April is National Volunteer Month and right now it’s National Volunteer Week. The point of “National…Month/Week/Day” recognitions like this is, well, recognition. Volunteers give their time every day. It’s now time to say, Thank You. And, we best honor our volunteers when we can tell them, and everyone, “Here’s what your contributions did last year to make a difference.”
April 2012 was when we launched the Brigade, our national program specifically of, by and for civic tech volunteers. In our first year we forged our identity, organized a network of civic tech volunteers across the country, and set out with them to design and implement patterns for the civic web.
Our goal is a role — to establish the role of civic tech volunteers in a model digital city. Our model digital city has made the changes needed in government, technology, business, and citizenship to operate effectively in the age of the internet.
Here’s some of what we’ve done toward that goal since April 2012
- Connected 1800 people, growing at about 25 per week, to a national network of, by, and for civic tech volunteers
- Twenty cities began meeting regularly, at least once per month, but most meet weekly
- There are Brigade Meetups every Tuesday and Wednesday night, somewhere in America
- Numerous open source, civic tech apps were redeployed — 45 we’re aware of
- Thousands of datasets were made more accessible online
- Scores of representatives from dozens of municipal governments opened up to our community and created with us a new form of civic engagement
It’s not all been roses but it’s all been worthwhile. Not all 45 apps are going to make it and for different reasons but every deployment is local experience. Not every Brigade is getting the help it needs so we’re bringing in reinforcements and the members of our growing community are starting to help one another. Throughout all of it our members have stuck with us and made us better, together.
Thank you, Brigade.
Time and again I hear the refrain from volunteers that they want to code for purpose. At Code for America we are building infrastructure to help them do that as much as they want. We have great partners, too, who help provide rewarding experiences for civic tech volunteers and the people they serve. Special shout out to Smart Chicago Collaborative for launching the Civic User Testing Group. The Group actually pays $5 to users who test software and the program is administered by a paid staff at Smart Chicago. Implementing test campaigns, however, requires volunteers.
By the way, you can share your stories of civic tech volunteerism on your Brigade Tumblr: