As Good As We All Intend, As Good As We All Deserve

GetCalFresh team members and representatives from the State of California at the Code for America offices

Last week, we announced a partnership between Code for America and the State of California California Department of Social Services (CDSS) to bring human-centered government to all California residents. Really, we’ve had partners in California government all along. We’re here today only because of the countless public servants in Sacramento & counties across the state that inspired and supported us. GetCalFresh is part of a generational movement to make our experience with government as good as we all intend, and as good as we all deserve.

What does that mean? In Dave’s words: that our government services become learning machines. That with every person we serve, we better understand the needs of our constituents, and that services continuously adapt and evolve to better meet those needs.

For GetCalFresh, this process is concrete. It begins with the recognition that eligible residents are facing serious barriers to accessing nutrition assistance in California:

  • 2 million people in California are eligible for SNAP but not receiving it.
  • That’s ~$3 billion in nutrition our families and communities are missing.

This “participation gap” has a significant impact on the health, education and quality of life of Californians. Service delivery isn’t often designed with users in mind, change can be slow and costly, and constant communication problems create undue barriers. GetCalFresh is a team dedicated to understanding the barriers people face, identifying their root cause, and building technology that knocks them down.

But tech can’t remove every barrier. As we repeat the process of identifying and removing barriers to access, we share what we learn with our partners inside government and in the social sector. We learn with government, so that people on the front-lines and in the top-offices can adjust business processes and update policies. We learn with the people we serve, the community organizations that represent them, and the tireless advocacy community. Ultimately, our goal is to empower every individual, every team, and every organization that is invested in improving the system.

Together, we’ll learn to close the participation gap in California. Together, we’ll create a pattern for human-centered government that is focused squarely on measurable impact.

It’s the honor of a lifetime to do this work, with the people that make it possible like Kim McCoy Wade, Chief, CalFresh Branch, California Department of Social Services; Jennifer Pahlka, founder and executive director of Code for America; Leo O’Farrell, San Francisco Human Services Agency CalFresh Program Director, and many, many more. It’s is a privilege to do this work at Code for America, with our growing team of designers, engineers and public servants all committed to achieving this vision of human-centered government. We’ve grown too large to mention everyone by name but you know who you are.

But mostly, there’s this. From another inspiring public servant, former Director of the Data & Systems Group at CMS Jessica Kahn, channeling another who came before:

To learn more about our partnership with CDSS and how you can support Code for America, read this.