So far in Support Squads
Words by Lorin Camargo • Dec 7 2021
Code for All’s new program brings people together who work similar civic tech roles, but at different organizations and in different parts of the world.
Where it all began
A lot of small organizations have mighty teams of one.
When I started working at Code for All, we were just a team of three and I was the sole person handling communications for the network. I was a “comms team of one”. This meant I had a lot of room for creative freedom, but it also left me wishing I had other comms people around to ask feedback and advice from.
Our Director at the time, Kelly Halseth, noticed this and realized this was probably the case with many of our member organizations as well, since many of these organizations have small, busy teams.
We started brainstorming how we might fill this gap and landed on the idea for some sort of mutual mentorship program – a space where people who are working similar roles in the field of civic tech, but at different organizations and in different parts of the world, could get together, swap advice, and support each other.
Getting off the ground
We came up with an initial concept and brought it to our members to ask for their feedback. With their input, the concept evolved into what we now call Support Squads.
The current concept is this:
We have “squads”, or groups, that meet virtually to discuss specific topics relevant to their roles in civic tech.
Each squad is specific to a particular role or discipline. For example, one of our squads is the “Communications & Marketing” squad – it brings people together who do communications-type work at different civic tech organizations.
Squads meet regularly, and each meeting focuses on a specific topic relevant to the squad’s discipline; for example, our first Communications & Marketing squad meeting was a roundtable to discuss challenges and successes around marketing campaigns.
The more we run these meetings and gather feedback from squad members, the more this concept will shift and evolve to better meet the needs of our network. Everything from the type of squads, design of events, and modes of connecting are subject to change and develop over time.
Once we had the pilot concept mapped out, we needed to decide which disciplines our squads would focus on. To figure this out, we went to our members and asked which squads they would be most interested in joining. After tallying up their responses, we landed on four initial groups.
> Program Management & Direction
This squad is all about bringing program managers and directors within the civic tech sector together. During our first meeting this year, we had civic techies attend from Germany, Pakistan, Sweden, Nigeria, Taiwan, and South Africa. Discussion was focused around what successful program management looks like and evolved into a conversation around the importance of community engagement to running successful civic tech programs.
> Funding & Partnerships
This squad is all about bringing civic tech folk together whose focus is on funding and partnerships. During our first meeting held this year, we had attendees join in from Kenya, Canada, Nigeria, Taiwan, and South Africa. Discussion was focused on best practices for “selling civic tech” to potential funders and partners.
> Communications & Marketing
This squad is all about bringing communications folk together who are working within the realm of civic tech. During our first meeting held this year, we had civic techies attend from Pakistan, Kenya, Canada, México and South Africa. Discussion was focused around the challenges of marketing civic tech, what makes marketing campaigns successful, and tips for improving campaigns.
> Product Design
This squad is all about bringing product designers together who are working in the field of civic tech. During our first meeting held this year, we had folks join in from the UK and South Africa. Conversation was centered on best practices for user-centered design while working remotely and with citizens.
Currently, this program is exclusive to Code for All member organizations. If you’re interested in the program but are not part of one of our member organizations, you can find out more about joining the network here.
We’ll be hosting Support Squad meetings and events every two months or so, depending on the demand of each squad. We hope to see you there!