$1M investment will help Brigades in Miami, Charlotte, Detroit, Philadelphia, San Jose, St. Paul and Boulder build sustainable business models for civic technology.
MIAMI – May 11, 2021 – Code for America will strengthen the business models and practices of local technology Brigades chapters in seven U.S. cities with an investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
The $1 million investment will help these Brigades deliver impact and create a blueprint for success in their communities by developing and bolstering revenue streams that support their civic technology missions in each community, as well as implementing practices that help with recruitment and management for the volunteer technologists who power the organization.
The five-year commitment brings Knight’s investment in Code for America and its mission to nearly $10 million since 2010. Code for America’s mission is to build a network of cities, citizens, community groups and startups committed to using digital technology to help the government work better for everyone.
Knight’s latest investment will focus on strengthening Brigades in Miami, Charlotte, Va., Detroit, Philadelphia, San Jose, Calif., St. Paul, Minn. and Boulder, Co. — all cities where the Knight brothers once published newspapers and where the Foundation continues to operate.
While Brigades have a longstanding history in these communities, much of the work has been volunteer-led and subject to a natural waning of engagement. This new investment will give local tech Brigade leaders training to support volunteer engagement, mobilization and retention; increase grassroots fundraising; and experiment with new revenue models. They will also be given technical tools and project-management support to carry out new projects and build a blueprint of sustainable models that better integrate Brigades into local civic tech ecosystems.
“Code for America is the preeminent organization that promotes resident-driven government in the digital age,” said Lilian Coral, Knight’s director of national strategy and technology innovation. “Their efforts to create successful community-led systems that support technology innovation has been successful. The opportunity before us is to support the Brigades, so that they can be resilient and sustainable in improving how the government serves the public in a digital society.”
There are now 25,000 Code for America volunteers in 85 chapters that cover 41 states, working together to identify priority issues for the Network and create digital solutions that can be replicated across communities. Brigades bring together community organizers, developers and designers to collaborate with local government and community partners to build new tools that help address local civic issues.
In 2020, a year of multiple crises, local Brigades led numerous efforts in response to the pandemic by developing more than 100 COVID-19-specific projects and 307 total projects that reached 5 million people and directly served over 700,000. “They help make government services more accessible and easier for people to understand and use — which in turn, help make citizens more informed and engaged,” Coral said.
“All levels of government in the digital age should work for the people and by the people to build strong and resilient communities,” Code for America CEO Amanda Renteria said. “The Knight Foundation’s latest commitment allows us to continue to meet community needs and build local capacity for our Brigade volunteers to do the important work of advancing the digital practices that will benefit the public.”
Brigades in communities where Knight operates have emerged as particularly effective examples of this model. For example, the Code for South Florida Brigade in Miami supported the creation and scaling of GetYourRefund.org, a free, accessible and reliable digital tax assistance tool for English and Spanish speaking families with low income. During the 2020 tax season, GetYourRefund helped more than 30,000 families and helped distribute over $62 million in tax benefits.
Knight’s latest commitments for Code for America are part of its ongoing Smart Cities investments that harness the growth in digital technology to enable more informed and engaged communities. Cities that put residents first in designing and shaping technology will ultimately implement technology that’s most impactful, inclusive and accessible to all residents.
Beginning on May 12, Code for America will be hosting a two-day virtual summit that brings changemakers into one room ― public servants, advocates, technologists and organizers — who break through some of governments’ biggest challenges by removing barriers and expanding government access to equitably serve all Americans. The summit will feature dozens of keynotes, breakout sessions and workshops. Register here.
About Code for America
Code for America, a nonprofit founded in 2009, believes that government can work for the people, and by the people, in the digital age. We work with government at all levels across the country to make the delivery of public services equitable with technology. Together with thousands of volunteers across over 80 Brigade chapters in the U.S., we work with community organizations and governments to build digital tools, change policies, and improve programs. Our goal: a resilient government that effectively and equitably serves all Americans. Learn more at codeforamerica.org.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit kf.org.
Knight Foundation: Kenny Ma, Communications Director, 305-546-5553, [email protected]
Code for America: Dominique Mann, Associate Director, Program Communications, [email protected]
Image (top) by Code for America.