A participatory process is a sequence of participatory activities (e.g. first filling out a survey, then making proposals, discussing them in face-to-face or virtual meetings, and finally prioritizing them) with the aim of defining and making a decision on a specific topic.
Examples of participatory processes are: a process of electing committee members (where candidatures are first presented, then debated and finally a candidacy is chosen), participatory budgets (where proposals are made, valued economically and voted on with the money available), a strategic planning process, the collaborative drafting of a regulation or norm, the design of an urban space or the production of a public policy plan.
Nearly a decade since starting our volunteer Brigade program, it’s time for our Brigade Network to redefine our purpose and choose a clear path forward.
Introduction and Key Background Information
The Network ReVisioning Project builds on years of work engaging our Network. You can read more about the history of the Network and our dynamic tensions in this post.
Have some time and want to gain a succinct overview of the project? Watch the recording of the first ReVisioning Town Hall from March 31, 2021.
Why We’re Doing This
The Challenge & Opportunity
Our Brigade Network is an extraordinary national and local force leveraging technology and its principles for social good. We are part of the Code for America organization, which works to make government work in the digital age.
Over time, underlying questions about how the Network achieves change, what kind of change we want to create, and how that relates to Code for America’s mission have emerged and lingered. As one Brigade Network volunteer leader recently put it:
“We’ve built a big movement. It’s not really clear what we’re trying to change. We hemorrhage volunteers and lose community credibility every day we can’t answer that question.”
Ambiguity around these questions at best limits our impact, and at worst leads to misaligned expectations, countless unrealized opportunities to further our cause, volunteer burnout, and personal tensions in our organizing spaces and relationships. It’s time to choose a path forward that allows our Network to grow in a healthy and sustainable way, unleashes new energy and power, and brings clarity to how Code for America and the volunteer Network relate to and support one another.
At the end of this process, our goal is to have a clearly defined, long-term path forward for the Code for America Network, with significant energy and momentum behind that direction from those who are most impacted. We aim to articulate how Code for America Network achieves change in the world, what kind of impact we prioritize, and what the relationship is between Code for America and the Network. And then pursue that path in earnest.
With a refined clarity of purpose, we can better incorporate our unique capabilities for driving change. This clarity will inform how we talk about the work we do, how we bring new people into our spaces, what we spend money on, how we measure success, and more. In essence, we see choosing a clear path as a way to realize our Network’s full potential.
How We Got Here
This work began formally in the fall of 2019, when the National Advisory Council (NAC) and Code for America Network team staff came together to name key questions at the core of present challenges and future possibilities in our work together. This spurred dedicated work on identifying our national Network’s “Theory of Change”. In summer of 2020, we launched several open discussions, forums, workshops, polls, surveys, and more to get input from Brigade Network participants on how their Brigade achieves change, what we’re good at, what we’re not good at, and where we want to go. We received hundreds of responses from volunteers and Network members across the country.
The Theory of Change committee (led by NAC members and the Network Senior Program Director), organized and synthesized these inputs. What emerged were a handful of distinct potential pathways for the Network’s future. The committee shared these potential pathways with Code for America leadership for initial feedback.