The 2019 Brigade Network Census
Strengthening the Network while ensuring inclusion and representation
(This piece was co-authored with Janet Michaelis)
At Code for America, we work every day to make sure all the voices in the room are heard, listened to, and are part of the participatory process. If we are going to make government work for everyone in the digital age, we have to make sure that a diverse set of voices and perspectives are shaping the conversation. We are continuously striving to ensure that diversity and inclusion principles are effectively incorporated into our work, and to push the envelope in these areas in the tech space. This year, Code for America is committed to publishing a diversity and inclusion report where we will take a deep dive into the demographics of the organization and map trends back to our diversity and inclusion goals. But we’re mindful that our work is not just about Code for America staff or the products we build in-house. Our national network is critical in putting technology to work to help government better serve people in communities across the country — thanks, in large part, to the incredible reach of the Brigade Network. To support our efforts to ensure that these diversity, equity, and inclusion principles are also reflected in the work of all Code for America Brigades, we’ll be rolling out our first-ever Brigade Network Census this spring.
What is the Brigade Network Census and why do we need it?
The Brigade Network Census is a series of questions that we at Code for America are asking all Brigade volunteers to answer so that we can learn more about who makes up our vast and distributed community. We hope to gather information on a range of topics, such as whether we are inclusive of all genders, what kind of day jobs Brigade members hold, and whether the racial and ethnic makeup of the Network reflects the full diversity of America. The answers to these questions are critical tools that can help Brigade leaders better organize their respective Brigades, and develop strategies to ensure that all Brigade members can show up to this work as their authentic selves. Importantly, with a clearer sense of which voices we are currently bringing to the table, we can be more mindful about how to include voices that aren’t currently present.
The census is made up of fourteen questions intended to be straightforward and easy to answer. They will cover demographic information, as well as experience putting in practice the values of delivery-driven government. As we seek to change the way in which government interacts with its users (the community it represents), we must also be intentional about who is executing this work to ensure that all voices are part of transforming the system.
We recognize that gathering this information is also a priority for many of you. At Brigade Congress, our yearly conference of Brigade members and leaders, many attendees highlighted the need to see increased diversity in the Brigades and Brigade leadership. To support that goal, we will start by benchmarking where the Network currently stands in many facets of diversity — from there, we can assess and continue to broaden the range of voices included in our space. It is a priority for us to ensure that our Network reflects the communities where we work and live, and those which we represent.
How was the census created?
Like Code for America’s vision for service delivery, the process for creating the census was user-centered, iterative, and values-driven. We employed best practices for surveying and received feedback from a broad range of voices inside and outside of Code for America. We started with input from those best qualified to represent the needs of the Network — the National Advisory Council. From there, Code for America’s Diversity and Inclusion committee and executive leadership team helped us iterate. We also consulted an external Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion expert. Code for America’s data science team was integral in ensuring that census data will remain secure and confidential. It was important to us to bring all of these voices into the room to execute a thorough and inclusive data collection process.
The census will be included in the ballot for our National Advisory Council (NAC) elections, and then distributed to the entire Brigade Network in March. If you want to learn more about the process of creating the census or how it will be deployed, you can find further information in this FAQ document. We will also be providing many ways for Brigade members and leaders to learn more about the census, including a virtual information session next Monday, February 4. We will discuss the creation of the census and what it means for the network, and answer questions. We look forward to seeing you there!
It’s our hope that members of our community will be champions of the census in their respective Brigades so we can work together to make our community accessible, inclusive, and effective. We’re grateful to the entire Network for your commitment to this important work.