Helen Conaghan: Why I’m Coding for America

I first became familiar with Code for America while interning for the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C. Jen Pahlka and Abhi Nemani came to speak with us. I loved the work that I was exposed to at Brookings and wanted to discover how I could get more involved with city improvement projects on the ground.

Now, I’ve never been the most tech savvy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not as bad as my grandparents who use their iPad as a coffee coaster. It’s just that the world of coding seemed intimidating and foreign to me. Until Jen’s talk, I thought there was no place for a government and French double major from a liberal arts college such as myself in the tech world. The advancements made in technology over recent years regarding applications to policy, government, and overarching bureaucratic work got me quickly hooked on the mission of CfA.

I’m coding for America because I want to help the team redefine how citizens take ownership of their government. Jen said that it’s bureaucracy, and not politics, that we have to make sexy. That’s the key: teasing out anecdotal stories of the changes “we the people” are taking charge of in our cities, on our streets, with our neighbors, and making that the dinner table conversation topic. When Jen spoke of the “Adopt-a-Hydrant” project and how projects like these are trending through our nations cities, I wanted to know more and get involved. So did the person sitting next to me. And the person sitting next to him. With the excitement and freshness that CfA brings to the world of bureaucracy, let’s all get on board and work with our government, rather than against it.

Questions? Comments? Hit us up @codeforamerica.

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