What started as an attempt to put the principles of the open government movement into practice as a service year program has become a grand experiment in reimagining the citizen-government relationship for the 21st century. While we imagine a powerful new future, the engines of Code for America — the fellows who give a year of service, the hundreds of “brigade members” who volunteer in their communities, the start-ups creating innovative civic technology, and the public servants to step outside the box to partner with both — are fueled less by talk than action, drawing their power and support from an ability to turn ideas into reality in a remarkably short time. These small ad hoc groups achieve outcomes far beyond expectations because they engage stakeholders around something real, tangible, and often imperfect, offering a process for making the effort better through their involvement. It works for software but it also works for organizations, communities, and ultimately, for cities.
Code for America today consists of four programs: THE FELLOWSHIP, which engages developers, designers, and entrepreneurs in a year of service, partnered with change agents in city governments. THE BRIGADE, which supports and organizes networks of “civic hackers” and city governments around the country to open data and implement civic software applications using volunteers. THE ACCELERATOR, which identifies startup companies that are helping to build the civic ecosystem our cities need, and connects them to resources to help them succeed. And THE PEER NETWORK, launching in 2013, will formally connect and support the growing number of change agents in local government.