In the months since the presidential election, Code for America has been hearing from an influx of technologists who want to do meaningful work for their country.
Such spikes in political interest, specifically activism, have been common throughout the tech sector and the rest of the country following the election of President Donald Trump. Protests have erupted on both sides of the ideological divide, constituents have packed town hall meetings to confront elected officials, and developers have built scores of sites and apps that make engagement easier. Relative to these efforts, Code for America, a non-partisan and non-profit organization, has been an early adapter, founded way back in 2009 to bridge the technological gap between the public and private sector. Now that CfA has so much company, the group is calling upon those who have voiced interested to get to work with them.
On Thursday, March 2, the organization’s chief technology officer, Lou Moore, wrote a post on Medium announcing CfA’s next chapter. In a phone conversation later that day, Moore characterized his reason for doing so now as twofold: to announce plans for recruitment and expansion, and to specify the outcomes and products CfA’s work will soon hone in on.
“Our general strategy is the same,” Moore said. “We’re trying to be intentional about talking about the actual outcomes we’re trying to get for people, and also, we’ve done some work since first announcing this.”
At the 2014 Code for America Summit, the group laid out a plan focus its work on three areas: health, economic development, and safety and justice. Moore’s post narrows each of those down further to food security, employment and reduced incarceration. It goes on to name the specific products CfA is deploying to fight for those goals.
The products include GetCalFresh, a free not-profit service to help Californians apply for that state’s food stamps program; Clear My Record, which gives people a way to reduce or dismiss criminal records for better access to jobs, housing and voting; and ClientComm, a platform that facilitates communication between clients and case workers helping to navigate pre-trial, parole or probation issues.
To make this happen, Moore stressed that CfA needs to recruit technologists to fill product manager, UX designer, and DevOps positions not just in their own organization, but also in the local and state governments they seek to improve. The recent surge of interest has the potential to accelerate growth, both in terms of funding and available talent.
Zoe Blumenfeld, CfA’s director of communication, said CfA has been fortunate in the last couple months to get generous support from their funding sources, which include government partners, individual donors, and foundations and institutions. This, coupled with rising worker interest, has made recruitment a priority.
“Ever since the election we’ve been getting an influx of emails from designers, developers, product managers, policy people who want to help,” Blumenfeld said. “They are raising their hands and they want to work on things that can really make a difference and have an impact at scale, and partially the reason Lou was really excited to write this post is because he’s been answering a lot of inbound emails from people looking for meaningful work right now.”
Zack Quaintance is a staff writer for Government Technology. Prior to that, he spent five years working in daily newspapers, and another five years working in the tech sector. He lives in Northern California.