“Impatient with how America works, but sleeves are rolled all the way up.”
- 2012 Fellow Michelle Lee’s Twitter bio
Why code for America? In this question, code is a verb. It’s not “why does Code for America exist?” but rather “why do people code for the public good?” With just three days left to apply for a 2013 fellowship (July 29), that question is on my mind. It’s also on my mind because I’m in Washington, D.C. this week, meeting with a lot of people who care about cities and innovation and technology, and that’s the number one question I get asked.
The answer, as far as I can tell, is that people give a year of their lives to this cause because they think they can make a real difference. They want to “work on stuff that matters,” as Tim O’Reilly has been exhorting the technology community to do for several years. There are hundreds of different ways they express that. Last year, 2011 fellow Scott Silverman’s told me “I’m here because I believe that interfaces to government can be simple, beautiful, and easy to use.” Jesse Bounds, in this year’s cohort, calls out “a drive to do meaningful, tangible work.” And Michelle Lee’s bio above makes clear her practical, disarming motivation. But they all paint a picture of a group of people who know that we are ultimately responsible for creating the society we want to live in, and who are willing to help make it work the way they know it can.
Here’s to the 2011 fellows, the 2012 fellows, and soon, to the 2013 cohort. Whoever they may be. We’ll know soon.