Adapting for Impact

Code for America’s path forward

This is a tough moment in Code for America’s journey. We recently shared the news that, as a result of the changing civic tech environment, we’ve had to make some difficult decisions about how to restructure our organization to maximize our impact going forward. 

It’s been a hard time for every member of the Code for America community. But what’s consistently made me proudest of this organization over the years is that we don’t run from hard things—we run at them. 

I saw this first and perhaps most clearly when I joined as CEO in May 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Government digital services had never been more necessary, but they were being stretched to their breaking point by unprecedented demand and outdated systems. Code for America stepped up to support our partners in government by helping manage skyrocketing application volume for food assistance, rapidly scaling a new tax filing product to help people access flexible cash, breaking down barriers to pandemic relief for some of our most marginalized communities, and more. The last few years have only reinforced our belief in the importance of our work in the civic tech space, and we are determined to meet the moment once again.  

We’re in a different era now—for Code for America, for civic tech, and for government. It’s become clear that we’re going to have to make significant shifts in order to fulfill our mission and drive the most change possible in this changing landscape. 

For the entirety of our organization’s history, we’ve encouraged governments to be more agile and iterative, to be willing to adapt and change to meet the times. And this is a moment where Code for America needs to practice what we preach. If we don’t take this opportunity to rethink and reshape the ways that we work, we will be doing our government partners and our clients a disservice. We’ve always tried to show what’s possible by being at the forefront of innovation, unafraid to embrace change. And now it’s time for us to embark on a new chapter that better reflects the realities we’re dealing with today. Our mission depends on it. 

That’s why we are shifting our strategy and adapting our structures to stay on the leading edge of government service delivery. These changes are vital for delivering on our mission and for the transformative impact we can make on people’s lives. Some of these changes include: 

  • Prioritizing delivery across all of our program areas, with tailored strategies that focus on maximizing impact across safety net, criminal justice reform, tax benefits, and local initiatives. We plan to prototype and iterate on products more quickly, wind down workstreams that aren’t leading to impact, and focus on maintaining and cultivating relationships with government partners that will help us help the most people.  
  • Investing in organizational product leadership, setting a coordinated product vision across our programs and strengthening the strategy and practices of the already strong product organization we have today. We’ll focus on prioritizing the highest impact interventions, especially those with the potential for scaling nationally. And a team focused on new products will work with leadership to refine our model for new product discovery, improving our ability to build scalable products with a social impact market fit.  
  • Increasing support for engineering excellence, with a flatter leadership structure that will provide more senior-level support to junior engineers and allow them to work more autonomously as we invest in repeatable products and services that utilize cutting edge technologies. This structure will increase mentoring capabilities and the development of flexible skill sets so engineers can move across our different programs more easily, and increase the speed of career development. 
  • Unifying our approach to the client experience by consolidating our design, qualitative research, client success, and data science disciplines into one integrated Experience department. A multidisciplinary vision for the client experience will increase alignment, improve collaboration, and optimize different skill sets and perspectives to more quickly determine the best path forward for impact.  

There have been more than a few inflection points in Code for America’s history, and this is one of them. Change is always difficult, but it’s through change that we grow, evolve, and ultimately achieve our vision. And through all the changes we’ve endured, one thing has remained constant: our steadfast commitment to our mission of working shoulder to shoulder with government to build more accessible, equitable systems that deliver for all the people. 

It’s that dedication that keeps us running at the hard things. It propels us through the tough moments. It’s what makes me confident that we will continue to be a leader in this new era, showing what’s possible when you bring human-centered technology to government. As we step into the future, we’re forging ahead with the same passion that has defined Code for America since its inception. There will be challenges ahead, but our determination to create positive change will continue to improve the lives of millions of people across the nation.     

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