Having spent the past two summers co-working at Launchpad and becoming familiar with the passionate and growing tech scene in New Orleans, I decided to try something different. So I applied to a handful of internships in the Bay Area. I landed at a volunteer position at Code for America, based right in the middle of downtown San Francisco.
Code for America (CfA) is a “non-profit tech startup.” Yes, the name sounds much like Teach for America, the organization that has invaded our city to improve our schools. However, instead of placing teachers in classrooms, at CfA we place coders in city governments. We are halfway through our first round of fellowships, with programs in Philly, Boston, and Seattle.
My work so far at CfA has been rewarding. I entered as a PHP developer, but have since migrated towards design projects, where I have found my skills much more effective. Currently I am working on a project called RedesignGov.org, which connects governments in need of logo design with graphic designers willing to donate their skills.
Beyond work at the office, Silicon Valley life has been exhilarating. The tech industry is booming, and everyone is clearly aware of this. There are so many startup offices with strange names around here that I’m thinking an office signage recycling business could do quite well. (Vowels would cost extra, because no one seems to use them in their business names anyway.)
How can New Orleans capture this momentum? As a 2012 Code for America finalist city, we have the opportunity to benefit from CfA’s program that could make City Hall more efficient and transparent. Specifically, “The City of New Orleans sees a partnership with [Code for America] as a way to use information to better coordinate government, neighborhood, nonprofit and private sector activities to tackle the complex and large scale challenges still facing New Orleans, including blight, disaster readiness and aging infrastructure,” according to city officials in the CfA application.
How can we, the tech community, make this happen? CfA is now taking fellowship applicants from the New Orleans area, and the deadline for applications is July 31. Selected fellows will not only receive a living-wage stipend, travel expenses, and healthcare, but also the training and support to be positioned as a leader in business, public service, or both. Let’s show Silicon Valley that Silicon Bayou is serious about innovation. Apply today.
Alissa Black, a member of the staff here who coincidentally just got back from a vacation in New Orleans, explains the plans for our work: “by developing a simple application to allow community stakeholders in New Orleans to submit bulk information about their neighborhood, view existing relevant city data, and receive status for each of the on-going issues in their neighborhood, they will be better able to advocate and support their neighborhoods.”
Over twenty governments applied for the program, and New Orleans was one of ten cities to enter the final round. To be selected as a partnering city for 2012, New Orleans will need to demonstrate support and interest from within the city government and from the community. Of the ten city finalists, 5 to 7 will be selected for the 2012 program.
Check us out at CodeforAmerica.org!
Stanford Rosenthal (@nolastan) is a computer science major and communication/visual design minor at Washington University in St. Louis. Originally from New Orleans, Stanford first got involved in web design and civic activism by founding Levees.Org with his mother following the Katrina levee failures.