When we run Code for Boston the majority of our new members find our group on Meetup and do not have a great understanding of who we are or are. In order to help people understand what we do we run an orientation session for all the new members. It helps them understand our organization and how we work. We spend most of this orientation explaining what we do, but we also spend a good part of it explaining what we do not do.
The main thing we disclaim expertise in is teaching people to code. The reason is that people who are good at coding are not necessarily good at teaching people new to coding how to do it. Furthermore most of our members do not show up to Code for Boston hoping to teach others how to code, but rather to contribute to a specific project. There are different phases of learning and we are good at taking folks who have taken a boot camp or gone through their own tutorial and project and helping them learn how to contribute to software projects in a group setting and give them an opportunity to be mentored and learn from peers.
Another thing we know we are not skilled at is marketing and user acquisition. Although we may have some members with skills in those areas, most of our members are not MBAs. So we get around that barrier by making sure our projects partner with a government or non-profit that has an existing user base they can reach out to. We often tell people that our best projects “help the helpers” do a better job. I have yet to find a marketers for Boston that can help us with this part of the equation but whenever someone wants to collaborate with Code for Boston and thinks that we’re going to bring the users, I usually warn them that is not the case.
These are not the only things we do not do well, but it is always helpful to understand some of the things we do not do well so that partners and participants are not disappointed. It also helps us shape our projects to work around these barriers and find partners that can help with that. We also see these as future opportunities for our own growth. It is clear to me there is demand for workshops so we are working on putting together workshops on topics like data science so people can learn more skills and participate in future projects.