What’s New in Civic Tech: CfA Seeks Executive Director

Plus, Cities of Service publishes the last case study for its 2018 Engaged Cities Award; Louisville, Ky., publishes its full What Works Cities Certification reports; and more!

by / May 23, 2019
Code for America Founder Jennifer Pahlka Jessica Mulholland

Code for America (CfA) is searching for a new executive director after the civic tech group’s founder, Jennifer Pahlka, announced Thursday she would be transitioning to an advisory role.

As Pahlka notes in her announcement, the move comes as CfA becomes larger and increasingly complex. A nonprofit and nonpartisan group aimed at helping government do a better job serving citizens through use of tech, CfA is growing in terms of both full-time staff and the thousands who participate in its network of brigades across the country.

Pahlka likened the move to entrepreneur Reid Hoffman hiring Jeff Weiner as LinkedIn’s CEO, or Mitchell Baker recruiting John Lilly to lead the nonprofit Mozilla.

“In both of these cases, and many others, these founders were able to find the right leadership to take the organization to the next level, while remaining in a position to do what they do best and get the most satisfaction from,” Pahlka wrote in the announcement.

For Pahlka, who founded the group in 2009, that role will involve staying with the group by remaining on its board and being on hand to advise the new executive director on matters of strategy and telling the group’s story.

The search for the new executive director will begin at the group’s annual summit next week in Oakland, Calif. They have not yet set an end date for the search, and Pahlka will be staying on as executive director until a replacement is secured. Looking head, Pahlka also notes that this will enable her to do more writing as she graduates from blogging to books.

As civic tech evolves, proliferates and becomes an increasingly vital part of governmental modernization, CfA has essentially been at the forefront of much of the work being done. One of its major areas of focus in recent years has been helping agencies use tech to make their social safety net programs more accessible to citizens who qualify for assistance. The most prominent of these efforts has been the group’s work with food assistance in California on the GetCalFresh program.

The group has also helped jurisdictions clear eligible criminal records in bulk — largely related to marijuana legalization laws — with Clear My Record, an automatic algorithm that saves government both time and money.   

So, who is the group looking for to help guide its continued growth?

“A successful growth-stage leader who is passionate about our mission, holds our vision, and can effectively lead the business processes we need at scale is exactly what we need,” Pahlka wrote.

Cities of Service Publishes Last Case Study for its 2018 Engaged Cities Award

Cities of Service has now posted the 10th and final case study for the jurisdictions honored by its 2018 Engaged Cities Award.

The Engaged Cities Award looks to find and honor ways that city leaders the world over are engaging citizens to help solve critical public challenges using methods and disciplines such as civic tech, citizen experts, participatory design, impact volunteering, and citizen-sourced data, among others. There is now one published case study for the inaugural group of finalists for this reward, which includes Boston; Fort Collins, Colo.; Huntington, W.V.; San Jose, Calif.; Tulsa, Okla.; and a number of international cities.

The final case study, which was published this week, focuses on Fort Collins’ efforts to incorporate citizen input into its budgeting process and also to base allocations by determining which city programs are most effective.

All of the case studies for the 2018 class are now available via the group’s website.

Louisville, Ky., Publishes Full What Works Cities Certification Reports

Louisville, Ky., has now published its full What Works Cities Certification Report, after the city achieved gold status this year and silver during the last cycle.

For the unfamiliar, What Works Cities Certification is a benchmarking system designed to gauge the progress cities are making when it comes to using data and evidence-driven decision-making to improve life for residents.

To determine its certifications, What Works Cities grades localities based on 45 criteria related to data- and evidence-based governance, including whether they use data to set goals and track progress, as well as their proficiency at engaging the public about their use of data and evidence. Other key factors for evaluation are whether there is dedicated staff for this work, whether contracts are being rewarded based on past performance, and whether meetings are focused on numbers, among other things.

Louisville published the information earlier this week, roughly a month after the new class of certifications was announced for 2019. Louisville’s publication has already gone on to inspire at least one other city to do the same, that city being Little Rock, Ark. Their own certification info can be found here.

Zack Quaintance Assistant News Editor

Zack Quaintance is the assistant news editor for Government Technology. His background includes writing for daily newspapers across the country and developing content for a software company in Austin, Texas. He is now based in Washington, D.C. He can be reached via email.