The toughest job you’ll ever love

An update from our Chief Program Officer on the evolution of the fellowship

The Fellowship Program has been the cornerstone of Code for America. It is what built the bridge between the principles of 21st century government and actual government practice. Many Code for America fellows — developers, designers, and product managers — completed their year of service and decided to take the next step and work in government. They are the ones who mentored, supported, and nudged our civic tech ecosystem. To former fellows, I owe a heartfelt thank you! To former fellowship government partners, a debt of gratitude.

I joined Code for America last November–just after the Summit and only weeks after our 2016 fellows and government partners were announced. I came to the organization along with a set of eager fellows and optimistic government partners ready to roll up their sleeves. Our work this year is only half over, but already we have done amazing work together.

And now we begin to plan for 2017.

Where we’re going

Some organizations would roll out the 2017 Fellowship like an old carpet–assuming the holes were worn in just the right places, the creases known, and the color still fine if a bit faded. But not at Code for America. We take every new year, every opportunity to follow our users, to learn from their experience and to improve our work. So, based on user feedback–based on the changing needs of local governments, and based on our own unwavering focus on achieving greater positive impact–the fellowship is changing. Here is what 2017 is shaping up to look like:

  • Build on previous work. Fellows will build upon our previous work – from iterating on products past fellows previously developed, to leveraging our experiences and expertise within certain focus areas. This means our Safety and Justice and Economic Development focus areas will have a few fellowships each – our goal is 3- 5 total to ensure we are laser-focused on sustainable solutions. Healthy Communities is focused on scaling GetCalFresh and this means Healthy Communities will sit a fellowship year out.

  • Focus on impact. All of our work will focus on making government services easier to use for the most vulnerable people in our society.

  • Set fellows up for success. The process of onboarding our government partners takes time. In order for fellows to hit the ground running, Code for America staff will do that before the fellows get here. This means that the fellows’ tenure will be a bit shorter.  As we’ve built up and brought on our own policy expertise, our fellows are achieving impact sooner. So, we can save everyone some time.

  • Stay flexible. We will have multiple start dates because governments need fellows at different times throughout the year.

  • Organize the right teams. Teams will include a Fellow Developer and a Fellow UX Researcher/Designer. Across two teams we will hire a Senior Fellow Technical Product Manager. If you are a former fellow, consider applying for this role–we want this to be a pipeline for our wonderful CfA network of fellows past and present.

Amidst change, some things will remain the same. Our fellows will do amazing work in partnership with local governments across the country. They will learn about the inner workings of our public institutions, grow their networks, and build technology that works for everyone. Governments will work with the best and the brightest technologists able and willing to give a year of service our fellows and government partners will solve problems and impact thousands of lives.

I can’t wait to see the great work we will do together next year. Join us. Apply for the fellowship.