The City of Northfield catches flack from time to time about the city website, ffailure to employ social media, lack of transparency in government, and other “failure to communicate” issues. And we worry about how to involve citizens in the work of the city through boards and commissions, volunteer opportunities, etc.
So, here’s an idea to address all these issues at once: Code for America:
Working with city managers, we help to identify projects that can benefit from web-based solutions. Code for America recruits both the development teams and the participating cities through competitive application processes. Once identified and funded, each city project is connected with a web development team that can further scope the project, develop an action plan, and deliver an appropriate solution over an 11-month development cycle. Throughout the development cycle, CFA mentors, trains, and coordinates the teams and facilitates their relationships with their city management clients.
The applications that Code for America fellows build fit a certain model: 1) They are web applications – think Facebook, Yelp, Zillow, or Picnik; 2) They will enable cities to connect with their constituents in ways that reduce administrative costs and engage citizens more effectively; 3) They support the move toward transparency and collaboration; 4) and finally, they are shareable – which means that an application built for one city can be used by any other city.
Fundamentally, it’s all about helping American cities use web technology to do a better job of providing services to citizens.