Code for America to Spin Off its Brigades

February 02, 2023

Yesterday Code for America announced that it is no longer fiscally sponsoring its Brigade program. While a disruption on the administration side, it should not impact the programming and partnerships that Code for Boston has been providing the community since the inception of the Brigade program in 2012. The organization relies on funds it has raised on its own that are earmarked for our use, and now is as good a time as any to show your support. When we find a new fiscal sponsor, the money will move with us.

Why It Matters

The divestment of resources, from fiscal sponsorship to laying off three staff members, demonstrates a strategic shift away from the Brigade program. Many brigades have been operating independently and will not be impacted by this, but it is a disruption for those that now have to transition. Left un-answered is whether Code for America will provide travel support for its national conference as it had in the past, along with running its traditional Brigade Congress event.

Between The Lines

When the Brigade program started it was a marquee program for Code for America. They used to provide direct budget allocations for the brigades, and the disappearance of those left some folks feeling burned. Meanwhile some of the most successful brigades struck out on their own, operating with their own fiscal sponsorship but licensing the Code for America intellectual property.

Virtual Meetups Were a Failed Experiment

COVID and lockdown initially created a surge in interest in Code for Boston as people looked for things to do while stuck at home. When you assemble a group of folks from a site called Meetup they do not always create the most vibrant virtual space and interactions. Zoom was the only way to reliably engage with most of the community, and folks started to drop off due to Zoom fatigue. After experiencing huge growth in-person, going virtual caused two year over year declines in engagement for Code for Boston.

By the Numbers

  • Formal volunteering dropped by 7 percentage points from 30% to 23% of the population during COVID according to AmeriCorps.
  • In March 2020 Code for Boston had 400 daily active users on Slack.
  • As the world opened up in Summer of 2021 Code for Boston saw huge drops bottoming out at around 100 daily active users in early 2022.
  • The kicking off of the Urban League Heat Pump Accelerator project combined with an increase to every other week in-person cadence has reversed the trend: this week there were over 150 daily active users.

Reasons to be Optimistic

There is still interest in volunteering with non-profit and government organizations by using technical skills. People want to be able to have an impact in their communities, and a chance to socialize while making a difference. Now more than any time in the past two years we are seeing new folks drop-by to participate, and they are coming back week after week. Just give them an exciting idea to work on, and they will be there.

Want to get posts like this in your email?

This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.