It was nearly four years ago to the day that after having first heard about Code for America, I quickly dropped CfA’s Founder Jennifer Pahlka a note asking to be involved. Fascinated, I was hoping to volunteer for the summer after graduating before starting at Google that autumn. Needless to say, I never went to Google, and three months turned into nearly four years — it’s been a privilege.
Back then, CfA was a bold idea, with a small team and tons of work to do. I remember first meeting Tim O’Reilly in our makeshift offices, when I was laying out recruitment flyers and he was hanging up whiteboards. Code for America then was just like any young organization: a small and scrappy startup, made up of good people with grand ambitions.
Four years later, that hasn’t changed. But the idea has truly taken on a life of its own: from a handful of cities to hundreds; from a few startups and hackers to hundreds and thousands; from theories of change to communities of practice; and from questions of “what if” to “what’s next.”
It has been amazing to sit courtside and watch this movement of people who give a damn show up and get to work. Beyond the impact we have had in reinvigorating belief in our public institutions, are the deep and meaningful relationships we have forged as an organization, as friends, and as a movement.
These relationships matter more than any single app or outcome, because they model the values that we have for our public institutions: networked and open; good humored; and biased towards action. Relationships and values that last.
It’s time now from me to step back from my role at CfA and explore what I’m up for next in this space; to reflect on these long four years, to read, to write, and to try new things.
I leave with a firm belief that the organization is in the most capable hands. Bob Sofman, my co-director and dear friend, has a team in place that is world class — and fun. To them, to the inspirational Jen, Tim, and board, and to all of you from whom I’ve learned so much these past four years: thank you.
In the near term I’m off to the Midwest to spend some time with my family and travel a bit — something like that extended vacation I never took. More soon, and you can always find me @abhinemani.
In departing, I wanted to share what I’ve learned about coding for America. At the end of the day, it’s not merely about technology and cities; instead it is about the optimism technology confers and the meaning that cities make us crave. What defines this movement is an unyielding belief in the possible. A constant and a fervent desire to try new things, to push new boundaries, to do important work. That’s rare, and that’s special.
With that — and all else — onwards.
Questions? Comments? Hit us up @codeforamerica.