hen some people want to give their time to helping others, they join Peace Corps, or volunteer someplace like a soup kitchen or an animal shelter. And every different volunteering job is well suited for a different, specific kind of person.
But what about the programmers? They join Code for America.
What is Code for America?
Because programming is a project-based field, there is often a lot of downtime between projects, where students and professionals both have a fair amount of time to spend doing side projects. These side projects are sometimes games and sometimes handy tools, both of which make good additions to a programmer’s portfolio. Every programmer needs a good portfolio, and Code for America is a great way to build that up while also doing work.
Code for America is a non-profit group designed to get programmers with some time to spare in touch with city governments who need programmers. With how quickly technology has been advancing in the last decade, governments have had a lot of trouble keeping up. They just can’t produce good apps that share the kinds of data a city’s citizens need.
PSA video made by Code for America.
That’s why so many people use Google to look up bus routes. Not that Google is bad, but bus information, and info about other civic services, should come from the people who run those services: the city. Code for America connects programmers and cities, and helps them work together so that skilled programmers can give their time to helping their city.
There are a few ways to get involved with the group. You can apply for fellowship, or you can simply start working to get your city involved. We’ll give you a rundown on both.
Fellowship is awesome, since you get paid $35,000 plus benefits like travel expenses and healthcare. The fellowship program also sets you up to be a leader in your own community. Read more on their fellowship page. But it’s probably better suited for people who already have a good portfolio, and have worked in the industry before. Also, it’s more like a full-time job that lasts for a year. This is what we think you should do once you get out of college. (Plus, CfA is only three years old right now, so once you get out of college it will be better-established.)
We highly recommend trying to get involved. CfA set up a webpage to help people like you get your city included in the 2014 program. (So far, no Oregon cities are involved, so get crackin’!) The best thing to do is to contact your city’s mayor, or some other city official, and tell them about the program—which you can do by email, mail, or another method like Twitter. Just Google their contact info, or ask your folks where to find it. And be persistent—contact them until you get a response, and convince them that this program will be good for the city!
Even cooler, you can actually join what CfA calls “The Brigade.” This subdivision of CfA is the actual army of programmers which does the work. Basically, The Brigade is where you can build your portfolio and get useful experience working in the programming world. Learn more about The Brigade, look at their list of suggested activities you can do now, and send them an email saying you want to get involved.
- Code for America Brigade’s GitHub page. GitHub is a webservice which allows several people to work together on one set of code.
- List of all the ways someone can get involved with CfA.