The Year in Review at Code for America

I founded Code for America in 2009 with the hope that we could use the principles and practices of the digital age to help government work better. I was obsessed with the idea that by bringing a user-centered, data-driven, and iterative approach into government we could truly make it work for and by the people. And by doing so we would help create a more just and equitable society.

Ten years later, I’m still obsessed with that idea. But today, I’m joined by 75 full time staff, 25,000 volunteers around the country, and tens of thousands of public servants. We have continued to prove that government can work in 2019. And we have even greater ambitions for 2020.

A few highlights from the past year:

  • We can’t just digitize the government we have today. Our efforts to automatically clear millions of eligible criminal records prove this. After piloting Clear My Record Automatic with San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Contra Costa and San Joaquin counties to clear over 85,000 criminal convictions, we released a guide and open-source software to empower the rest of the California counties to do it themselves. And we started an ambitious national expansion, with our first partner outside of California: Cook County, Illinois!
  • In June, GetCalFresh went statewide in three different languages and this month helped its one-millionth person apply for food benefits! For a project that started as a rogue experiment to show that applying for food stamps could be dramatically better for applicants and more effectively administered, that’s pretty amazing.
  • When California’s rules changed making people who receive Supplemental Security Income eligible for CalFresh, state health workers faced a huge challenge: how to onboard hundreds of thousands of people to a new program. They turned to Code for America and the GetCalFresh team. We used our research skills to deeply understand the needs of the SSI beneficiaries and craft a digital experience that worked for them. The result was 300,000 people now appropriately transitioned to the new benefit, maintaining their stability and dignity.
  • And we’re not stopping with food stamps. In October, we kicked off a new pilot focused on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Along with SNAP, EITC is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in the United States. Yet one-fifth of eligible low-income households are missing out on this opportunity, meaning $10.5 BILLION dollars is left on the table instead of helping people get ahead. We’re hoping to leverage everything we’ve learned about redesigning the SNAP experience to help close this gap, help low-income workers and their families, and show how efficient and respectful government service can be when we design them for people.
  • In August, our Integrated Benefits team launched a 50-state assessment of social safety net benefit delivery. Understanding the status quo is the first step to creating a human-centered safety net. See how your state stacks up here.
  • In September, the Code for America Brigade volunteers held a day of “Civic Action for Justice” in partnership with National Expungement Week. They held 43 events across 30 states, bringing more than 1,000 volunteers together to create journey maps, service usability scorecards, and digital “know your rights” resources for those seeking conviction relief. What better example of government working better for people because it’s done by people!
  • We expanded on our vision of delivery-driven government with a deeper explanation of how policy and delivery must work together. Read more about it here.

Today, we are pleased with the progress we’ve made, yet anxious to go further and faster—because there is there is so much more to do. We must show what’s possible at greater scale, we must help more people transform government themselves, and we must build a bigger, stronger movement that invites all Americans to be part of this work. And we cannot do it without you.

Please consider supporting Code for America in your end of year giving.

Donate here.