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Sometimes what it feels like — Photo by Jill Heyer on Unsplash

Peer Learning: Selling Civic Tech To Government

We’ve kicked off more formal peer-learning sessions within the Code for All network. Here’s where we share what was learned with the wider community.

Our first session, by popular demand from across the Code for All community, was a topic that’s a pain point for many: how do you bring governments into the journey of what you’re doing, how do you empower them to take ownership of a project — in essence — how do you sell the civic tech vision?

The amazing Alvaro Maz and Matt Sawkill from Code for Australia put their hands up to lead the session, both sharing their experiences while comparing their unique styles.

Here are the main takeaways we (all the participants, including myself) furiously wrote together in the notes.

Productise Your Offering

By setting parameters and having a well defined product that includes a price tag, Code for Australia has been able to quickly prepare materials and proposals for new opportunities — each one will be unique, of course, but the infrastructure of the project remains the same. This means you’re not reinventing the wheel, and spending time crafting messages when you show up to every conversation, and also helps gives a tangible vision to what can sometimes unravel into lofty ideals.

A note on price tags: be aware of procurement thresholds, or how much money a government can spend before they have to go out for procurement. Projects run by both Matt and Alvaro had managed to avoid lengthy and frustrating procurement processes by pricing projects or programs just under these limits.

Understand The Relationships in Government

For example, what are the dynamics and power relationships between the people you’re talking to, the person they’re reporting to and the person funding or signing off on the project. Usually the people Code for Australia talks to are incredibly passionate and eager to create change, but need to sell it internally and to convince their time-poor seniors. Empowering them with everything they need is crucial, and listening to the obstacles they’re facing will prove valuable learning.

Be Persistent And Cheeky

So, how has Code for Australia managed to get in touch with people who love their work and are able to sign off on a project? Good old-fashioned door knocking, of the digital and real world kind. Researching who senior leaders are and reaching out via cold emails, and dropping a few names along the way, has been one way.

Senior leaders historically have been open to big ideas but sometimes take ages to do anything with them, or find someone to take it on. It takes hard work to find the right people and get in touch, but it pays off in the long run.

The team at OpenUp reflected on their experience with hiring people who had established networks in government, as another way of reaching new people.

If You Can, Go Big

For both visibility and exposure, it can help to focus on one big program.

Code for Australia, for example, partnered with a state minister (Gavin Jennings, Special Minister of State, Victoria) to fund three Fellowship teams in one go. This meant the team could reach out to heaps of different departments and agencies to say, “Here’s a free program, tell us all your problems”. They had more applications than they could offer Fellowships, but it gave them a starting point to go back to a lot of those conversations.

There were plenty of other great nuggets of wisdom in the chat, and we’re encouraging the conversation to be an open one, over on our Slack (#selling-to-gov channel). We’d love to see you there, or at our next peer learning session.

Details are in the #general channel (here if you’re already part of the community).




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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Grace O'Hara

Grace O'Hara

Trying to figure this world out, sometimes with words, mostly with action. Co-founder of

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