Building a Better Place to Collaborate Online

At Open Charlotte our Community Action Nights are where the magic happens; members of the community just like you get together to share and work on their visions for tools and processes that will make life better for the people of our city and sometimes even the nation.

We love seeing everyone get together in person but we’ve also noticed our Tuesday evening events can present a barrier to entry.

We love seeing everyone get together in person but we’ve also noticed our Tuesday evening events can present a barrier to entry. Some volunteers opt to call-in from home to collaborate with their project teams while others may struggle to even get that far. As believers that government and community resources should be open, accessible and friendly to all residents, we want to make sure that we as a platform for that mission are open as well so we’re experimenting with some new online tooling to get there.


Laddr — A hub for what’s happening in our Brigade

With our ongoing transformation from “Code for Charlotte” to “Open Charlotte Brigade,” we’re focused more than ever on improving the accessibility of our projects and organization to more than coders. We determined we need a central “hub” to see the action and overall make-up of our brigade.

We’re focused more than ever on improving the accessibility of our projects and organization to more than coders.

Enter Laddr (pronounced “ladder”), a tool developed by the team at Code for Philly to do just that! Laddr lets brigade members create a profile to share their skills and topics of interest as well as find and share projects and project updates. New members looking for a project to work on can search the project list using filters like “topics, “technologies,” and “development stages,” and figure out which brigade members to contact about them. And, if you’re still looking for a project to work on, Laddr is open source just like all of our brigade projects and your contributions to it will help propel a number of Code for America brigades around the nation forward!

Laddr lets brigade members create a profile to share their skills and topics of interest as well as find and share projects and project updates.

You can find our Laddr site here: https://brigade.opencharlotte.org/


The new Open Charlotte Forums

While we use and believe that Slack is a great tool for in-the-moment conversations, we and other brigades around the Code for America network have seen many important decisions and details about projects get lost in an endless sea of chat history. At last year’s annual Code for America Brigade Congress, many brigades shared the same vision that Slack is not a good place for documentation to end up.

At last year’s annual Code for America Brigade Congress, many brigades shared the same vision that Slack is not a good place for documentation to end up.

At Open Charlotte, we graciously received a license from Atlassian for the brigade to use Confluence thinking that tools used for work would prove best for our volunteers, but it has proved to be a little too intimidating for some, and it also feels disconnected from the rest of our tools.

Following the lead of other brigades we have decided to try the forum software Discourse. Discourse is fast, easy to use, and provides plenty of tools for every kind of relevant brigade discussion from project decisions to documentation articles that any team member can edit. Its design also offers high visibility into recent activity as well as discussion categorization making it easy to use, and we also feel it gives our leadership team a platform to share organizational updates and include the entire brigade in planning and decisions. We’re looking forward to you joining us on our forum here (you can log in with your Laddr account!) and we’d love your feedback on how we can improve and shape the nature of discussion on our forum and strengthen our community even further.


We hope these new tools will be a great way for our brigade members to engage each other, share updates, and celebrate victories together both during and outside of our Community Action Nights.

If you’d like to share your thoughts on how we can better work together and continue to make our brigade more accessible, leave us a comment below or share your thoughts on the forum! We would also love to see you at our next Leadership & Brigade Planning Meeting!