code for america · Social Entrepreneurship

Does Code for America (CFA) produce any scalable models or products?

Rachel Zheng Business Development Manager at Honyee Media

March 25th, 2015

I've heard great things about Code for America (CFA) and their work with city governments, but it feels largely like a consulting project model. Are they producing any processes, products, APIs, etc. that can be shared so that either other cities are more easily able to solve their problems and/or so that social entrepreneurs could more easily help (e.g. if there were APIs)?

Christian Crumlish Product at 7cups.com

March 25th, 2015

Yes. I'll have to track down the details but I believe all the civic projects produce open source tools and methods that are made available to other cities, etc.

In the past year Lane Becker joined as head of product and Michal Migurski came over from Stamen Design, which to me are both signals about getting serious about deriving products from the fellowship projects. 

There is also an accelerator at CfA (for which I am a mentor) that supports civic-oriented startups. 

David Schwartz Multi-Platform (Desktop+Mobile) Rapid Prototyping + Dev, Tool Dev

March 26th, 2015

I went through the process of applying to be a Fellow with them, and made it through the 3rd round. From what I gathered, their objective is to focus on projects that are highly generalizable. That is, they won't greenlight a project that's so specific it only benefits a specific client. They want projects that can be adapted for lots of municipalities. One example I recall was a database that was used to track fire hydrants somewhere. In a general sense, it's a simple inventory type of app where you can track just about anything that's fixed -- like parking spaces, parking meters, signs, garages, buildings, street lights, billboards, whatever. Their developers create open-source solutions with adequate documentation that can be used by others to adopt and adapt the code as needed.

So to answer your question, yes, AFAIK their goal is to ensure that 100% of the work their Fellows do is transferrable to LOTS of other municipalities. That's probably why they call themselves "coding for AMERICA", vs. "coding for Camp Verde, AZ".