Welcoming Code for Canada

 

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Today we are pleased to welcome Code for Canada as a governing partner of the Code for All Network.

We’ve been meeting Code for Canada folks at civic tech conferences for some time now. Apart from connecting existing civic tech community groups in Canad, and helping to start new ones, they’ve also launched an exciting fellowship program in a partnership with various Canadian governments.

Code for Canada launched in April 2017, and they’re working hard to deliver three different initiatives:

  1. Fellowship Program – embedding digital professionals inside government so they can use their skills for social impact
  2. Civic Tech Community Program – helping to build and grow this community in Canada
  3. Education and Training Program – building public servants’ digital skills to help them integrate technology in their work

For details, let’s give floor to Gabe Sawhney, the co-founder and Executive Director of Code for Canada:

We’re thrilled to welcome Code for Canada to Code for All. Having them on board strengthens our entire network. As a governing partner, they will help us forge new bonds in the international civic tech community, and add to the common knowledge base demonstrating how digital technology opens new channels for citizens to meaningfully engage in the public sphere and have a positive impact on their communities.

To learn more about Code for Canada, visit their website, subscribe to their newsletter, or check out their blog.

Our Code of Conduct

The Code for All community expects that Code for All network activities, events, and digital forums:

  1. Are a safe and respectful environment for all participants.
  2. Are a place where people are free to fully express their identities.
  3. Presume the value of others. Everyone’s ideas, skills, and contributions have value.
  4. Don’t assume everyone has the same context, and encourage questions.
  5. Find a way for people to be productive with their skills (technical and not) and energy. Use language such as “yes/and”, not “no/but.”
  6. Encourage members and participants to listen as much as they speak.
  7. Strive to build tools that are open and free technology for public use. Activities that aim to foster public use, not private gain, are prioritized.
  8. Prioritize access for and input from those who are traditionally excluded from the civic process.
  9. Work to ensure that the community is well-represented in the planning, design, and implementation of civic tech. This includes encouraging participation from women, minorities, and traditionally marginalized groups.
  10. Actively involve community groups and those with subject matter expertise in the decision-making process.
  11. Ensure that the relationships and conversations between community members, the local government staff and community partners remain respectful, participatory, and productive.
  12. Provide an environment where people are free from discrimination or harassment.

Members of the community reserve the right to ask anyone in violation of these policies not to participate in Code for All network activities, events, and digital forums.

Code for All is a non-partisan non-political organization and it will not be associated with any political party.  

Code for All creates open source products. No contributor who participated in a project can be the owner of the end result.

This is based on Code for America’s CoC and Code for Romania’s CoC.

 

Welcoming New Members: Taiwan and Romania

Governments are facing enormous pressure to deliver for their citizens today. Our network has been supporting an international community of technologists and their government partners to share knowledge, code and resources with each other to help governments meet this challenge.

Today, we are pleased to welcome Code for Taiwan and Code for Romania to our community as governing partners of the Code for All Network.

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Code for Taiwan (g0v.tw), with 200 active members and an online community of more than 2500, has been pushing for information transparency in Taiwan for the last five years. The community organized around economic policy issues debated in Taiwan in 2012. Their first event, the g0v.tw hackathon, led to the development of more than fifty projects and collaboration with government agencies and civil society organizations. Code for Taiwan has since partnered with various offices of the Taiwanese government and civil society organizations to organize hackathons and other civic tech projects.

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Code for Romani (code4.ro) recruits Romania’s tech talent to tackle the country’s most challenging citizen engagement and government transparency problems. Since 2015, Code for Romania’s 17-person team have been working with more than 200 volunteers and four brigade teams in the country to launch ambitious civic tech projects including tools that have supported election monitoring efforts and helped European Union asylum seekers to integrate with their community. Code for Romania partner with national agencies and ministries and civil society to develop data-driven products.  

Check out their work, and stay tuned for more updates from Code for All!

Welcome to the new Code for All Blog

You might have noticed that we’ve revamped the Code for All site to include a blog so that we can share stories of civic innovation from around the world.

As Code for All starts its fourth year, we want to be more proactive in helping to share what we’ve achieved.

We’ll also be inviting people from Code for All Chapters to write to the blog as well.

In the meantime, you can follow us on our Twitter and Facebook pages!

 

Creating Structural Change in Government

At the Code for All SummitZack Brisson from Reboot moderated a panel with Sheba Najmi (Code for Pakistan), Jakub Górnicki (Code for Poland), Alvaro Maz (Code for Australia), Kat Townsend (USAID) about how strong relationships can be built with public-sector institutions.

Building these relationships and developing trust with government partners is often the hardest part of our work. During the panel, Code for Pakistan, Australia and Poland shared learnings on how to build strong relationships with government partners and how to drive structural change within institutions.

The first question for the panel was directed at USAID’s Kat Townsend about what she’s learned from having seen the difficult process of government reforms play out and what she’s learned in terms of what really gets stuff done.

Townsend breaks the answer down into three parts: Policy Change, Cultural Change, and Infrastructure. Townsend recommends having small wins and prototypes that can provide your team examples you can replicate.

Townsend also says that everyone needs a one-pager – a single page that can summarize your case studies in such a way that they can be plugged in directly to speeches. Internally, make sure others can evangelize your message by giving them tools and products they can share with others.

Townsend also states that teams must get a policy in place, but cautions that people won’t pay attention to a policy alone. Civic innovators need to explain and determine what the barriers to the work are and understand why people don’t see the benefits and what motivates people within the org. In a lot of nonprofits and government agencies, people sign up because they want to help people. If you can appeal to the mission, people will jump on it right away.

With infrastructure, a lot of the open data projects require tech infrastructure – but reporting on progress has to be set up too.

The next question was about how to address the need for political cover. Sheba Najmi of Code for Pakistan talked about how the most traction they’ve gotten has been in Pakistan’s KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) province.

The KP province is consistently in the news for being a dangerous place to be because of the Taliban’s activities there. When a new government took charge in KP province, they had the political will to prove themselves. Code for Pakistan partnered with the new government and the World Bank to run a civic hackathon. Code for Pakistan was able to broker the relationship, and the World Bank added more legitimacy to the effort.

Code for Pakistan’s fellowship program was spun off from the hackathon where they partnered with the government IT board. Sheba says that was great because of the relationships that the IT board in KP province had with IT departments from other governments. Together, they created a six month fellowship (5 projects) in partnership with different departments. During the fellowship, they built a lot of trust by doing simple things like fixing printers and monitors. The team then used that trust to convince the government to hire an operational officer equivalent to a chief technology officer.

Sheba says that building a relationship with government is a gradual process and that organizations should partner with bigger organizations with existing relationships with government.

Jakub Górnicki from Code for Poland spoke about how their cities program started because one person in the City of Gdansk knew of Code for Poland (and that they weren’t crazy) and trusted them to do it. Code for Poland ran a pilot program (which was successful) and turned it from the trust phase to the build phase. After that, the team asked the mayor to help pitch Code for Poland’s program – helping Code for Poland grow. Jakub says that having mayor’s speaking on the city side is the place you want to be. You just have to not screw up.

Another aspect of Code for Poland’s work is to try and  get elected officials to embed openness into their campaigns. One of the goals is to to make openness a competitive political asset.

Jakub noted that one of the aspects about the projects in Gdańsk was they had to be open source. This was a challenge for Code for Poland because they had to explain the benefit of open source despite vendors claiming it ti be more expensive.

One question that Zach had for Code for Australia was how they defined ‘innovation’. Code for Australia’s Alvaro Maz described innovation as a good hack without the technical component. – doing something differently, and you find that you change things a little more, work through the issues, and make  progress that way. When Alvaro talks to people about innovation in government, he’s often speaking from a small steps perspective. He says, “If it’s something that we find that we can do differently, but it’s just doing something under the label of innovation, that’s just doing our work. I don’t think it’s really solving the problem.”

Sheba says that technology can either build or reduce trust – If done right, (where’s my bus, 311 service tracker) it builds trust. However, technology done badly – such as citizen reporting apps that don’t close the loop and alert the city to an issue – can reduce trust.

Zach also asked if – knowing the political resistance to releasing expenditure data – how would the process be different if they had started with that? Jakub states that they didn’t start with the capital because capital cities tend to be more political focused while smaller cities are more interested in governance. This led to focusing on the business case for open data.

Katie Townsend recommends starting with a problem – What are the tools? What are the resources? Who are the people? – and being very steady and methodical.

Code for Australia had one of their fellowship teams do a project where it was only research because the government didn’t have enough funding for an entire project. The team conducted their research through an entrepreneurial  focus within government and they wanted to study the longevity of that problem.

Katie Townsend also says that one of the things that they at USAID was state that because everyone is online and has their own social media profile, the organization can’t expect every message to go through 15 layers of approval because the internet simply moves too quickly.

Jakub ends the panel by saying that there are times where you can’t get the government on your side – in which case get the people on your side.

You can watch the whole panel here.

Code for Australia Spotlight at the Code for All Summit

Code for Australia is a passionate and skilled community that works with government to develop tech-based solutions to solve civic-problems. Through their work, Code for Australia believes they can lend not only their voices, but their hands to drive collaboration and transparency, accelerate economic growth and reanimate citizenship.

Code for Australia is led by a managing director Alvaro Maz, community organizing director Jacob Lindsay, and technical maestro Chris D’Aloisio.

Code for Australia has three main programs that they use to help government. Here’s Alvaro to explain:

Melbourne Data

The first program is their Fellowship program. Steve Bennet is Code for Australia’s data guru in residence and worked with the City of Melbourne to help populate a data portal that was going to be used primarily for research purposes. While doing that Steve blogged about his experiences and helped to create Melbourne.yuri.io – a site that helps people access interesting data from the city even if they are not familiar with working with data.

GovHack

Another program that Code for Australia supports is GovHack – ran in part by Code for Australia’s Coder Girls. Gov Hack is an annual hackathon focused on government. GovHack has grown from a small event in 2009, to a volunteer run and community driven annual event! It grew from a 2 city event in 2012, an 8 city event in 2013 and a national 11 city event with over 1300 participants and observers in 2014! This year, GovHack went international with cities in New Zealand joining the event.

Incubator Projects

Code for Australia is also worked to help incubate several apps to help support the work of government. The teams worked with a number of local government on civic technology projects including helping the New South Wales Department of Education to create a better way to help parents find public schools, an app to help people become aware of nearby rhinos.

You can find our more about Code of Australia on their website or by following them on Twitter @CodeofAus.

Code for South Africa Spotlight at the Code for All Summit

Code for South Africa is a non-profit that promotes informed decision making by using data, tools and tech to drive social change.  The group works mainly with media, civil society, communities, and government and has a team of ten people.

The team is based out of Claremont, South Africa and is in it’s second year. They work out of the CodeBridge co-working space which is literally under a bridge.

Code for South Africa doesn’t do hackathons, but rather data quests as they feel that hackathons tend to get too technical. During these data quests, they get together and tell stories using data.

Here’s Code for South Africa’s lead technologist to explain:

One of their projects was working with Black Sash – an anti-apartheid and social justice organization. The team put together a tool to monitor social service payouts from the state. The team also worked with Black Sash to engage the community about the user experience of receiving state payouts. They were then able to go back to their government partner and get the two sides to talk and find ways to improve the process.

Another big impact the Code for South Africa had was the creation of the Living Wage Calculator to help people make informed decision about how much to pay domestic workers.

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Another project that Code for South Africa is involved in is digital literacy by training community service organizations in working with data. Most of the projects that Code for South Africa produces have some sort of community service organization involvement.

This year, Code for South Africa will be running a data journalism school as well.

To find out more information about Code for South Africa you can visit their website at http://code4sa.org/ or follow them on Twitter at @code4sa.

Code for All is an international network of organizations who believe that digital technology opens new channels for citizens to more meaningfully engage in the public sphere and have a positive impact on their communities.