One of our goals for this year is turning Code for DC into a nonprofit organization. We think that this will allow us to do some cool new stuff, in addition to our traditional hacknight, such as creating a civic user testing group, managing our nascent data portal, serving as a fiscal sponsor to other similarly-minded groups, and generally having more transparency around our finances.
The task has seemed daunting and progress towards it has only come in fits and starts. The basic obstacle: the application process—particularly with the District—isn’t entirely clear, which makes it difficult to see the plan from start to finish.
So, recently, we sat down and tried to put the pieces together into a coherent plan. While we aren’t sure we’ve got the steps right—or that we’ve got them all—we thought we’d share what we’ve learned now in the hopes that it can help others along the way. We’re also hoping to shine a little light on the unnecessary barriers that poor documentation of the process are throwing up for community organizations in DC.
Here’s the process, as we understand it so far.
We’re proud to announce the launch of the DC Abortion Fund’s Case Manager App (CM App). On August 22, the first volunteer case manager called fifteen patients in need of financial help for their abortions, assisted by a secure, accessible, easy-to-use application instead of a shared spreadsheet. A volunteer team of designers and developers, along with our DCAF partners, shipped the CM App in less than nine months. Here’s how a little structure, a few principles from agile, and a lot of contributors made it happen.
Code for DC has done some really cool things over the last three years. We’ve rallied more than 2,000 coders, activists, organizers, and data scientists to work on issues ranging from education equity to affordable housing to campaign finance transparency. We’ve helped organize events to create tools for returning citizens and to help women get into tech, and we’ve pushed the DC government to be more open, more inclusive, and more resident-focused. But there’s more that we can do, and we need your help to do it.
Currently, Code for DC is led by two Captains—us, Steven Reilly and Justin Grimes—on a volunteer basis. We’re having a great time, but we think that we both (1) can’t and (2) shouldn’t run the organization by ourselves. On the first point, we’ve grown to the point that there’s too much for two people to handle effectively. On the second, we...
It’s been a year and a half since Code for DC first implemented a code of conduct, so I thought that it would make sense to revisit it and see whether it could be updated. In that time, many more examples of codes of conduct have popped up, meaning that there are a lot of great ideas to borrow.
This is an iterative process, and we hope to be constantly improving, even if there isn’t a pressing issue. As a Code for DC captain emeritus said: <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">2/2I'm thinking if you haven't heard from a member about code of conduct problems, you probably just haven't been told about it #cfabrigade</p>— Leah Bannon (@leahbannon) October 11, 2014</blockquote>
The biggest decision to make was whether to propose updates to the existing document or to replace it by adopting...
On April 20th, I launched getdctrees.org with four goals in mind:
I anticipated that there would be a sizable jump in requests, with the majority of people discovering the site through direct links on social networks. It was also my hope that providing a zoomed out view of the data would result in a more equitable distribution of requests among DC’s wards.1
Traffic and Publicity
On Thursday, December 18, 2014, I took a printed copy of a PDF form that I found on the DC Board of Elections web site to 441 4th Street NW, suite 250 north, Washington, DC, 20001, during the office hours of 8:15-4:45. I had to show ID, have my bag x-rayed, and go through a metal detector to get into the building.
Here’s a line that appears in red on the PDF form:
Entire Voter Roll may only be obtained in Microsoft Access CD-ROM format.
“Being in prison was tough. But coming back — it’s like, that was tougher.”
People coming home from prison are growing in numbers and they face serious disadvantages. They haven’t simply lost time. Those who "re-enter" society (often known as “returning citizens”) struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, a lack of technological skills, social stigma, and even significant barriers to employment and services.
Given the complexity of these structural challenges, this month's Rebuilding Re-Entry Hackathon (the first of its kind, organized by Laurin and Teresa Hodge of Mission: Launch) was described as the initiation of a “social justice laboratory”—a space for people with different backgrounds and perspectives to work together with a shared purpose. The event was led by people who have personal experience with the prison system and the challenges of re-entry, and about half a dozen “civic hacking teams”...
Let me tell you about Cynthia.
Cynthia lives in Washington DC, is the mother of a beautiful 3 year old son and, up until a few months ago, was a stay-at home mom. Her ex-boyfriend and father of her child left them both, and overnight she found herself in a situation where she urgently needed to find a job and a new apartment she could afford.
So Cynthia did what I think many of us would have done: she went online and literally googled “affordable housing in DC.” What she came across is Section 8, a program of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that subsidizes privately owned buildings to offer affordable housing units to low-income households.
The problem is that HUD’s website offers very little in terms of information about the program or its eligibility...
If you’re reading this, you’ve likely come across some geo data that you want to use but the coordinates are given in the Maryland Coordinate System and you’d like to have them in a more usable format, like simple latitude/longitude. Well, you’re in luck. For our project mapping gun crimes in DC, we needed to make this same conversion and tried to come up with a more repeatable way to do it in the future. The crime data that DC provides only gives
BLOCKCOORDS and we needed lat/lng in order to map it.
First, some background. Plenty of geo government data is provided in the Maryland Coordinate System, which shows east/west and north/south distance in meters from a fixed point. While using lat/lng seems obvious to those of us raised on web mapping, there’s a fairly good reason for using a state-specific coordinate...
On July 21, 2014 the Mayor issued a Transparency, Open Government and Open Data Directive. The order directed the City Administrator and each Deputy Mayor to identify at least three new high-value datasets by November 18, 2014 to publish to the District’s data catalog. Code for DC has identified the following datasets that are of high value to our ongoing projects and we urge the City Administrator and Deputy Mayors to include these among their lists of high value datasets.
Some of these datasets were first brought to the Mayor’s attention in Code for DC’s December 13, 2013 response to the Mayor’s request for input on the District’s transparency and open government initiative.
On March 7, 2014 our emergency response times project members sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the Office of Unified Communications...