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Code For America Nudges Civic Coders With Launch Of CfA Brigades

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Tuesday, March 13 2012

Civic hacking group Code for America unveiled its project to foster higher levels of digital civic engagement on Tuesday when it unveiled its Code for America Brigade web page. The site encourages people interested in writing apps revolving around civic life to network and to work together on a volunteer basis -- in the same spirit as they would as members of local volunteer fire brigades.

"We'll hook you up with apps that other people have already started," said Jennifer Pahlka, Code for America's founder and executive director during her keynote at SXSW on Tuesday. "You don't need to write the first line of code when writing civic apps: There's ton of work that's already out there, and you can leverage their work."

Coders interested in creating apps for their city can type in the name of their city to find a few apps that have already been created. Or alternatively they can click on an app to discover a project they could adapt for their own city. And they can look up others and list themselves on the site as interested in working on projects. Pahlka encouraged members of the public to start a brigade in their town or city if one doesn't already exist. People can also create challenges. So far, there's a request for a real-time bus app for Norfolk, Virginia, and a rather broad request to map neighborhoods in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The project was the work of Kevin Curry, CfA's program director, and Jack Madans, CfA's program coordinator.