Change by Us Seattle User No. 1

Photo of Jonathan Chen, manager of Danny Woo Garden

Jonathan Chen, manager of Danny Woo Garden is our user No. 1.

Today the Code for America Seattle team has two big announcements.

The first is that this morning we launched a beta version of Change by Us Seattle, a new application to support volunteerism.

Change by Us is an online marketplace for community projects. The idea behind Change by Us is to empower neighbors in Seattle to coordinate offline efforts to make their city better — from building a skate park to cleaning up their street to hosting a block party. The site allows you to build teams, promote your project, and connect with other community leaders who can point you in the right direction — to the right grants, resources and people.

Change by Us originally launched in New York in July as a project by Local Projects, a New York-based media design firm, and CEOs for Cities, a national urban advocacy non-profit. Code for America fellows are helping to standardize the site to bring it to more cities and add new features, the first of which, “needs,” a way for organizers to post requests for people and stuff, made its debut this morning.

There will be many more updates to between now and the end of our fellowship, which is why we are calling it a beta launch. From time to time, things might be a little wonky on the site as we make improvements, and we hope that anyone who signs up will alert us to any of their thoughts or concerns by emailing us at [email protected]

The second big announcement is that Jonathan Chen, who runs an urban community garden in Seattle, became user No. 1.

We found Chen and Danny Woo Garden on a citywide tour of community gardens. Danny Woo is a robust acre-and-a-half of sunflowers, bamboo, lettuces, tomatoes, raspberries and narrow footpaths to nearly 100 garden plots maintained by volunteers.

Chen is responsible for coordinating scores of volunteers and also led the effort for the latest addition to the garden: a children’s garden featuring more than 10 chickens and a chicken coop designed by local kids. The idea is that welcoming chickens are a way to engage kids with thinking about the origins of their food, a sustainable means of producing fertilizer and an attraction to increase foot traffic in an open, urban farm, that, from time to time, attracts unwanted trouble from passers by.

Starting the coop took some effort and a lot of support.

“The biggest thing that helped us were connections,” Chen told me. “We’ve got the first chicken operation in a Seattle community garden in Seattle in order to push this forward, we had to work with a lot of people to get a lot of support and a lot of backing.”

His friend recently made a video announcing the new coop:

Chen’s project on Change by Us is an extension of this concept: He wants to create an outdoor kitchen complete with a cob oven, a gas stove, a washing station, and food preparation tables to establish a seed-to-plate curriculum for the Danny Woo Children’s Garden. His “need?” Two volunteer Cob Oven Design/Builders to gather and user community input to design the oven on Sept. 12.

We feel so fortunate to have Chen as user No. 1 and wish him the best of luck on his awesome project and look forward to hearing about young chefs baking fresh vegetable pizzas in the heart of Seattle’s chinatown. Chen is what our Change by Us project is all about: getting people together to do big things. We think it’s a sign of good things to come.

The site is live and anyone can join. Be our User No. 2: Our video tutorials are available on Vimeo.

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