Code for America welcomes the community to vote in the elections for Brigade national advisory…
Christopher Whitaker

If you haven’t already voted, here are my thoughts…

January 17, 2014, I innocently went to a Meetup hosted by my friend, Jim. I say “innocently” because I really had no idea it would lead me here. I went to learn more about civic tech. It touched on all my do-gooder and community buttons. But the truth was, I didn’t need another project. I promised myself “I would not sign up”. However, at my core, I’m a community organizer and from the very first meeting I felt a community pulling me in.

Sitting there listening to everyone talk about this amazing Charlotte we were building, it started a spark. They talked about the national movement, and the tools and guidance that Code for America would bring to the table (I might have been high on french macaroons) — from that first night, I was hooked.

Fast forward to today, I couldn’t be more proud of the progress, partnerships and work that we’ve accomplished. Code for Charlotte’s leadership team is the best. We are dedicated, thoughtful and strategic in every way. But that doesn’t happen by chance. It is an environment that I take pride in cultivating. I already bring that thoughtfulness to all my interactions with the national organization and will continue to do so, on the National Advisory Council, if I am honored to be elected.

So, what would be important to me, if elected? Good question. I have some thoughts.

First. Community.

Yes, I know we already have a community. What I mean is, how do we support each other beyond just sharing the code?

Let’s start out with the basics, we’re not all coders. As a non-coder myself it feels like most of our tools aren’t designed for me. There is no playbook for how to approach government partners to start a relationship, or the best way to approach a School Bus app conversation, or how to start earning revenue from municipal partners. There is so much beyond just code. It’s time we stop talking about a shared knowledge base and start creating one and I can help us do that.

How else do we support each other beyond the code? How about Code of Conduct issues. A thorough Code of Conduct Kit is more than copy and paste from github but includes how to create an environment that learns from past violations in order to prevent them from happening in the future. I’m happy to say that those situations are rare but even rare data is worth learning from. After all, isn’t that part of the point of being in a national network.

Another way that we support each other beyond the code is documenting our Structure Models. We know that there are commonalities; however, it’s clear that one or even two sizes doesn’t fit all for brigades. This is definitely a choose your own adventure. However, after taking a real look at your own community and their needs, having successful models to pattern after will help less mature brigade develop faster and with less stress. I have begun this documentation process for the structure developed in Charlotte and can help curate the other existing structures from other brigades.

To Fund or Not To Fund

Organizing a brigade is time consuming. It’s at least a part-time job for most Captains. Plus, to really see large growth it is often closer to a full-time job. Additionally, with financial support cut this past year, many brigades are struggling. I believe the National Advisory Council can play a key role in finding a solution or a set of solutions for this problem. Two possible solutions are either crafting a story to national funders to create a funding pool that brigades can opt into or training on funding strategies from successful brigades.

A Growing Movement

This movement is growing everyday and moving into smaller and smaller cities. As this happens it is vital for us to be able to provide structure and mentorship from the beginning or these new brigades will not be successful. Let’s build something scalable to even the smallest of towns that can make a difference.

Shhh…Don’t Tell

Now for my secret, I’m a huge government nerd and I love strategizing things. Every day I’m in awe of the brilliant and dedicated leadership around me. This is a group of 13 people that give of their treasure to make all of our futures better and I’m a fortunate to work along side them.

Thank you for considering me for your vote!

Now go vote!