of the most productive periods in our country's history. She was named one of the most influential staffers by Roll Call and received a number of awards as the first Latina chief of staff in the history of the U.S. Senate. In addition to her policy work, she has also run for Congressional office in 2014 and Governor in 2018 believing that empowering others is at the heart of public service. She has degrees from Stanford University and Harvard Business School and serves on several non-profit boards. Amanda is the Chief Executive Officer of Code for America.


All times listed are in Pacific Daylight Time. Add these sessions to your calendar of choice by subscribing to the Brigade Network Events Calendar.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

4:00 PM

Opening Keynote with Amanda Renteria
Amanda Renteria

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

4:00 PM

Qualitative Research and Healing Justice
Aditi Joshi

During this session, Code for America Researchers Taranamol and Aditi will discuss the Code for America Qualitative Research Practice Guide, with an emphasis on trauma-informed practices. They will introduce the concept of healing as a means of justice, trauma-informed care, and non-extractive research in our work. They will also discuss how to show up for research participants in this current moment in a way that supports and cares for them.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

4:00 PM

Intro to Web Accessibility & Building Surveys, Dashboards, and Crowd Sourced Maps with Code for America's ArcGIS Software
Melanie Mazanec, Nick Floersch

Join Brigade members across the Network for a combination talk of Melanie Mazanec teaching a useful Introduction to Web Accessibility, and Nick Floersch showing attendees how to leverage the powerful ArcGIS software to easily produce map products.

Friday, October 16, 2020

10:30 AM

Opening Remarks

Note: This session is 30 minutes long.

11:00 AM

Facilitate your distributed meetings like a podcast host
Ryan Koch

Brigade 2.0 - Taking agency of your Brigade
Kate Nicholson, Gregory Johnson, Bonnie Wolfe, Aaron Deacon

Last winter, Brigades from Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York City started talking to one another about our experiences building operational capacity within our organizations. At the CFA Summit in March, we delivered short lightning talks speaking to how each of our organizations transitioned—or were in process of transitioning— from being entirely volunteer-driven to building business models and running as staffed and funded operational entities. Ever since, we have been meeting twice a month to share project updates and discuss our successes, learnings, challenges, and opportunities for fundraising, government partnerships, and building a civic tech workforce in our localities. These meetings have been fruitful and as we look ahead we want to share some of the dialogue and put out a call to other Brigades who find themselves in similar growth positions, to join us. This breakout session invites Brigade members to participate in a facilitated discussion about taking agency of your brigade and building processes for city-to-city collaborations that can grow beyond our network. Our working group— Aaron Deacon (Kansas City Digital Drive), Bonnie Wolfe (Hack for LA), Gregory Johnson (Code for South Florida), and Kate Nicholson (BetaNYC) — will share its purpose, highlight conversations we have had, and propose ways to move forward with more Brigades so that we can learn from and support one another on our roads ahead.

12:00 PM

Project Index: Make your open source project visible
Bonnie Wolfe, Melanie Mazanec, Chris Alfano, Thad Kerosky

Get updates from the team on how far project index has come (similar to last congress but more progress). Plus three breakout rooms: UX feedback from the current interface , Tag-a-thon, and publiccode.yml building

BIPOC Listening Session with Amanda
Amanda Renteria

1:00 PM

Lightning Talks - Round 1
Rene Joy, Flint Barrow, Marianne Miranda, Jonathan Kropko, Adam Lutz

  • Supplemental Security Income: Welfare's Worst Trap
  • Human Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence, and Public Participation
  • Iterating Together: finding, sharing and improving the resources for brigades
  • Building a Platform to Make Housing Navigation Easier

Rapidly Deployable Emergency Court Forms During COVID-19: MassAccess & Document Assembly Line
Michelle Bernstein

In the wake of COVID-19, Suffolk LIT Lab started developing a process to rapidly create and deploy online emergency court forms and guidance as courts in Massachusetts shut down. We will share how we work with volunteers and developers from all over the world to give people in Massachusetts access to delay evictions and get help with domestic violence. Note: This session is 30 minutes long.

1:30 PM

Police Reform and Racial Justice with People Budgeting
Gregory Johnson

This will be a conversation of a cross-brigade initiative and project around Justice Discovery to help brigades in their cities spark conversation around defunding police and ways to go about creating meaningful conversation through a public feedback and reporting project. Note: This session is 30 minutes long.

2:00 PM

Community Design Thinking Workshops for 50+ people
Maicol Parker-Chavez, Bonnie Wolfe

Design Thinking workshops can transition successfully online with the right tools and training. Hack for LA , Super by Design and Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment successfully designed and produced the first LA based, city wide online design thinking workshop with over 50 attendees and 20 facilitators, translators and technical assistants in order to rebuild into the resource that will serve all its visitors. Find out how you can experience it first hand by receiving facilitator training and volunteering at our next one. Let's spread the practice.

3:00 PM

Keynote: Mutale Nkonde
Mutale Nkonde, LaurenEllen McCann, Em Burnett

4:00 PM

Happy Hour/ Unconference Explanations

Saturday, October 17, 2020

10:00 AM

Keynote: Jeannette Eicks
Jeannette Eicks, Nicole Bradick

11:00 AM

Meet the National Advisory Council: Our past, present, and future
Ben Trevino, Melanie Mazanec, Em Burnett

Questions will be collected from brigade members in advance on a form and upvoted publicly. Each candidate will have equal time to talk which they may distribute as they wish between the questions. The second half will be reserved for discussion between candidates (again tracking their time limits).

Service as a Service: Partnering on old problems in government, non-profits, and health
Itha Cao, Jason Anton, Michael Chow, Anne Meeker

This session is a panel combining experiences across a variety of partnership models that have been effective: The case study of the Healthcare Rollcall application that was built with the Baltimore City Health Department, how Code for Philly has shifted focus to partnering exclusively with local non-profits on projects, and examples of how PGHLab, the government incubator for the City of Pittsburgh's Department of Innovation and Performance is an example of a program that is working on identifying internal city issues that directly help residents.

12:00 PM

Reflection on 2020 Priority Action Areas & interactive discussion on our priorities for 2021
Veronica Young

The four Priority Action Areas for 2020 are Rapid Response, Creating Pathways to Record Clearance, Voting Rights, and Court Notifications. At this session, we'll reflect on how these Priority Action Areas worked and discuss our priorities for 2021.

1:00 PM

Lightning Talks - Round 2
Kate Hanson, Jennifer Miller, Gregory Johnson, Bryan Butler, Marion Ano

  • Brigades & Maps: A tour of what we have built & why
  • Logic models: A shared visual language to show how your program works
  • Who Works For Me: Creating a website with a clear picture of who is in your local, state and federal government and their respective capacities and responsibilities.
  • Nurturing Kaiāulu - Driving Strategy with Brigade Member Needs

2:00 PM

Indigenous Innovation + Civic Tech: Purple Prize Lightning Talk Reborn (Unconference)
Ben Trevino

3:00 PM

Ka Maka ʻĪnana - Towards Placed-based, human centered and Indigenous design
Ben Trevino

Ka Maka ʻĪnana was a reaction to a realization in innovation and tech education: that the frameworks of common design thinking and entrepreneurship resources, like design kits and canvasses, don’t fully align with our cultural practices or the contexts of what we call, “indigenous innovation.” Consequently, when we implement or teach design thinking, we are unintentionally designing-out centuries of ancestral knowledge, practice, and protocol. Ka Maka ʻĪnana solution was to bring our Kona Region community (on the island of Oʻahu) together to observe and research ancestral practices unique to the Hawaiian culture--not by reading about them, but rather through stories, oral knowledge transfer, and direct experience--and translate the emergent processes of these practices and characteristics of the practitioners into a design “field guide” that is truly both by and for this community. Code for Hawaii members and Fellows from the 2018 Code for America Community Fellowship Team in Honolulu saw connections to the Civic tech and human-centered design work of their fellowship project joined the participatory effort. This panel proposes to share what we learned.

NYC/RCV -- New York City’s Ranked Choice Election in 2021 (Unconference)
Craig Simon

4:00 PM

What will it look like when we have succeeded? Interactive session on our theory of change
Ben Trevino, Meredith Horowski

Growing a core team... during COVID (Unconference)
Liani Lye

Sunday, October 18, 2020

9:30 AM

Welcome/ Code of Conduct

Note: This session is 30 minutes long.

10:00 AM

Keynote 2: Amy Jo Hutchison
Amy Jo Hutchison

11:00 AM

First Aid: How Can We Provide Immediate Support to Brigades? (Unconference)
Tyrek Shepard

Panel: Reflections on criminal record clearance projects
Shaun Mosley, Michelle Bernstein, Meilani Santillán, Jordan Witte, Michael Zhang, Jake Durell, Mairead O’Reilly

A panel discussion led by brigades that have shipped Record Clearance projects. The discussion will focus on them reflecting on what they learned, would do different, and the current obstacle they're facing.

12:00 PM

Onboarding and Managing Volunteers (Unconference)
Mike Brown, Diana Laster, Annie Steenson

Why Resource Directories Are Unsustainable, and What We Can Do About It
Greg Bloom

What services are available to whom, and where can they be accessed? Why is this such a hard question to answer? What lessons have we learned from the many already-existing efforts to build resource directories for people in need? What is the Open Referral Initiative, and what kind of new approaches does it bring to this old problem? Why might someone think standards are an important part of an effective strategy, even after they've seen that one XKCD cartoon about universal standards? What role should civic technologists play in relationship to a problem that is primarily not technical, but rather about organizational incentives and institutional culture? This session will answer these questions and more. Note: This session is 30 minutes long.

12:30 PM

Teach In: Conflict and Community Care
LaurenEllen McCann

Note: This session is 90 minutes long.

How to create sustainable technology for your Brigade
Matt Misbach

How do you create tech for society without being on the hook to maintain it for the rest of your life, which saturates your ability to do more projects. Note: This session is 30 minutes long.

1:00 PM

Be a volunteer citizen advocate - Introduction to local advocacy
Kelli Shewmaker, Meredith Horowski, Thad Kerosky

The .gov world, whether on "the Hill" or locally, operates by rules and customs that can be baffling. Any Brigade that seeks to engage in changemaking with a government entity needs to know some fundamentals about that world. Kelli Shewmaker from Code for DC and Meredith Horowski, DC resident and Senior Program Director of the Brigade Network Team, will provide a versatile primer on how to be an effective volunteer citizen advocate.

2:00 PM

Keynote: Ending Fireside Chat
Amanda Renteria

3:00 PM

Code for Pawnee hosts ‘It’s a Wrap!’ Party
Janet Michaelis


Brigade Congress is made possible through the generous support of these sponsors.

Does your organization want to sponsor Brigade Congress?
Contact for more information.