The USDR team at a recent retreat

Responding at the speed of need: Three years of U.S. Digital Response

U.S. Digital Response
U.S. Digital Response
3 min readMar 16, 2023


A community letter from interim CEO Tina Walha

Dear USDR Community,

This time three years ago, I was on the other side of the COVID-19 response working as Director of Innovation and Performance in the City of Seattle. Across the country, teams like mine were working nights and weekends, trying to make sense of emerging news while understanding the rapidly changing needs of our communities. I was constantly stressed and worried about the uncertainty COVID-19 brought and how we could serve those that needed help the most. During a Saturday night call with Jen Pahlka, now U.S. Digital Response (USDR) board chair, she came through with these words:

“We got you.”

USDR: How Communities Responded at the Speed of Need (2021)

I slept better that night. The road ahead was long, but I know many other public servants who also did after calls with USDR. While USDR was still in its infancy, one thing was clear: at the front lines, we had help.

Three years later, USDR’s efforts to help governments respond at the speed of need haven’t slowed down.

Since our inception, USDR has focused on developing easy-to-use solutions that allow governments to amplify critical resources and services in real time. We’re constantly exploring how we can make it easier for governments to respond to the needs of their residents, and we’ve seen this come to fruition in creative ways through the work of our partners. Because of those who were not only willing to help, but were brave enough to ask for help, USDR has established itself as a nonprofit with a staff of nearly 30 full-time employees, a volunteer community of almost 8,000 handraisers, and over 250 government and other organizational partners. USDR’s projects have impacted millions of people in 37 U.S. states and territories on nearly 400 projects. You can see more in these recaps of our 2020, 2021, and 2022 year-end summaries.

I joined USDR over a year ago, in many ways thanks to our original partnership in 2020. I’ve been so inspired by everyone in our community, from partners to volunteers to ecosystem friends, to let others know we’ve “got” them too. Over the last few months as our interim CEO, I’ve seen the work from a different point of view. Crisis is still evident and impacts people in communities differently, like someone dealing with gaps in language access for unemployment assistance or smaller governments navigating the landscape of Federal grants to serve their residents. Our partners and volunteers are still eager to help, from spinning up a tool for voters to see polling place locations and wait times to working hard to ensure people’s voices are heard when designing systems. As we launch into our third year, we’re able to see the seeds we planted begin to bloom.

Through our partnerships, we have been able to provide critical tools, resources, and support to governments, enabling them to make informed decisions and take appropriate action. Today, our work is more expansive than responding to emergencies and crises. We’ve grown our work to develop sustainable solutions that address long-term challenges and build digital resilience within our communities.

As we look ahead and prepare to welcome USDR’s next long-term leader, USDR remains committed to our vision of a government that delivers for people on their most critical needs, now and into the future. Over the next few weeks, we’ll announce some great news and highlights as we welcome our next chapter. To all our incredible team members, supporters, cofounders, handraisers, partners, collaborators, and neighbors — we invite you to join us in this vital work and to help us build a better, more resilient future for all.

I want to express my deep gratitude to the community for their continued support and partnership over the past three years. We have made a real difference in our communities through our collective efforts. As I prepare to step into my full-time role as Chief Partnerships Officer and transition the CEO title to our next leader, I am confident that we will continue to respond at the speed of need.

Tina Walha
Interim CEO
U.S. Digital Response

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U.S. Digital Response
U.S. Digital Response

Connecting governments and nonprofits with pro bono technologists and assistance to quickly respond to the critical needs of the public.