Meet the Candidates for the 2018 National Advisory Council!

2017 Brigade Congress

Elections for the The National Advisory Council (NAC) are now open! Brigade members can vote until 11:59pm PT, February 9th.

Meet the candidates at the NAC Candidate Forum tonight, Jan 29th at 8:00pm EST / 5:00pm PST: RSVP

The brigades — a national network of community organizers & technologists who are putting technology to work for the benefit of our local communities — had a big year in 2017. The first-ever NAC served their terms and did an incredible amount of work to contribute back to the community. Last year, the NAC decided to focus on infrastructure, to invest in our combined strength, and that they did. Together, our community built critical infrastructure, we threw the first-ever Brigade Congress, the NAC offered leadership on the direction of the brigade program and coached the new members of Code for America’s Network Team, we wrote our principles and values together, we better defined our relationships to one another through a pilot memorandum of understanding (MOU) process, we developed a region-based election framework, and thanks to that hard work, we’re starting out on stronger footing for the challenge before us.

And the challenge before us? It can only be tackled by a community that’s leading in the transformation. As we said in our in our post announcing the elections, in the NAC, “we’re looking for leaders who are passionate about building a movement that brings together people to use their skills to help their communities, who recognize that America-sized problems need an America-sized response.”

Brigade Regional Map

Meet the Candidates

Nehemiah I. Dacres, Open STL

Software Developer and Systems Administrator, I seek to study the open source model of software development including their communities and their governance.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
Easing the growing pains by sharing their experiences and lessons with others. I also seek to keep the community inclusive and honest as it grows.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
Time management and delegation. It has been helpful to have active brigade members to shoulder some of the responsibility. I will bounce many of the lessons of the many brigades I’ll be in contact with off my own and share the lessons of my local Brigade with the Council.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
Making sure everyone at the meetings feel heard and respected. Insuring that no one monopolizes the conversation and that everyone is heard and not interrupted.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
Show other brigades ways of sharing successful strategies for engaging their citizenry and their local government. Participation in brigades should feel like civil service.

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Vincent La, Code for SF

Co-Lead of Data Science Group at SF Brigade. Healthcare data scientist by day — super passionate to use data science to solve civic problems!

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
firstly listening to others and truly trying to understand the problems of our community at large. I think one of the biggest responsibilities and unique aspects of being on the NAC is being in tune with problems that other brigades are facing. By understanding the issues that our larger community face, I hope to help strengthen the networks between brigades across the country and find ways to maximize synergies. In addition, I hope to establish a larger data science community and find unique ways at approaching civic problems.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?

I think being organized is super important in balancing responsibilities. In addition, I’ve found that being meticulous with documentation, while perhaps more burdensome in the short term, pays massive dividends in the future as other members can better understand the intricacies of projects and function independently. Ultimately, I actually think that there will be a lot of synergy between serving on NAC and working still with my local Brigade, Code for San Francisco.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?

In my experience as a project manager and co-lead of the Data Science Working Group for Code for San Francisco, I’ve found that fundamentally being a good listener and being open to learning from others serves as the foundation for building a diverse and inclusive group. While the “Data Science Working Group” started as a group of data scientists working on related projects within Code for San Francisco, the most successful projects are actually super cross-functional and inclusive of everyone — we certainly do not exclude non-data scientists! During my time with Code for San Francisco, I’ve actually learned a ton from other passionate volunteers and encourage others to participate in the project even when it didn’t seem obviously initially to them how they could contribute. From a documentation perspective, I’ve found that having a really organized task management system (we used Trello) helped with this as well as we could clearly delineate tasks within our project and the skillsets/interests that were applicable. That way, as new people onboarded, they could better see where they could fit within the project.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?

When I participated in the Brigade Congress in 2017, a co-brigade member and I hosted an “unconference” session on data science within the brigade network. One thing I took away from that was there seemed to be a ton of interest but not yet a stable data science community within our broader Brigade network. I would love if the NAC could start laying the tracks for a more unified data science community and set some paradigms for successful data science groups. In particular, I do NOT think that a data science group should be exclusively data scientists. I would advocate for setting frameworks for how civic problem solvers can use data science aspects to add a unique perspective to our work and help drive direction in our solutions.

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Ramy Kim, Open Oakland

I’m a public health person, with a focus on environmental justice issues. I am relatively new to civtech, but not to community organizing. I push open access/science mostly outside of OpenOakland. Open Everything.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
CfA brigades have marched on for a while now, each doing cool and useful civic hacking projects, but scale and reproducibility have not been consistently at the fore. What I also realized was that there was a fundamental disconnect between open data and those persons who could really benefit from their access — not so open nor accessible. The NAC can nurture brigade maturation by bridging that knowledge chasm and affect how city governments and constituents interact meaningfully with open data. Imagine a world where the end user is the expert: where we as people with some science/tech/civic knowledge would defer to those who know what they themselves need. And where we as civic hackers help build tools, quickly, and robustly. Our role could be that of facilitators, translators, advocates, activists, and bricklayers (so to speak) to make that happen through concerted and focused equitable Brigade work on the ground. I’m a staunch urbanist and proponent of citizen participation in science and civic life. These lenses guide how I view the wide impact of volunteer brigade member work.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?

After the National Brigade Congress in October 2017, it was apparent that there were commonalities among brigades. These extended to matters of running a local brigade, hacknights and events, volunteer recruiting and retention, and project management. Understanding that, I will continue to work on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion & Community Outreach in the OpenOakland context with the goal of knowledge sharing and bringing our principles to the national network, through the NAC and Brigade Action Teams. As an elected OpenOakland (OO) steering committee member, I am vested in staying involved in our local brigade projects and initiatives. Along with so many others from OO, I will continue working closely with various City of Oakland departments to identify our shared goals and to help build solutions effective to them and our constituents. My sidehustle at OO is to keep it fun (and rewarding) to be a volunteer here, and that won’t stop.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
We at OpenOakland created a special Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion group. We started by collecting data to name the problem of diversity (in tech), but we are now exploring creative ways on how to recruit community members and “users” to better reflect the population of Oakland.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
The original NAC and CfA have made positive inroads for providing space for interbrigade communication and priority-making in the last year. Looking forward, I would like to partially formalize interbrigade structures so that crossbrigade collaboration is the new status quo. I believe we’re already heading in that direction. The NAC should take advantage of the centralized help of CfA and its new staff to help meet local brigade needs. The new structure of the NAC with regional reps should be committed to understanding their brigades’ successes and challenges to find commonalities and opportunities for resource sharing on the state, regional, and national levels. Individual NAC regional reps can help enroll more brigades in their Region; each member should be fairly knowledgeable about key projects, so that they can confidently talk about them to larger audiences as a “Brigade Ambassador.” The NAC should help bring the voices of their regional brigades to the table, at once unified and nuanced, and at human scale which can only happen by listening to the needs of each. In that vein, I propose a CfA cross-country brigade documentary to gather the needs of our local brigades in their local milieu (we’d be on motorcycle, of course!).

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Patrick Bentley, Open Savannah

I am an educator, organizer, and web-developer. My objective is to help create a culture of creativity and digital innovation within our local community. I aim to help individuals come in contact with educational and professional opportunities that are the catalyst for the creation of this culture. In addition to this, I aim to collaborate with other leaders in the community to create innovative situations for community development.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
Informing the focus of our organization from a ground up perspective and focusing energies on making it easier for brigades to collaborate.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?

I don’t think this will be an issue. I love working in the brigade. I am also making a career transition and actively looking for remote development work. Hopefully, this will make it easier to handle work demands.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?

Changing the language of our marketing material and attending local neighborhood meetings.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?

I think we should find more ways to focus on recidivism and other things that affect the quality of life of low-income individuals. I also think we could decrease the amount of duplication by finding better ways for the brigades to collaborate. I also think we could find more ways to engage a more diverse group of citizens.

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Noel Hidalgo, BetaNYC

Mr. Hidalgo is an effective organizer who can walk between worlds. Since 2009, he has organized BetaNYC to be a driving force to improve NYC’s use of technology.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
Helping Brigades develop hyper-local strategies that galvanize organizing efforts into business plans and sustain long term policy change. For the Brigades that want to move toward full-time operations, it is critical that the Brigade program develop coaches to assist local leaders into self-sustaining operations. I’d like to champion the NAC’s efforts to help Brigade leaders outline a sustainable local-ecosystem. In NYC, we’ve developed a mixture of programs that help sustain our programs and leaders. Let us focus on sustainability so we can accomplish change without burning out.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
BetaNYC is my full-time job; I’m very fortunate to get paid through grants and fee-for-service programming. Over the last few years, we’ve been able to hire our Brigade leadership team into various full-time roles. Over the next year, the BetaNYC leadership team will take on more responsibility so I can focus on NAC deliverables.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?

Short answer — food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food, food. I straight up ask people for help. I’ve gotten into the habit of inviting people to my house, cooking them a meal, and asking them if they can help. From there, we talk about their self-interest and how they want to grow. Then, we work with the broader leadership to put them on a project and see if they can make it work within their schedule. In the last four years, we’ve grown the leadership team from three to ten! Also, we’ve been able to load balance life’s woes and personal issues.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?

  1. Iron out and address residual CfA and Brigade relationship issues. The MOU and this election have pointed out some lingering issues that need to be codified in a Brigade program by-laws.
  2. To that extent, have a by-law convention that enshrines the bidirectional relationship that our organizations have with Code for America AND the broader Code for All community.
  3. Imagine a Brigade Leadership Academy. Outline a comprehensive program that trains Brigade leaders to move beyond local organizers and give each Brigade an opportunity to become a self-sufficient non-profit organization. Additionally, this program should help us broaden our local leadership networks. In one year, we should be on the road to getting this program funded.
  4. Improve the election process. This is our second election and we should be much better at this.
  5. Host an exciting, dynamic BrigadeCon.

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Neil Planchon, Open Oakland

Neil has been a dedicated OpenOakland volunteer since 2013. His contributions include serving on its core team, on-boarding newcomers, producing events, fundraising, and co-leading projects. He has focused on expanding OpenOakland’s diversity and project mix by reaching out to local organizations, residents and City of Oakland employees — resulting in new partnerships, ideas, projects, and growth.

For the last year, he has been a NAC member, contributing to foundational documents and processes, planning and attending events, and meeting with Code for America’s leadership. Neil is a Life Coach, founding resident of a Cohousing community, and nature lover. He uses his skills and experience to build, grow, and nurture organizations. He values community, creativity, innovation, resiliency, fairness, sharing, and fun.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
I’ll continue to be a civic tech ambassador who speaks and spreads the tech-for-good word in City Hall, to local organizations, neighborhood communities, and incoming volunteers. I’ve had lots of success attracting and showing folks how they can increase their civic engagement and participation by convening conversations and in-person gatherings.

I’ve helped produce OpenOakland’s CityCamps and joined other social justice tech event planning teams, introducing hundreds to our movement and to OpenOakland. It’s been very rewarding to watch us grow.

I am looking forward to a lot more Brigade-wide community building, creating opportunities for Brigade cross-pollination, supporting leaders, and contributing to the next round of organizational and foundational structures NAC and CfA have been working on together. And I would love to help with upcoming events!

I have a particular passion for helping Brigades with capacity development, opportunity management, and leadership skills building which are important and needed. I would like to identify, listen to, and support Brigades that have the greatest needs.

Some of my recent learnings have challenged and motivated me to practice good project discernment, and identify what is really needed, works, and matters most. Together, I want to keep us focused on meaningful work, while being aware of our filters, biases, and available resources.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
As an OpenOakland project co-leader, I am committed to attending a couple of monthly meetings. Nowadays, several talented OpenOaklanders take care of logistics and management. I only share in some of our other activities, so my schedule feels quite manageable. I run a life coaching practice and do consulting work with folks who need help with productivity and technology matters. Each of these work activities allows for flexibility with my schedule and quality time for my OpenOakland and National Advisory Council activities.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
As one of OpenOakland’s event producers, I am thinking about how CityCamp benefited, when I invited leaders of local organizations who serve communities which include those that have less access to technology, opportunity, participation and services, to join us at the planning table and to participate at the event itself. Each year, we’ve also successfully partnered with our local government champions who have assisted us with outreach outside of our community. Seeking out event sponsors who value civic tech has also helped us reach folks outside of our usual circles, as has networking with other local Brigades!

As a result, we amplified the civic tech conversation, created space for a wider audience that identified problems, and worked together on solutions. A meaningful and intentional outreach effort has helped OpenOakland grow and contribute to my becoming a better ally.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
Continue to grow, nurture and challenge the civic tech ecosystem and movement to be more fair, diverse, and inclusive

  • Augment communication and information flow between local Brigades
  • Encourage and assist local gatherings
  • Build a shared knowledge base of best practices documents to support the creation, maintenance, and wellbeing of Brigades
  • Identify ways to support Brigade leaders in managing the feeling of being overwhelmed and avoiding burnout
  • Set up celebrations and highlight Brigade successes
  • Create training opportunities and conversations about bias and gender equity, project, event, and volunteer management, building relationships with local government, fundraising, storytelling, and whatever Brigades report to NAC as being needed

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Matt Zagaja, Code for Boston

Matt is an attorney and software developer who serves on the leadership team at Code for Boston. He has been civic hacking since 2013 and serves the people of Massachusetts as the Lead Web Developer at MAPC, a regional planning agency.
 
The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
By teaching other brigade leaders techniques to build a sustainable community.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
Relentless delegation. My goal is to make myself easily replaceable by teaching others how to do what I do.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
Emphasizing the role of non-developers in civic technology projects and encouraging those folks to be bold in showing the coders their skills.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
I believe the north star of success for a brigade is whether folks show up, enjoy their experience at a brigade event, and decide to return. If we can help brigades do a better job of this and they see the number of regulars increase, it will be a victory for them and the network as a whole. I believe we can do this by better engaging non-developers and building a menu of techniques to help brigade leadership better tackle the challenges that cause project and member drop off.

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Mateo Clarke, Open Austin

Former Brigade Captain of Open Austin & Community Tech & Telecom Commission Chair. Current Design, Technology & Innovation Fellow for the City of Austin.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
Helping professionalize the civic tech organizing structure from the perspective a former Brigade Captain and current civil servant.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
When I became a City employee last year, I took a step back from leading Open Austin. I had been on the core team for almost 4 years. Now that they’ve settled in, I’ve been talking with the leadership team about how I can support them in my new role. We agreed that acting as a liaison through NAC, I can help fill a needed gap in our connection to other brigades.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
It seems simple, but personal pronouns in introductions set the right tone at every event about our values around inclusion.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
Increase capacity and visibility around the collaborations between NAC & CfA HQ. Facilitate shared solutions between brigades. Experiment with new committee structures and organizing models.

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Margeaux Spring, Civic Data Alliance (Louisville)

Neutral Good. She/Her/Hers. Software Developer on Atria’s Emerging Tech team, a Louisville brigade member since 2015 , a current captain of Louisville’s CfA brigade, Thought Diversity lead on Data For Democracy’s Ethics Project & mentor for Code Louisville.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
Working tirelessly for inclusion and diversity and civic tech education in our brigades, and civic tech communities.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
Louisville is fortunate — I have an awesome support network in our brigade, always willing to step up and pick up any slack.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?

We work daily to ensure our community and potential brigade members are aware that we are a safe and inclusive space physically and online, via our community culture and revamped Code of Conduct. ]We try to be the change we want to see in our community, every single day. We’ve adopted the phrase “We don’t do that here” and utilize it liberally, if necessary. We have much work to do in order to become a completely inclusive space, but the steps we’ve taken thus far are moving the Louisville brigade in the right direction..

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
Break down the barriers that prevent marginalized groups from having an equal footing in the Civic Tech space and lead by example so that government can have a blueprint do the same.

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Laura Biediger, Code for Durham

As City of Durham Community Engagement Coordinator and Code for Durham Brigade Captain, Laura strives for better connections between the City, the Brigade, and residents. “I can elp brigades increase their civic connections. From my local government, MPA, and nonprofit experience, I have a deep understanding of various groups whose missions align with CfA. By partnering with these organizations, we can get closer to the problems we hope to solve and the people we hope to serve, and provide another way to connect and collaborate across our brigades.”

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
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Helping develop a stronger sense of community within the brigade network. With almost 20 years of experience in membership organizations (e.g. high school and adult service groups, collegiate sorority, nonprofit affiliate) I understand how a national organization, like CfA, can support and foster local affiliates, like the brigades.

- Broadening the understanding of “civic tech”- to include opportunities that don’t revolve around coding and applications (e.g. behavioral economics, design thinking). Coding is not one of my strengths, nor is it is the only way to make a difference. If our brigade work reflects a broader understanding of “civic tech,” more partners and problem solvers in our communities will feel welcome at our tables.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
My local and national work would be almost one in the same.

For anything we do locally, I look first to other brigades for examples. Over the past two years, I’ve combed probably every brigade website to learn about events, strategic planning, organizational structures, etc. I also follow many brigade social media accounts and subscribe to several brigade newsletters to stay abreast of new ideas and things we can implement in Durham. This familiarity with other brigades helps me improve my local brigade and provides an understanding of the brigade network that will be valuable to the NAC.

As a brigade still developing and organizing, we need help to strengthen our organization. Through the NAC, I can advocate for, and help build, the kind of tools and resources that can help my brigade and others like us. “

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
For Code for Durham’s annual event, we held a “Civic Spark Day.” We focused on bringing people together from across the community to share ideas, instead of a focus on tech and “hacking.”. Local government leaders, nonprofit leaders, teachers, candidates for elected office, and other community members, most of whom had never interacted with our brigade before, attended the event. During the event’s panel discussion, we discussed the challenge of engaging a more diverse and representative group and examples of other brigades’ efforts. his event was a good first step to expanding our place in the community- to be seen as community connectors and problem solvers, not just tech consultants.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?

  1. Think long-term, and develop a plan to get there. A clear brigade network plan, developed with input from brigades and external stakeholders, will provide a common understanding of our objectives, a roadmap to the future, and a way of tracking our success (and a clearer alignment to the rest of the CfA organization).
  2. Strengthen connections between the brigades. Provide ways for members to connect across brigades around leadership positions, skills, interests, etc. Stronger connections between individual members will help us leverage the strengths of these individuals, as well as enhance identification with the larger brigade network and a sense of community . These connections are the seeds/foundation of sustainable collaboration
  3. Develop national civic partnerships. These partnerships will help brigades make local connections, encourage collaboration between brigades, and encourage new brigades to form. Partnerships with national organizations that also seek to “improve government services” (e.g. Alliance for Innovation, ELGL, ICMA) will also increase brigade connections to local government- getting closer to the problems and closer to implementing the solutions.

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Kristi Leach, Uptown.Codes Brigade (Chicago)

I’m a Design researcher studying Lean Startup and criminal justice reform. Always learning more about facilitation, always considering whether to get a dog.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
I want to help more project teams work collaboratively with the people they’re building for — going beyond user research with their target audience to form teams that include (and are led by) people from that target audience.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
I’m transitioning to functioning in more of an ad hoc, mentoring role on projects. Joining the NAC is inline with my goal of better understanding the big picture of civic tech and safety-and-justice work.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
I’ve encouraged the use of best practices for meeting facilitation as a basic starting point for being inclusive. By providing clear meeting goals, an agenda, and actively moderating the discussion across all the formats your group uses, your discussions and decision-making can be more inclusive for new participants because people can better understand how to contribute. There’s more to being diverse and inclusive, but this is a good start, and lots of folks in technology already have familiarity with good meeting hygiene.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
Brigades need clarity on the benefits and responsibilities they should expect as members of the network. We should choose some areas of focus we can deliver on consistently and grow from there.

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Julie Kramer, Code for Miami

South Floridian, born and raised. I worked in advertising, and now software development. I have been the brigade captain of Code for Miami for a year.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
Designing a program to help brigades become a part of or intercept the procurement process of their municipality.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
Currently I work on Code for Miami during my lunch break on the weekdays and Monday afternoons between work and our brigade meetings. I will work on National Advisory Council responsibilities on Sunday nights so my brigade duties will not be effected.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?

Miami is naturally a very diverse place. We really are a melting pot and our brigade members have always reflected that. When new members come into our meetings we pair up each and every new member with an existing brigade member so they feel they are welcome into our inclusive group.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
An easily accessible repository/portfolio of projects to show off to people learning about what we do, skeptics and potential new members.

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Jill Bjers, Code for Charlotte

Organizer and Cat-herder extraordinaire, a skill that comes in handy with her family, tech community and cats of all kinds. Being a founder, community advocate and travel junkie has helped her fill a passport or two, as well as, shape a unique experience.

She has worked to organize countless events and communities of all sizes from Olympics to DNC to monthly meetups. Currently honored to serve as Co-Founder and Director of Code for Charlotte and working to bring civic technology industry to Charlotte. Jill is a leader and spokeswoman for technology, community organizing, entrepreneurism and civic engagement. While speaking around the world for everyone from the State Department to community organizations, she loves sharing her message and inspiring advocacy.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
Sharing our collective knowledge. Part of the magic of the Brigade Network is not having to re-invent the wheel to address local problems. Knowing that we have others to learn from, share with and lean on is what makes this movement so special. We need to leverage it better.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
Well, I’ve been doing it for a little over a year now and I’ll admit it isn’t always easy and sometimes things don’t happen on the schedule that I’d like. I’m proud of the groundwork that I and my fellow NAC members have laid and believe that we have built a good foundation. However, there is still so much work to be done. Because my focus has been on laying the groundwork, creating an election framework and representing the Brigade Network I haven’t made as much progress on a Shared Knowledge Base, as I’d like. So if I’m honored to continue representing you then I will make that a large part of my focus for 2018.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
We need to be intentional about reaching out to groups and individuals that don’t normally hear our message. But mostly, we need to design our engagement to give everyone an easy way to participate and contribute.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
There is definitely no shortage of work to be done. However, I think it is vital that we are transparent about setting goals, the process we achieve them and the outcomes. Those goals range from sharing knowledge to building a network that is focused on supporting all communities.

Personally, I would really like to see a mechanism for NAC to share our work and goals in a transparent way with the network. It could be as simple as a website and a mailing list. However, as we represent you, it is vital that transparency is built into the foundations.

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Jason Hibbets, Open Raleigh

Jason Hibbets is a senior community architect at Red Hat for Opensource.com, Open Raleigh brigade captain, NC Open Pass co-chair, and National Advisory Committee member for Code for America. Author: http://theopensourcecity.com.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
being a champion for the Brigade Action Teams — a collaborative effort to help brigades and brigade members work on cross-functional projects across the network. Additionally, I would like to bring my years of experience in community building to advise Code for America brigades and the brigade network to be successful in our growth.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
I was able to successfully balance this workload in 2017 not only with my brigade responsibilities, but with my day job, by prioritizing efforts, being organized, and asking for support from other leaders in my brigade when needed.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
First by being intentional about being diverse and inclusive for our brigade membership and second, by partnering with organizations who share our values and commitment to diversity and inclusion.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
I would personally like to see a thriving community of brigades working together to solve problems in our communities and across the network with a focus on developing leadership and preventing burnout.

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Jesse Biroscak, Code for Boston

I’m a product manager for Mass Digital Services. Govvies and civic techies rock my socks. Used to captain the SF Brigade and PM in Boston and SF.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
Working with brigade members and local government(s) to figure out concrete, practical, re-usable tactics to help them better partner together. I’d like to source best practices from brigades around the world and combine them with my own experiences in government and as a brigade captain to put out helpful guides, how-tos, webinars, and whatever else works!

Where have I been? Well, I burned out in 2016 after running Code for SF for 3 years. I took a year+ off to breathe, reflect on the state of civic tech, write a bit, [raise a family] and just work in the government trenches. I’m revitalized, hopeful, realistic, and ready to jam.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
I do not participate in an active leadership role at Code for Boston and do not expect any conflicts with my NAC responsibilities.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
Proactive, repetitive, persistent, wide-ranging, respectful, in-person outreach to targeted underrepresented groups. Tweets, emails, and GitHub don’t bring people to hack night. In-person outreach and respect brings people to hack night. Once you do that, make sure you create a safe space for people in your brigade… but that’s only my second-favorite strategy.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
Figure out a more consistent way for brigade volunteers to engage their local governments, whether via contracts for dev / software maintenance work, policy thought, recruiting, user testing, … or all the many other ways the two could meaningfully partner together.

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Janet Michaelis, Code for Dayton

Boomer technophile w/abiding curiosity: Can skills, strategically applied, make world better? Researcher, rehabber, entrepreneur, activist, nurse.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
watching and listening for patterns emerging from the inherent chaos of Brigade work, and working with fellow NAC members to make sense of that input. We’d then share that back, hopefully making it simpler for new brigades to get going and easier for extant ones to be more effective.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
Since I’m not a professional software developer, I imagine that NAC duties will largely be an extension of the networking, writing and organizing activities I do with my local brigade.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
Whenever we finish a project, we make a BIG DEAL out of it. We hold a public launch event with our community partners, including local press coverage. We then amplify the news through our Brigade social media channels. By getting our name and news of our work in front of the general public, and also taking project demos to community events, we’re try to attract a broader range of both community support and brigade participants.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
With this new regional structure, I think the National Advisory Council should continue to work on fostering cross-Brigade project collaborations, by helping link potential collaborators and by providing a platform/space where the collaboration can take place (Slack or ???)

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Victoria O’Dell, Open Austin

I’m co-captain of Open Austin and an independent designer with a passion for community. I strive to work with mission-driven folks.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
being present and using my voice to amplify the voice of others.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
It’s important that the duties I take on compliment what is going on at the local level. This means finding opportunities and starting discussions that are relatable to the ones I’m already having with Open Austin but also allowing some room to stretch. I think being honest and realistic about what is accomplishable would be key.

Communication with the rest of the board, team, and the greater community would be highly important. I can say that as a freelancer I have a lot of flexibility but also lack some stability so being able to talk honestly about those things and when I need help or can help others will be important.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
Community partnership and continuous feedback.

Being receptive and responsive to community feedback is important in creating diverse and inclusive brigades. This means hearing folks out about what is and is not working, evaluating it through observation or even better data, and making changes.

It also means understanding where our strengths are and collaborating with other folks and organizations in the community. Partnerships can help broaden our audience, network, and impact.

I believe that everyone has a good idea to bring to the table and making others feel empowered enough to share and contribute is key in making better brigades.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
Strengthening regional bonds should be top priority. At the last Brigade Congress there was attention called to the lack of smaller brigades and those outside of more urban areas. By working and paying more attention to our new regions we might be able to decentralize brigade activities and even get similar groups off the ground. Chatting with folks who don’t feel like they have a lot of resources or government support would be beneficial.

Having a public audit of the types of groups currently in the network might help identify who we should talk to and how. Looking at brigade size, programming, and other factors such as donors, non-profit status, and government support would be an interesting place to start.

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Eric Jackson, Code for Asheville

Captain, Code for Asheville. Digital services architect, City of Asheville. After 15 years in software startups, found my heart in civic tech.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
focusing on how we transform our network into a movement.

Code for America brigades represent much more than a collection of volunteer techies building civic apps. We have the potential to play a crucial role in revitalizing local government and how we do democracy in the 21st century. I wrote a bit about this in a recent essay.

Realizing this potential won’t happen by itself. We need to focus on three things:

  1. Define the change we are working to bring about. The work of brigades is inherently local. At the same time we are driven by a common vision for our communities and our role in bringing it about. To be effective, we must identify and organize around that coherent, common vision. The rallying cry — and Code for America’s vision, mission and operating principles — are a start, but there is much yet to do here.
  2. Ensure that our work actually makes a difference. Movements aren’t effective simply because of enthusiasm or a few heroic individuals. They are effective because they connect their shared vision to useful tactics and strategies which everyone can learn and practice. We will find some of what we need through experimentation, and some can be learned from other kinds of movements, but we must commit to learning and spreading what we learn throughout the network.
  3. Make our work sustainable. We are in this for the long haul and our success won’t come through individual heroics or built-in-a-weekend solutions. We are grateful for the people who throw themselves into this movement. But we also must make it possible for them to step back as needed and to let others step in. Likewise, we must allow people to make meaningful contributions at lower commitment levels. And we need models for long-term support of the solutions we create.

Solving these challenges is not a top-down process, but leadership is critical. I believe a crucial role of the NAC leadership is to support a continuous, network-wide conversation by paying attention to the hundreds of experiments taking place in the network, synthesizing and articulating what is being learned, and communicating that back out, not as a one-time event, but as an evolving understanding.

We are not in this alone. We can and should leverage our relationship with the national Code for America organization — I believe that relationship is vital. We should also seek resource opportunities through grants and other partnerships. In the end, however, the success of our movement depends on us. We own our own future.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
Code for Asheville is blessed with strong leadership beyond the person in the captain role at any particular time. In addition, our brigade captains typically transition out after 2–3 years. I will begin that transition in 2018, which frees up a bit of time.

Much more importantly, I will prioritize the work on the NAC by stepping back from project work. This is a good time since the reentry resources hub project I co-lead is about to launch, creating a great opportunity for others to step in.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?

We are a tiny brigade so growing real diversity must be linked to increased participation. That in turn means creating compelling reasons for diverse membership to get involved.

Our first step was to build relationships with other groups that are already dealing with important community issues, particularly for our more vulnerable/marginalized neighbors. Our strategy was to attend other groups’ meetings instead of trying to recruit people to show up at ours. As a result, we have developed strong ties with the local homeless advocate community, NAACP and Black Lives Matter. Those partnerships help us ensure that the work we are doing truly matters, and provide natural ways for less technical folks to be involved.

We are entering the next phase. Our focus this year is to make it easier for students and less experienced developers to participate. At least one meeting per quarter will focus on learning and portfolio development. We will also partner with local developer training programs, including a local organization focused on training people from marginalized communities.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
The primary focus of the NAC this next year should be to build strong processes in support of connection and communication.

There are two facets to this: leadership and transparency.

Again, the NAC should facilitate an ongoing network-wide conversation, synthesizing and articulating our evolving understanding of goals and best strategies. Playing this role will require good multi-channel infrastructure and processes for staying connected, elevating the voices of leaders and experimenters throughout the brigade network, and communicating what we are learning back out.

We must also create a more transparent governance process. In the past few weeks, brigades have been confronted with two significant issues, the decision to sign the new MOUs with the national organization, and this election, without sufficient time for reasonable local communication or decision-making processes. More generally, few brigade members have much, if any, idea what the NAC is doing or planning to do, and therefore no way to register their voices and ideas on an ongoing basis. As an organization devoted to open government, we must be equally committed to open governance for ourselves.

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Elina Rubuliak, Open Oakland

An OpenOakland member since January 2014, I have also been proud to fulfill the role of OpenOakland’s first Communications Lead for the past year.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
Being the voice of my brigade members and representing their needs at the national level. I also bring to the table my own professional expertise and experience as a designer working in the tech industry and a longtime brigade volunteer who has overseen change in the brigade leadership model as our brigade matures. My passion is making a tangible improvement to people’s lives with technology that is thoughtful and human-centric. The work OpenOakland is doing harnesses technology to better connect Oakland residents with civic data and empower them to partake in local politics. I take a lot of pride in the what we’ve accomplished so far, and I’m excited about what we can accomplish in the future.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
My role on OpenOakland’s steering committee comes to an end in less than a month, so I’m about to have a lot more free time. Since I participate on one other ongoing OpenOakland project (Open Disclosure), I’m confident in having the capacity to do both.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
Being proactive in initiating a relationship with individuals that have been historically less inclined to attend a hack night is crucial. That works needs to start with action on our part. We strive to reach out and personally invite other local organizations in Oakland to try to create that bridge. At our last CityCamp, we went out of our way to locate and invite organizations are not in the tech space to cultivate that connection. I believe a personal invitation that says “you belong here too” can go a long way.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
Assistance with securing ongoing funding sources is an one form of support our brigade needs right now. None of our leadership has a fundraising background, so this is a daunting task.

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Emma Burnett, Code for Maine

Emma is a civic and political technology consultant living in Portland, Maine who has a burning political motive hidden beneath a nerdy exterior of civic tech interests. Emma wants to create engaged and involved super-citizens from the brigade in Maine, hopefully breaking the old boy’s network in the process..

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:

  1. Pushing the conversation about inclusivity. I want to make sure we share resources and methods for developing more diverse brigades.
  2. Listening to brigade leaders and fostering discussion between brigades.
  3. Making a place for the weird, rural, queer & nontraditional applications of civic tech.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
I think my NAC work and Brigade work would overlap and mix together in a mutually beneficial way to both groups. Part of Code for Maine’s goals in 2018 are to strengthen our leadership team, and that will play a role in making this arrangement more balanced.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
Nomenclature. Changing our “NDoCH” event name to “Civic Design Fest” did wonders for inclusivity and diversity at this year’s event.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
Let’s get some inter-brigade projects completed. Let’s make guidelines for accessibility and inclusivity that are widely used and distributed. And let’s examine our Brigade-wide communications infrastructure to get rid of redundancies and clutter.

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Edison Espinosa, Code for Miami

Passionate entrepreneur working on real problems to make this world a better place.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
partnering up with the youth. the individuals that understand the issues we have.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
I will. I’ve mastered productivity.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
Just working with the government.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
Setting Actionable goals, and keeping track of the progress to reach those goals. We should have some goals we want to achieve or some change we want to see in our communities.

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Isaiah Little, Code for Newark

Isaiah “Zay” Little is President & Brigade Leader of Code for Newark and President of the Weequahic Park Association. His “”other hat”” includes Creative Director & Founder of GalleryRetail and Newark First Fridays. Formerly Program Manager for the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology (City of Newark) and Outreach & Administer Director at Newark Celebration 350. Studied Entrepreneurship at Temple University Fox School of Business.

Born into a large family of Newarkers, including several generations embedded in Newark and implants of the Second Great Migration, he is truly a son of the city. Blending personal passions for design and community, Isaiah is an entrepreneur, technologist, and public servant.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
Aiding in the adoption of CfA values and the civic tech movement locally in Newark: the gateway to New Jersey and various smaller communities in New York City area. Leveraging our work history with the City of Newark, local organizations, and Newark Public Schools, we as a brigade will continue to provide gap services/engagement to the Greater Newark Area lacking outside New York City.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
Code for Newark is nonprofit as of January 2017, combining the objectives of our brigade and the NAC will ease the amount of time needed to specifically allot to NAC responsibilities. My flexibility as a entrepreneur and Brigade Leader will also allow me to structure my schedule between the two roles to curate and ideal work-schedule as well as expand the reach and effectiveness of the two roles.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
My favorite strategy is keeping the organization as flat as possible: allowing new members to both champion projects and obtain responsibility within the brigade with very few divisions between the nonprofit board, brigade leader, and “newbs”.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
NAC in 2018 should provide guidelines for key civic tech values such as best practices for open data ordinances or a method for smaller communities to leverage the greater network in local partnerships outside/at a smaller investment than the Fellows.

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Dawn McDougall, Code for Philly

Dawn serves as the Executive Director of Code for Philly building the local civic tech community. Professionally, she manages business operations at a software development consultancy.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:
Asking complicated questions, listening deeply, and finding balanced solutions that work for our brigades today and in the future.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
We’ve diligently worked on distributing leadership across core areas of the brigade over the last couple of years at Code for Philly. We’ll continue to work on giving leadership to more raised hands in the community, so that a NAC representative can serve broader interests.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
We’ve started with a diversity of skills at Code for Philly, which has been a process of celebrating the many types of contributions that make civic tech projects a success, partnering with other community-based organizations for specialized, targeted programming, and looking for ways to recruit and groom rising leaders. At the very root of diversity and inclusion is building healthy, authentic relationships and bringing diverse representation into leadership.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
Greater cohesion among brigades, a shared sense of purpose and values at the local level, and shared projects/programming that help achieve that level complemented by regional awareness and collaboration — can we get the City of Princeton to partner with Philly on a shared project? What about having DC and Wilmington combine resources to meet shared needs? The NAC can help to prompt and guide these conversations.

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Taylor Smith, Code for Phoenix

My name is Taylor Smith and I am the Brigade Captain of Code for Phoenix in Phoenix, Arizona. I am a Software Engineer for a Health Information Technology company and have a deep passion for our community and Public Health. Our brigade partners with the Maricopa County Department of Public Health which serves close to 5 million people in the Phoenix metro and surrounding area! In my free time, I enjoy running and spending time with my dog, Lewis.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:

If elected, I aim to empower new brigades and individuals wishing to start a brigade. I hope to help individuals looking to get involved connect with their local government and even other states’ brigades. Through workshops at last year’s Brigade Conference and even through connecting with other Code for America individuals, I’ve learned that the beginning stages of a brigade can be quite intimidating. Fostering a strong network for these newer brigades will help our civic tech community grow and prosper. I also hope to serve as an advocate for our nation’s Public Health crises. There is a strong demand for technology and transparency within Public Health, from women’s health services to immunization, the nation’s opioid crisis, and even promoting a healthy lifestyle- these are all issues I see facing my city, and other cities across the nation daily. I’d like to see brigades work together to address some of these large public health dilemmas facing our nation, whether that be through committees, forums, or even the sharing of Open Source projects.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
Truly speaking, I think that the work within our local brigade and serving on the National Advisory Council are deeply intertwined. It is easy to isolate our brigades and focus just on local issues without realizing those same issues exist in other cities across brigades. Open Source technology is a core part of the values Code for America upholds, and it is this value that allows all of our brigades to be unique, but also be connected. I hope that the work I do if elected to serve on the National Advisory Council can benefit our organization as a whole, as well as individual brigades.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
While I don’t have a specific strategy, I strive to create an inclusive environment for members and non-members who attend our meetups. We always have a period of introductions to introduce new faces and make sure that representatives from our government partner are in attendance to really drive home the “Why” behind what we are building and who it will benefit. Through our partnership with the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, our brigade has also built some valuable relationships with local members of the community. I’m proud to say that we’ve diversified ourselves from just a “coding meetup” to a like-minded group of individuals with a vision for our community. We’ve spoken at the annual Shared Use Summit in Phoenix, conversed with state-level healthcare non-profits, and most importantly, listened. The Maricopa County Department of Health operates on roughly $11/head annually. Serving a vast territory and a population close to 5 million, the Department of Public Health has to be creative and wise with their efforts and resources. We have listened to departments within the Department of Public Health as they discuss issues facing our city and ideas of how we can address them. More importantly, these conversations spark a fire in our members and ignite action in our community.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?

My goal word for 2018 is Growth. As our local brigade grows, I hope we grow as a national organization as well! I’d love for the National Advisory Council to create a brigade handbook to assist new and potential brigades as they are formed. I want interested community members to feel informed and empowered as they embark to start brigades and I hope that we can provide them a large selection of resources to assist them through their journey. Additionally, I’d like for a mentorship program to be established for Brigade Captains. This mentorship program would help guide newer brigade captains through the ups and downs of running a chapter, and also help seasoned captains connect across the nation. A mentorship program also creates a level of accountability in a captain serving as a leader for a growing brigade. If elected, I look forward to creating a committee for Public Health and working to connect interested brigades with their Departments of Public Health. On a national scale, I think this committee can begin to hear and ask the tough questions in regards to the Health crises facing our nation.

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Carlos Moreno, Code for Tulsa

1/2 my life in San Jose, CA — 1/2 my life in Tulsa, OK. Graphic Designer at CAP Tulsa. Currently serve as the co-captain of the Tulsa brigade, and on the Board of Techlahoma.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:

Working to help implement projects across Brigades. Together we can contribute to more projects, and make them easier to fork and deploy. Let’s take small successes in our own cities and find ways to integrate and share them.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
We’ve got a pretty awesome foundation of support here in Tulsa — both figuratively and literally. We’ve got two co-captains to share the workload, and we’ve got a statewide nonprofit, Techlahoma, that acts as our fiscal agent & helps organize a lot of our meeting and administrative functions. That leaves me to be more of an advocate and connector — two things I love doing! I’m excited to take that to a regional and national level.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
I feel that over the years we’ve done a lot of outreach and listening. We reach out to the clients, and the nonprofits who will be interacting with our projects, and try as hard as we can to get them engaged and involved from the beginning.

At our most recent event, one of the participants who helped us brainstorm on some work we wanted to do with statewide criminal justice data, said to us, “I felt like you really listened to me and that I was a part of this project — not just inviting me here for show.”

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
What impresses me most about the civic tech community in Oklahoma is the amount of passion and heart that’s put in to the work that we do.

Beth Knight described this community perfectly.

I feel that there is a potential to bottle that heart, and that spirit, and see it spread — through more of our region, and throughout the network of brigades. It’s already there. I feel like the NAC can help build stronger bonds, and open up more opportunities to collaborate with like-minded organizations.

I mentioned implementing projects across Brigades. I would love to help make more of that happen.

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Carl V. Lewis, Open Savannah
Longtime data and interactive journalist turned community technologist; React Native dev. by day; believer in the power of numbers combined with narrative to foster collective awareness; Twitter addict; wannabe engineer. Resident of many places; Savannah at present. Founder of Open Savannah.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:

Encouraging existing and to-be-formed brigades to look to the margins of their communities to find the untapped talent that can help create catalytic innovation; building a sense of community purpose around civic tech work that goes beyond projects and hacknights; teaching community technology to bridge the digital divide, and cultivating the karrass. Also, building a sustainable civic innovation ecosystem that won’t become tomorrow’s status quo (i.e. a deeper open-source commitment and ethos; greater emphasis on people and processes instead of products alone)

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?

For me, serving on the NAC would inform my work with my local Brigade in new ways. It wouldn’t be a competing imperative. It would be a complementary set of duties for the same common goal. Although Open Savannah is only a year old, I’ve somehow been lucky enough to build out a fantastic and interdisciplinary Core Leadership team that can step in when needed. I believe the art of a collaborative process is at times the act of getting out of the way.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
Showing up. Going to neighborhood meetings. Volunteering in community cleanups. Getting to know people from vastly different walks of life. Finding commonality. Inviting them. Informing them about the connective power of tech. And then watching as they, too, become inspired at their own agency. When you bring in all members of a community — especially those living in the margins — you’ll be surprised not only at the organic inclusivity that takes place, but the hidden talents and special skills that arrive at the table.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
It’s easy to look at the innovation in the big 20 metros and think we’ve crossed certain bridges already. I’ve lived in NYC and DC; I’m aware of how comfortable responsive municipal leadership can become. But in far more mid sized cities than we realize, there’s still lots of ways to go in changing mindsets about even basic concepts such as open data, iterative policy creation, and agile software development (and, vis a vis, changing outcomes). My hometown, Jacksonville, Fl. has an NFL team and more than 1 million people, but lacks any organized civic innovation movement whatsoever. If Savannah, which is roughly half the size, can build the capacity for civic innovation, the Jacksonvilles of the world can, too.

In cities with mature civic innovation ecosystems, NAC can help guide brigades through uncharted territory in terms of radically reinventing government processes and policy — the sort of innovations that often demand significant political capital and technical planning. NAC’s leadership can also help dispel prevailing notions in mature brigades about civic hacking that may have previously been assumed but not tested with users.

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Chris Alfano, Code for Philly

I’m a software developer forged by FOSS and a founding captain of one of the longest-running brigades. My civic hacking journey began while working in a Philly public school and for nearly a decade now I’ve gotten to build open-source software with some of the most innovative public schools in the world.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:

Our movement needs to outgrow and outlast the goodwill and marketing budgets of software and infrastructure startups. Brigades need to be able to share and iterate on each others’ best practices, and that means being able to share and iterate on the tools those practices are built on. We need to align ourselves with the deeper philosophies of the Free Software movement that put at the forefront of concern the rights of users. Open source needs to mean more than using GitHub and npm. The right to inspect software, to improve software, to fork it in a different direction and keep distributing with the same freedoms to everyone else is vital to our own work and to that of the public institutions we seek to upgrade. Replacing mainframes with Software-as-a-Service startups is just moving to a newer prison.

If I can continue into a second year on the NAC, I want to champion the creation of a “Civic Cloud” Brigade Action Team (BAT). The Civic Cloud BAT will bring together existing devops and systems administration expertise from around the network. We will tackle the dual goals of building a hosting infrastructure and set of application automation standards that will enable our public interest applications to be (re)deployed in one click, migrated between commercial clouds and donated local computing capacity, and maintained in flocks independently from original developers. All the hard technology we need is already out there and open source, but it’s being tailored to internet-scale use cases where applications have to be up every second, handle global surges of traffic, and where getting another round of capital or closing shop is always around the corner. Our applications are community-scale: they don’t need the same levels of availability and traffic-handling, but we need them to be cheap to run, effortless to maintain, and online indefinitely.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
I was able to step back from day-to-day operations before even beginning on the NAC last year thanks to the work of Dawn McDougall crushing everything in sight while also somehow leading our charge to build out a diverse and sustainable leadership team at Code for Philly. She’s figured out and learned a ton about building brigade leadership capacity, and I’m excited to potentially see her bring that to the NAC and brigade network at large while I serve a last year and she begins serving two. So I basically get a pass on this question, and you should vote for Dawn for the northeast regional NAC seat!

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
I believe that the truest diversity comes from going to the ground and partnering with the groups, organizations, and schools that really represent and make up our communities. Team up with those working on the ground and help them find or build the tools they’re wanting for in the work they’re already doing. Get to know public school teachers, learn their struggles, and let them know where to send the kids that want to learn more about technology than the schools can provide.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
The most important mission for the incoming NAC is to explore how to more actively represent all the brigades around the country, in a way that builds trust both between brigades and with the national organization. Representation can’t end at the NAC elections, and it’s going to take more than just will to really make that happen. From there — and only from there — we can start sharing resources effectively and making change at the next scale. Building out and supporting the structure for Brigade Action Teams so inter-brigade working groups can bring the full talent of our network to bear upon our common challenges and opportunities will be key to realizing this next phase of our revolution.

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Brendan Babb, Code for Anchorage

Brendan has been a Code for Anchorage member for 5 years and Co-captain for 3 years and is also the Chief Innovation Officer at the Muni of Anchorage. He enjoys DJing and soccer.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:

Helping Brigades collaborate together on projects and more easily fork existing brigade projects. And to help brigades collaborate and leverage other civic tech related networks like What Works Cities, ELGL and Cities of Service. The new Sunlight Foundation Open Data census will provide another element, an API of open data available in each city.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
I am currently a co-captain and am planning to move more responsibility to my co-captain.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
Code for Anchorage has more work to do to diversify our brigade. We are mostly men. Strategies I would like to explore our meeting on the university campus or different locations, more outreach to diverse communities, more outreach to non-profits and do a better job explaining you don’t need to be a coder. I am also interested in providing child care at hackathons.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
The NAC can continue to increase collaboration between CFA and the brigades. The NAC should help grow potential funding opportunities with large companies for brigades and help improve the fundraising acumen of brigades. The NAC should have a multiple brigade collaboration project they can point to at the end of the year.

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Aaron D. Borden, Open Oakland

Aaron is a software developer at 18F. He has lead project teams at CfSF and OpenOakland since 2014. He loves user-centered design and cats.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:

Listening to the needs and pain points of brigade members, citizens, and government staff. The brigades have taught us the value of user-centered design, open source software, open data, and iterative development. We can leverage these techniques to improve our brigade network.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
I have no official role at OpenOakland so I can easily continue attending OpenOakland as a member and participate in projects. In fact, I plan to leverage project time and volunteers at OpenOakland to create change in the brigade network.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?
I’ve found that inclusive language is the most important overall. Be welcoming, treat folks with respect, and make a leap of faith that this person is going to be the most valuable contributor to your project by next month. When you assign someone a task, you’re saying, “welcome, you’re part of the team now.” I’ve found that having a dedicated person introduce newcomers at the brigade or project level is most effective. Don’t forget to introduce the Code of Conduct. It’s not as much about rules as it’s about how we all choose to work together and we do take it very seriously.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
NAC is still young, so I feel like there is so much to do. The work done in the past year has been a great start but being early days, not all initiatives have bared fruit, yet. I’d like to iterate on some of these initiatives so we can see some change this year. Specifically:

  • Improve engagement in the Brigade Action Teams. Volunteers are a fundamental piece of the brigades and we need to figure out how to leverage that effectively without burnout.
  • Establish effective, open channels for outreach and communication so folks know the NAC exists, what it’s doing, and how to get involved.
  • Create playbooks that document best practices and help brigades step-by-step duplicate each others’ successes.

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Nina Kin, Hack for LA

I’ve been a developer in local government for 10 years and I’m an enthusiastic champion of LA’s civic tech community as a brigade co-captain.

The civic tech community is growing up, and I’m committed to helping it get there by:

Connecting people in order to strengthen interpersonal connections. With members of our community taking the lead in sharing their experiences and ideas with each other, we’ll be able to continue growing our community and increase our impact.

How will you balance your work with your local Brigade with serving on the National Advisory Council?
During the past year, I have spent considerable effort empowering our local members to take on leadership roles. At this point, I feel ready to take a step back from daily operations in order to focus on our overall strategy instead.

What’s your favorite strategy you’ve used to build a more diverse and inclusive local Brigade?

My favorite and most effective strategy for building a diverse and inclusive local brigade is to talk to people. I talk to people at a wide variety of events — tech, programming, data science, GIS, government, non-profit, civic, etc. — so that I meet a wide variety of people to invite to hack nights. I talk to people at hack nights so that I can make sure their needs are being met and exemplify the type of supportive community we work to build.

What should the National Advisory Council accomplish in the next year?
The NAC should work on strengthening the brigade network and encouraging brigade-to-brigade interaction, rather than only a top-down approach to communication.

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Voting for the National Advisory Council ends February 9th! Brigade members can vote by going to the ballot here.