How our distributed team makes up for a year apart

Published in
4 min readOct 17, 2019


This year we are 75 strong — and growing!

CivicActions has been a distributed company from the start, with a strong culture that supports effective collaboration and connection across distance. But despite everything there is to love about remote work, sometimes it can feel a little…remote.

So every year we make time to come together for a week at our all-company gathering to strengthen our relationships and strategize about our future as a company bringing modern digital services to government. At the Summit, thought-provoking discussions and productive workshopping are balanced with a good dose of celebration, silliness, and fun.

Together at last

We are everywhere! 75 of us from 26 states and 5 countries converged in Portland for the week.

CivicActioners work from home bases all across the country, with a handful of folks in Canada and Europe. As we arrived in PDX from all over, the excitement of seeing each other — some of us for the first time — was palpable.

The selfies began at the airport — some people just couldn’t wait!

Charting the future

With 23 new teammates this year, it was extra important to hold all-hands conversations for level-setting and alignment.

It’s only once a year that we have everyone in the same room together. Our team puts a lot of thought and care into planning the annual Summit so we can take advantage of the special energy that activates new ideas, sparks leadership, and renews our commitment to our work.

We held open conversations throughout the week on topics like building leadership within a “flat” organization, increasing equity in our hiring process and workplace, and identifying the types of government projects where we can bring the greatest impact.

Making space for new visions

Open Space sessions prompted vigorous discussion on topics like DevSecOps, human centered design, and team agreements.

The dedicated time away from our usual projects gives us the chance to have higher-level conversations on topics that help delineate what we care about and where we are headed. We love the open space model for the way it encourages cross-pollination of diverse perspectives and quickly generates actionable ideas.

Getting out

It’s the only time you’ll catch us using a waterfall approach — the rest of the year we like to keep it agile ;)

Our team prioritizes balance in our daily work so we can stay happy and productive, and the Summit was no exception. One afternoon we took a break from brainstorming and divided into smaller groups to play disc golf, visit the art museum, puzzle through an escape room, hike on gorgeous trails, and munch on Portland’s legendary gourmet donuts.

Taking time for appreciation

Challenge coins, given to all team members every year at the Summit, signify the value of our contributions and commitments to each other.

The “Coin Ceremony” is one of the most cherished traditions of our annual Summit. We make space for each person to be acknowledged with spoken words of appreciation by fellow team members. Not only do individuals feel personally uplifted and supported by this exercise, the entire team also gains insight into the unique value of others they don’t normally work with. Given the larger size of our group this year, the ceremony took a full day, but remarkably the warm feelings kept everyone going through the afternoon.

The hardest part for everyone was picking just two of the many folks who were raising hands to offer appreciation.

Celebrating with style

They practiced all week for this! The CivicActions team on the stage at the annual hootenanny.

Our team is full of talented musicians who help us celebrate the conclusion of our time together with a hootenanny — a full two-hour set played by rotating ensembles of CivicActioners. This year we were treated to many favorite classics, as well as bluegrass tunes played on a 400-year-old mandocello.

We’re hiring!

Are these photos giving you serious FOMO? We’re looking for folks who want to join our inclusive, fun-loving team in building better government digital services. Learn more about our application process and check out our open positions.




Building digital services that work for everyone.