What is the Code for America Community Fellowship?

Building on the best of the original Code for America Fellowship, the Community Fellowship pilot program aims to strengthen the relationship between local Code for America Network leaders and their governments — to create conditions where change can “stick” and help transform government from the inside out.

Code for America fellows will spend 3-6 months collaborating with government staff, researching user needs, meeting with key stakeholders, and improving service delivery to vulnerable populations. The product could be an early-stage application, an improved procurement, an open data release, or other project that improves the delivery of a government service or function, at a fraction of the cost typical in  government.

The process will act as a vehicle for driving cultural and structural change inside of government — encouraging innovation, reducing risk by involving users early, and increasing capacity for serving the public.

Who can apply for the fellowship?

Anyone affiliated with a Code for America Brigade can apply for a fellowship. Affiliation can mean that you’re a Brigade Captain, a member (attendee), or a government employee who works with a local brigade. Brigade members and their government partners are invited to submit applications for projects that build on discovery work that brigades and government will have done together, and serve vulnerable populations. 

Check out our list of Brigades.

Why did you change the fellowship?

Every year of the fellowship, we’ve learned more about what it takes to be successful for the government partner, for the fellow, and for the local community. We’re piloting the new fellowship program to test ways to create greater continuity and collaboration with government partners in addressing community challenges. We developed the new program based on thoughtful and advice feedback from former fellows, government partners, brigade captains, government tech leaders and Code for America alumni. Their leadership and insight was invaluable.

What if there’s no local Brigade / what if there’s a local civic organization I’d like to work with that is not a brigade?

Preference in applications will be given to projects that are affiliated with Brigades, but in the case that that won’t work for your project, please list the alternative local civic organization with sustained local community-building activities and technical capacity. You can also reach out to launch a brigade in your city.

How is the fellowship funded?

The fellowship will be funded by a mix of Code for America investment, government funds, and in some cases, public-private partnerships with local funders. Fellowship teams will need to include funding source details in their applications, assuming CfA will contribute one-third of costs.

How much does the fellowship cost?

Applicants will include a proposed budget in their applications using this template. In some places, critical projects need a $5,000 investment to launch, and in others, a $100,000 investment can help improve a system that could save lives. The potential fellows will pitch costs and team structures as part of their applications to ensure the fellowship aligns with local needs, and to make the fellowship more accessible to different types and sizes of government agencies, 

What are some examples of what a fellowship team would look like?

The most important thing is that you pitch a structure that will work for your team, and the problem you’re tackling. To get you started, here are some example structures:

  1. Project A
    1. One engineer full time, Jane Smith (Brigade Captain)
    2. One designer full time, Janelle Smith (Brigade Member)
    3. One product manager, part time, Jesse Smith (Government employee)
  2. Project B
    1. One community engagement lead full time, Jamelle Smith (Brigade partner)
  3. Project C
    1. One procurement/policy expert full time, Janice Smith (Gov partner)
    2. Two engineers part time pro-bono, Jack Smith and Jessica Smith (Brigade members)

Do fellowship projects have to be apps?

No! 

What are some things that would make a great fellowship project?

A great fellowship project is something that builds off of the work that the brigade and local government partners. Potential projects could include:

(Tip: We love re-use! Every project and example linked above is public domain/redeployable or something applicants can build on.)

Who owns the code?

Remember - not all projects will be apps or sites. But if there is code… All CfA applications leverage open source technology, meaning that anyone may view, suggest improvements to, and copy the code. Community members can contribute to projects and other government agencies can benefit from the work. All of the code developed throughout the fellowship is posted on GitHub and is open source. After the fellowship, if the government partner or anyone else chooses to copy the code and continue work on the application, they can do so.

How will the projects be maintained after fellows leave?

From the beginning of each project, we’ll working with fellows on how to sustain both the applications and impacts of the fellowship engagement. It’s important to create an environment where lasting, meaningful outcomes can emerge. This might mean focusing on the training and development of government partner staff, or working with on a procurement policy allows you to contract technology to keep the work going. Our goal is to build continuity into the program by leveraging local talent from within local Brigade communities to serve as fellows.

Where will we be based, and what travel is required?

You’ll be based in your hometown! There will be two in-person convenings with all of the other fellows. One will be at Brigade Congress in late October (dates and city are still being decided) and one convening in San Francisco. All of your travel and lodging costs are included in the budget.

Why didn’t you answer my question?!

Great question! Ping us at fellowship@codeforamerica.org and we’ll get it answered.