If the web
of the 2000s was social, the web of this next decade will be civic. Every time you “like” something on Facebook, you’re voting. And it only takes a click of a mouse to sign a petition on Twitter. But what if this kind of civic action can spill off the network and into local government and our neighborhoods?
If Jennifer Pahlka, the entrepreneur behind Code for America, has her way, that’s precisely what will happen. A nonprofit inspired in part by Teach for America, Code plans to bring developers and city governments together to rebuild America, one civic software project at a time. As the website says, “what if, instead of cutting services or raising taxes, cities could leverage the power of the web to become more efficient, transparent, and participatory?”
Here’s how it works: Cities apply to the program with a specific project and if they are chosen, Code for America recruits a team of web developers, designers, and product managers with the right skills to build the project over the course of 11 months. At the end of the year, the code they’ve written is made available to any other local government that want to use it.
And it’s not just developers whose energy Code for America will tap. The projects are designed to promote citizen participation. If you think of a neighborhood as a patient, Code for America is trying to provide preventive care to keep him out of the emergency room.
This article first appeared in The GOOD Guide to Better Neighborhoods. You can read more of the guide here, or you can read more of the GOOD Neighborhoods Issue here.
Illustration by Trevor Burks.