Code for America and the Smart Chicago Collaborative are pleased to announce that the Midwest has been selected for the first Code for America Regional Brigade Program. The Midwest Regional Brigade program will support existing Code for America brigade cities as well as work to expand the number of brigade cities in the region. The program will be led by Smart Chicago consultant and current Chicago Brigade Captain Christopher Whitaker and will be headquartered at the Smart Chicago Collaborative.
The Code for America Brigade program is an international network of people committed to using their voices and hands, in collaboration with local governments, to make their cities better. The Code for America Brigade began in late 2012 with just sixteen cities. Today, the Code for America Brigade is active in 35 cities and has organizers in 54 cities including chapters in Poland, Japan, and Ireland. A Code for America Brigade was recently launched in Rockford, Illinois as a direct result of Smart Chicago’s work with the Illinois OpenTech Challenge.
With the Code for America Brigade expanding at a rapid pace, it became apparent that there needed to be additional coordination in order to effectively manage the Brigade program.
At the last Code for America Summit in October, the idea of having regional Brigades was proposed. After months of collaboration, the Midwest was chosen as the pilot region with it’s headquarters as the Smart Chicago Collaborative. The Smart Chicago Collaborative has made significant investments in the Code for America program including:
- $300,000 grant to fund the Chicago Code for America Fellowship Program that brought Open311 to the City of Chicago.
- Tens of thousands of dollars in Code for America connected companies and projects, including LocalData, Textizen, postcode.io, AdoptA, and CivicWhitaker
- Major investments in civic developer resources including web hosting, Twilio, and Civic User Testing.
The Smart Chicago Collaborative will advise the Midwest Code for America Brigade program and will be one of the hosts for the Midwest Regional Code for America Summit later this year.
The Midwest has several advantages in terms of potential for civic innovation. Many Midwestern cities, including Chicago, Detroit, Gary, Rockford and Madison, have implemented open data policies and have open data portals up and running. We’ve directly advised many of these cities, and our Illinois Open Technology project has been a conduit for much of this energy.
Additionally, there have been countless civic apps that have originated from the Midwest cities that have been supported in some way by our organization. From small volunteer apps like the Flu Shot Finder to civic startups like LocalData, the Midwest has a large number of civic technologists working to use the data opened up by cities to improve the lives of residents. The civic scene in Chicago is particularly strong with the OpenGovHackNights, which Smart Chicago has sponsored since its inception. It has served as a model for the rest of the Brigade. We also support OpenGov Chicago meetups, which at 1.400 members is one of the largest civic innovation groups in the country.
To run the program, Code for America is hiring CivicWhitaker. Founded by Chicago Code for America Brigade Captain Christopher Whitaker, who also serves as one of the organizers of the OpenGovHack Night. Whitaker was also named a White House Champion of Change for Civic Hacking. Whitaker helps Smart Chicago run a number of programs including the Civic Works Project and National Day of Civic Hacking.
Whitaker will be working with the Code for America Brigade staff to develop a programming schedule timeline for events. For more information on the Code for America Brigade, you can visit the Brigade website.