Building a Government with Heart

I am honored and humbled to join Code for America as its new CEO.

For me, this is much more than a job. It is a calling to make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of people in America who are at risk of being left behind.

Over the last decade, Code for America has become a leader in the movement to reimagine government service delivery. Code for America initiatives have become the gold standard for making it easier for people to access social safety net services and get relief within the criminal justice system.

Programs like GetCalFresh for food assistance, Clear My Record for automatic record relief, and most recently, GetYourRefund for free tax assistance have demonstrated how the principles of delivery-driven government make it easier for people to access the services and benefits they need through the use of technology.

Yet, ultimately, this is not about technology. It’s about people. It’s about empathy. It’s about putting ourselves in the shoes of those who need government services and treating everyone with dignity and respect. In short, we need to use technology to build a government with heart.

That’s why I see an enormous opportunity for Code for America to accomplish two major goals in this moment of crisis.

We must answer the call and work with our partners in government to meet the immediate needs of the moment by delivering a strong and equitable social safety net. There are more than 26 million people in need right now, and I am so proud that Code for America is doing incredible work today to help millions get the resources they need in this pandemic through flexible cash, food assistance, tax help, and helping local governments respond.

Additionally, we must think big for the longer term, to scale our partnerships with government at every level and fundamentally rethink and rebuild services in the digital age.

As someone who grew up in an underserved, farm-working town in California’s Central Valley, it sometimes felt like we were left on our own to navigate life’s challenges. Even as a kid, it just didn’t seem right to me or my family that the struggles of our communities seemed invisible to a government that felt so far away.

Those early experiences in life have shaped my career in government. From my first public service job as a teacher in my hometown to working at the highest levels in government, my life’s work has focused on trying to bridge the gap—to see those who need government most and to serve everyone with dignity and respect.

That’s why I’m so excited to join Code for America and the civic tech community. All over the country, there are underserved communities like mine, and civic tech has the potential to enable a government that truly cares for everyone.

In taking this challenge on, I want to acknowledge the incredible work of those who have built Code for America’s strong foundation. Jennifer Pahlka’s visionary leadership over the last decade has changed people’s lives through deep partnership and technology development. We will continue to call on Jen for her guidance, friendship, humor, and, of course, her wisdom.

Among her many accomplishments, Jen built a truly outstanding Board of Directors. I am very thankful to have the benefit of the Board’s ongoing guidance as we move Code for America into this next chapter.

I look forward to learning from and with our talented Code for America staff and our 25,000 person-strong volunteer Brigade Network. We will also be working closely with our external partners, donors, and fellow travelers in the civic tech community. We have such a strong ecosystem of people who play a key role in this work. Together, we will work to solidify and sharpen our organizational priorities for 2020, scaling our impact and influence, amplifying our story, and building our movement.

At this moment of crisis, government is being asked to do more than at any time since the Great Depression. We have an opportunity—and I would say an obligation—to partner with leaders in our community to reimagine what government will look like in this new normal.

I look forward to working with you to deliver results for the millions of people who need government now more than ever. They’re counting on us.

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