Photo from Sheba Najmi

Code for All 2018 Summit debrief — from where we’ve been to where we’re going

Grace O'Hara
Oct 19, 2018 · 5 min read

Last week, over 200 people from the civic tech movement gathered in Bucharest for the 2018 Code for All Summit. Representing over 50 countries from around the world and spanning four days, the summit represented the largest gathering of civic tech organisations the world has seen, and provided an opportunity for new alliances to form, collaborations to kickstart and plans to be made.

But before I go any further, a huge amount of gratitude and acknowledgment needs to go to Code for Romania team, who tirelessly worked for months to bring this event to life, and to bring us all together. For the thousandth time — and I still don’t feel it is enough — thank you!

What we set out to do

From its inception, the summit was created as an opportunity for people all over the world, to come together and work to create shared plans for the year ahead. Following on from our Scaling Civic Tech Forum in Tbilisi (what’s that now?), the summit was designed to facilitate conversations and collaboration through an incredibly organised series of working groups, lightning talks, panels and workshops.

→ Check out the agenda here

Photos by Dan Dumitriu / Code for Romania

And guess what… we did it!

I can safely say I’ve never seen such a large group of people be so productive over the course of a week. With sessions covering everything from funding models, best practices and civic tech infrastructure, to burnout, collaboration and storytelling, the agenda left no stone unturned and created countless opportunities for different makers and thinkers to contribute.

But we also did so much more.

We reignited sparks in people who’d been feeling overwhelmed.

We reconnected people who’d been feeling isolated.

We found long lost family.

And even made the news in The Netherlands for it.

And, on the subject of family, we announced some exciting news. The Code for All family has grown to include some new affiliate members:

There’ll be more on this to follow, but for now the entire team are pleased to welcome all of these amazing organisations and explore how we might work closely together in the future.

Lastly, on a more personal side, the summit was kind of a milestone for me.

I joined Code for Australia early last year, and found myself stumbling around trying to get my bearings through the Code for All summit in Taipei in September. This year, I headed into the summit feeling, like many, overwhelmed and exhausted from the day-to-day of fighting an uphill battle (read: working in civic tech). As a well-disguised introvert, I was nervous about spending so much time around so many people with little downtime, and about being asked to facilitate and speak at a handful of sessions.

But I needn’t have worried.

I had forgotten that the people who are drawn to civic tech, are truly incredible people. That by sharing loads of our daily stress, we could emerge stronger and with offers of continued help readily available. I had forgotten how energising it was to be around inspiring, passionate people, and how important it is to create bonds not just through work talk, but over shared meals, drinks and sometimes even karaoke.

The thing that surprised me most though, was just how much I had to give back. It turns out, as I’ve stumbled my way through the past year, I’ve learnt a tonne of things. And it’s entirely down to working alongside incredible colleagues and friends (looking at you Lina, Alvaro and Krzysztof) who I’ve grown with on this journey.

Photo by Code for All

What’s next for Code for All?

Because we just couldn’t get enough of each other, the day after the summit wrapped up the Code for All Governing Partners came together for our quarterly board meeting.

Hot tip: don’t plan a board meeting after a four-day summit and an afterparty.

With only a handful of hours and a very tired group of people, Krzysztof and I set out to do the impossible: reflect on an entire year of working together and create shared plans for the year ahead. Here’s what we found…

Photos by Aleksandra Kamińska (Code for Poland)

What the partners found awesome:

  • Goes without saying really but… the summit!
  • Having dedicated Code for All staff
  • Having opportunities for shared learning (like this)
  • Having opportunities for funded collaboration (like this)
  • Figuring out good work practices and processes for the network

What the partners think could be better:

  • Getting the right information out on the right channels to partners
  • Remote board calls across 10+ timezones
  • Having more people on hand to create and manage more opportunities for collaboration
  • And zooming out on the above, core funding to support the network’s ambitious activities

What we’re now focussing on:

Well. Krzysztof and I sure have our work cut out for us in the months ahead. Here’s the main things we’ll be getting stuck into:

  • On-boarding our new affiliate partners!
  • Working through the wealth of information from summit, sharing the notes, and creating plans for continuation where necessary
  • Improving communication channels within the network, to better monitor what’s happening and reflect it back in a way that isn’t overwhelming
  • Embedding digital tools like Loomio and into our workflow to help us with decision making
  • Figuring out how to better talk about the network and its unique value, community and position
  • And of course, looking for partners to support us and amplify what we’ve achieved so far

This is where you come in.

→ If you’re after notes and summaries from the Summit, keep an eye on our blog, follow us on Twitter or Facebook, or join the community over on Slack.

→ If you’re curious about our work and are interested in becoming an affiliate or governing partner, check out our website, or chat to us on Slack.

→ If you’re interested in supporting our work, or finding out how you can support the civic tech movement, get in touch with us.

Krzysztof, myself and really all of the network would love to hear from you!

Code for All

Code for All is the largest civic tech network in the world, amplifying the impact of good ideas through a global network of local organisations.

Grace O'Hara

Written by

Storyteller at Code for Australia & Small Fires. Trying to figure this world out in between, sometimes with words, mostly with action.

Code for All

Code for All is the largest civic tech network in the world, amplifying the impact of good ideas through a global network of local organisations.

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