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Some great projects came out of our two National Day of Civic Hacking efforts in Tampa Bay.  At the Tampa Innovation Alliance Codapalooza event, focused on developing improved homelessness services tools and resources, Code for Tampa Bay member Sam Harden took on the challenge of missed court appearances.  That may not sound like a big thing, but the devil - and increased incarceration - is in the details.

"Every year," says Sam, " 20% of people miss a court appearance in Hillsborough county. This can result in a warrant and their arrest. "

Until now there hasn't been an easy way for people with a court case or traffic ticket to go online and check when their next mandatory court appearance is scheduled. To find a court date is at least two or three step process and involves some considerable decoding to find the relevant information on the court forms once you do locate your file at the case information page.

Courtdatesearch.com is Sam's elegant solution to the problem, a free and easy-to-use service that lets people search for their upcoming court appearances with just their name or case number. It also has a free email update service to send reminder emails about upcoming court dates.  Easy to access on public library computer or a mobile device, the hope is that the tool will help people make the court dates and avoid arrests for relatively minor issues, alleviating problems for residents and the easing court and law enforcement workloads as well.

Courdatesearch.com is one of several Tampa National Day of Civic Hacking projects that will be showcased at the Tampa Innovation Gathering on October 26.  Projects are being completed during monthly code sprints held at Tampa Innovation Alliance offices at USF Research Park.  Visit our Code for Tampa Bay Meetup page for more information and to join in. The  next code sprint meetup is Saturday, September 24, 

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What a great weekend we just had for National Day of Civic Hacking in Tampa Bay! We partnered with the Iron Yard in St. Petersburg to host that city’s first ever Hack for Change event, and helped support the Tampa Innovation Alliance’s Codapalooza Hack for Homelessness event, making a National Day of Civic Hacking experience possible for over 100 people on both sides of Tampa Bay, and creating a dozen new community resources for Tampa and St. Petersburg residents.

St Petersburg National Day of Civic Hacking

In St. Petersburg, the St. Pete Greenhouse, an economic development collaborative between the City of St. Petersburg and the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, and Malwarebytes were principal sponsors, with in-kind support from the Iron Yard, Eureka Factory and McDonald’s.  St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman came out to spend part of the day with us, to learn how volunteer technologist were helping their community by sharing their skills and expertise for the day.

We had three local challenges, a MapJam session and national Code for America challenges available for participants to work on.  First place went to a project called LandPop,  which gives community members a chance to create the community they desire by having a voice in what goes up around them, by identifying unused land voting on their favorite business choices for it.  

Runner ups were the Sunshine Family Connection , developed for the City of St. Petersburg office of  Education and Community Engagement a “portal” for Pinellas County families and teachers/administrators to use to connect them to Social Services (e.g. Food, transportation, shelter, mentoring, special needs resources), Education (aside from schools, such as extracurriculars), mental health providers (including group therapy), and healthcare. (Check out this great blog post by team member Ryan O'Schenck about his experience being part of the Sunshine Family Connection team.)

And Call St. Pete ,  developed with the idea that there’s no better way to find your way around the city than by talking to those who love it

The LandPop team’s grand prize award was one on one with St. Pete Greenhouse to further develop their project, and runners up received some nice swag from Malwarebytes and GitHub, some gift cards, and an awesome trophy (and it really was awesome, for a hacked together trophy!)

Other projects included MapJam and work on our Tampa Bay LocalWiki, and community resource applications.

Top projects will continue to be developed for the community, and all projects can be continued through Code for Tampa Bay Brigade as well.

Tampa National Day of Civic Hacking - Gimme Shelter

In Tampa, the “Gimme Shelter” hackathon was a weekend long event that netted six great projects.  Tampa event sponsors and partners included Peak 10, Crossover Church, Bloomin’ Brands, SunTrust Bank, Panther International, Dobler Consulting, Carlton Fields, USF College of Engineering, Jagged Peak, Silverthorn Partners, EDI2, Tampa Bay Food Truck Rally, Casper McDonalds, Glory Days Restaurants, and others.  Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman and Tampa Commissioner Lisa Montelione both came out to help kick off the three event.

Top awards at the Tampa event went to:

Resources4U , (front end demo here) developed by a team from Bloomin’ Brands, that aims to solve the challenge of making resources easier to find for people in need by utilizing GSP on smartphones to show nearby resources as well as modes of transportation available. Resource4U not only provides this information in a usable way but also by helps people understand eligibility requirements, book the resource and get a jump start on the intake process.

A team from Accusoft developed an automated census data form that homeless services providers can more efficiently and effectively use for point in time surveys.

The Mel’s Angels team was awarded for redevelopment of a Homeless Management Information System to better aggregate and interface homeless services information.

The Spirit Award went to a team of University of South Florida students for their development of an Android application to help users locate homeless shelters, while respecting the privacy of users. 

Phil Muino,  a founding member of Code for Tampa Bay, working with Netsvs CTO Chris Morancie and Code for Tampa Bay member Jessica  Mack, developed Jail Pop , a system for better visualizing and utilizing jail data to understand how it impacts chronic homelessness.

And Arthur Alton and his team worked on Marchmen Madness creating a form  automation for Marchmen Act

Photos for both events can be found on our meetup page in our Photo Album section and online at the Code for Tampa Bay Facebook page and Tampa Innovation Alliance social media. 

Tampa project teams are working with Tampa Innovation Alliance to further refine projects in time for the Innovation Gathering October 26th at University Mall.  
St. Petersburg projects will continue development through the St. Pete Greenhouse, the City of St. Petersburg and Code for Tampa Bay Brigade.

All teams are invited to please share their project information here via our project  teams form, so we can include your great work in our post-event report to Code for America. Code for America has also invited NDCH teams to share their information here: https://cfa.typeform.com/to/u27B3h 

Don’t forget to post your project data to the Code for Tampa Bay GitHub group, so we can include that info in our report.   If you’re not in the group yet, apply for an invite here: http://goo.gl/forms/W3HDvP0nfc1CKgde2  

Stay Connected!
You can Hack for Change year round with Code for Tampa Bay Brigade. Our next meetup  is Monday, July 11 at 6pm at the HIVE Community Innovation Center at the John F. Germany Public Library in downtown Tampa.  

Keep your eye on the meetup page and our social media for mini-hackathon opportunities, Code Sprints, and more! 

Cheers, and keep making a difference!

Your friends at 
Code for Tampa Bay Brigade

 

 

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Code for Tampa Bay Brigade is pleased to be able to help with two National Day of Civic Hacking events, this year, helping people Hack for Change on both side of Tampa Bay! There's a reason we have bridges and this year we're using them!

In Hillsborough County, the Tampa Innovation  Alliance is organizing CodaPalooza Tampa Bay 2016 , a 3 day event running June 3-5,  themed " Gimme Shelter -Hack for Homelessness", sponsored by Peak 10 and hosted at Crossover Church in Tampa, with support from Code for Tampa Bay Brigade. You can learn more and register at  Tampainnovation.com/codapalooza/

In Pinellas County, we're co-hosting with The Iron Yard St. Petersburg- Tampa, the first ever St. Pete Hack for Change event on June 4th, at the Iron Yard in downtown St. Petersburg.  You can learn more and register for the St. Pete National Day of Civic Hacking at EventBrite.

Both events offer civic minded citizens across Tampa Bay, those with coding skills and those without, but bound by a shared common interest in improving their communities, an opportunity to work together to create solutions for everyday challenges.

We'll be looking at whole brain problems that require whole brain solutions; essentially, the skills and types of thinking that writers, artists, business people, social workers, teachers, students, scientists,  laborers, doctors, tradespeople AND people with tech skills like programming bring to the table. Those who aren't programmers help articulate ideas, designs and pathways to solutions that participating coders can develop into actual frameworks

About National Day of Civic Hacking

Our Tampa Bay events are just two of many (over 100 last year) that will be going on throughout the country the weekend of June 4.   The national event has a very simple, straightforward mission:  "To improve our communities and the governments that serve them."   Organized by Code for America, of which Code for Tampa Bay Brigade is a part,  with support from NASA and SecondMuse, the overarching goal of National Day of Civic Hacking is for residents, community groups, and government to collaborate to make their communities stronger.

Now the super awesome cool thing about this idea is that it's a collaborative notion shared by the governments of the communities that are hosting these events! In an era of political bottlenecks and ideological logjams,  the idea that citizens and governments can work together for the good of both should be cause for celebration by one and all. 

How it Works

Both Tampa Bay events invite citizens from throughout the Tampa Bay area to join with developers,  coders,  government staff and community organizers, to tackle a number of potential projects put forth by the county, local citizens, and Code for America.  Visit the Registration pages for each event: Codapalooza HERE and St. Pete National Day of Civic Hacking HERE - to find sign up to particpate - it's free!  Keep your eye on the event pages and our Code for Tampa Bay website and social media for updates on schedules as the event weekend nears.

If you have any questions, contact Tampa Innovation Alliance at info@tampainnovation.com with questions about Codapalooza, and contact Code for Tampa via our contact page here, or Toni Aliberti at The Iron Yard at toni@theironyard.com .  Look for more info soon!

 

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Congratulations to these great teams and thank you for the time, effort and skill you put into developing these truly useful and valuable resources for our community! And many thanks to our terrific judges who took the time to evaluate each entry carefully: Toni Aliberti, The Iron Yard; Jan Broadwater, Forex Factory; Mike Cook, GuidePoint Security; Sid Hassan, TekBank; Ryan Negri, Laicos; Steve Willingham, Eureka! Factory

Code for Tampa Bay Brigade is honored to have helped produce Hillsborough County's 3rd Annual National Day Weekend! of Civic Hacking event this year.  We especially appreciated recognition for Code for Tampa Bay's efforts to "provide a creative environment where innovation thrives," by Commissioner Sandy Murman.  

The extensive front end work that went into identifying community needs not only produced an A-list of really interesting and useful challenges to kick off the weekend, but started the bigger conversation of civic collaboration in our community that we plan to continue all year long.    Code for Hillsborough participants got a firsthand look at some real community needs and issues, and local government met a hundred area technologists, programmers and developers ready, willing and eager to share their skills and abilities for the good of all. 

We got to hear from some great presenters on best practices in everything from mobile development to the complexities of transparency.  We got to a better understanding of the challenges that face government agencies in their day to day work, and we heard from citizens about the challenges they face trying to access services or resources.  And we learned to work together in new ways.  

One of the most amazing things about a Hackathon is the way it inspires self-organized collabration among people who often are meeting for the very first time.  The challenges look daunting, especially with a deadline of two days:

and many others. And yet all these amazing people came together in small collaborative groups to plan and execute solutions to the challenges before them in just 2 days.  This is evidence not just of skill and talent, but of really decent people.

We'll be sharing more stories from Code for HIllsborough 2015, as well as "Where are they now?" updates on the projects developed at the event.   Thanks again to our great Code for Hillsborough Partners in Civic Engagement:  MicrosoftForex FactoryTekBank,Eureka! Factory,  The Iron YardAbsolute Mobile Solutions,   CastleRoc Information ServicesRedHatLaicos,  The Grind Coffee BarKawaha Coffee Roasters,  Tampa Innovation Alliance and Busch GardensWe couldn't have done it without you!

 And a very special shout out to the fine county of Hillsborough, especially to Economic Development Manager Jennifer Whelihan, whose dedication and commitment, not to mention some super impressive organizational skills,  are making a powerful and enduring difference in the growing our community at all levels.

If you want to keep coding it forward, join the Brigade, and keep hacking for change all year long!  

 

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Wow! Day one of the 3rd Annual National Day of Civic Hacking event in HIllsborough County was a winner start to finish! We kicked things off with a  great Friday night launch, and some early organizing, and this morning, nearly 100 participants filled the main meeting room at Microsoft.   Nine challenges were offered, including the first ever statewide challenge, put forth by the Florida Department of Financial Services, to make state vendor payment information more transparent.

Dave Finnigan, the Founding Director of the youth environmental education program, Climate Change is Elementary, trekked over from Orlando, as well, to pitch his idea about an educational app to encourage local school children to be socially conscious consumers. Dave's five minute pitch netted him an interested team, and all but one of the other challenges got champions as well. (We noticed that challenges with a lead champion on hand were picked up by teams). 

The 9-1-1 educational app went into the capable hands of the local Tampa Bay Coder Dojo group, an enthusiastic team of 8-12 year olds led by two great mentors and guided by Ira Pyles, of the Hillsborough County 9-1-1 Agency.  The youth were on it immediately, working out a game plan and coming up with what is essentially a simple simulation of an emergency (with a bear in a burning house!) that walks children through the process of knowing when to call 9-1-1 and what information to provide.   Coder Dojo students presented their project in the afternoon, and it was great!  In a little over four hours, they'd provided digital animation, voice overs, a story line and coding to produce a very viable app. And they're getting a field trip to emergency services, as well, to see the agency in action and build on the learning they experienced today. 

We loved having a youth coding session as part of our National Day event and plan to make it a regular part of Code for Hillsborough.

After the youth presentation, we invited teams working on our other challenges to check in. 

The Florida Vendor Payments challenge has proven - challenging! But a team of innovators, lead by an awesome father-daughter duo who has been at both previous hackathons, has taken it on and found a viable platform for providing some useful visual representation of vendor payments. Can't wait to see what their final product looks like tomorrow during presentations.

The Jail Population Management app, which Code for Tampa Bay Brigade founding member, Phil Muino, has been championing since we started a year ago, found another supporter and the team of two - a citizen with a passion for making information visible and understandable, and a coder with the skills to make it happen - worked together all day to get a viable framework for managing the wealth of data Phil's accumulated on the subject. The wait may be over, Phil! Can't wait to see the management app tomorrow.

The Multicultural Visitors Guide project got a multicultural team of thinkers and doers to wrangle a brochure into a useful application for guests to our remarkable and diverse community.  The Hillsborough Community Atlas project champion came with a simple request.  A local resident, he wants to be able to use the website easily to find the information he wants about his community, including areas of greatest population density to help determine where more libraries should be, to better serve citizens. The Atlas team is confident of their efforts and should have a strong candidate during presentations on Sunday.

The Downtown Shuttle Challenge drew a large, gregarious and intergenerational team interested in helping the Downtown Partnership develop a viable dispatch and circulation system for a local area shuttle system.  They had a lot of drawings on the whiteboard that included Starbucks as a point of departure but were were short on details during check in, saying only that, yes, they were working an app.  What could it be?!

The Hillsborough Entrepreneur Collaborative Center website experience team was rich with artists, and the ECC is well on its way to having a beautiful and functional new resource for citizens interested in making the best use of this spectacular public space.

The Tampa Bay Trade and Protocol Council team got a late but energetic start, when some late arriving participants walked in and asked where they could help.  We observed that two projects didn't have teams, and since they had some familiarity with the TBTPC group, they set to work and made some great progress in a short amount of time.

It's been so exciting and heart warming to see the focus and dedication all these great civic change agents have brought to this year's Hack for Change event.  It's also been fascinating to watch how teams self-organize, naturally and in the total spirit of Code for America compassionate collaboration.

People of all ages, writers, artists, technologies, entrepreneurs, citizens, coders and noncoders, have come together for the amazing experience of simply working together for a weekend of civic problem solving. Whatever comes of the projects tomorrow, during afternoon presentations, the magic and the impact has already happened.  People have discovered one another, found expression and voice, created new networks, neural and social, and have brought Hillsborough County that much further along the path of collaborative, citizen engagement. 

We're very grateful to Hillsborough County, FL and all the great event partners who have contributed food, and swag and expertise to our NDoCH event, and especially to all those who have volunteered their time and skills to address the challenges before us, and embraced warmly and with enthuisasm,the opportunity to take them on.

Tomorrow,doors open again at 9am, with breakfast at 9:30, and coding through early afternoon. Project presentations will be at around 3pm.  

There will be no losers though - we've all already succeeded!

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CoderDojo is a global volunteer-run program to get kids excited about coding.  In the Tampa Bay Area, CoderDojo is run in close cooperation with the public library system.  Every few days, kids gather at public libraries, accompanied by a parent, and are mentored by information technology professionals from industry.  Often kids who have gained some knowledge of coding are encouraged to help out in mentoring as well!  At CoderDojo Tampa Bay Area, we like to say that no money changes hands but tremendous wealth is being created in the community. 

At Code for Hillsborough, nearly 30 Coder Dojo students will join together to work on the 9-1-1 Education challenge to help create a website or application that gamifies the concepts of 911 Services for younger audiences that would: 

•    Be similar to an online coloring book 
•    Be used during classroom and community outreach meetings
•    Help portray 911 Services in a positive light so more people will be inclined to use them

This is a great way for kids use 21st century skills to help other kids be safe and provide a useful service to their community.

You can Coder Dojo Tampa via twitter.com/coderdojoTPA and facebook.com/CoderDojoTPA, and more importantly, help out! If you're at Code for Hillsborough on Saturday, be sure to spend a little time with these great young coders, and consider becoming a Coder Dojo mentor!

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Code for Hillsborough, our fine county's  3rd Annual National Day of Civic Hacking event,  is chockablock with civic challenges to explore, and we need all hands on deck to  make the most of the opportunities before us!  

Anyone can participate; you don’t have to be an expert in technology, you just have to care about your neighborhood and community. Everyone from coders to designers to community organizers and peopel with a passion for making our community better are invited to join together with Hillsborough County staff to look at both local and statewide community improvement projects.  

Event Goals

The idea of the event is to come up with some solid real time solutions to the needs and challenges listed below, or others you may be interested in exploring or developing.   Completing apps or projects during the weekend is great, but not necessary.  Proof of concept applications with well developed frameworks are just as important, and will be considered equally with completed projects as potential solutions that can be built out further in the days and weeks after our event.   

Florida State Vendor Payments Statewide Challenge  

One project we're joining in with Code for Miami Brigade and others is the first ever NDCH Statewide Challenge  in collaboration with our CFO Jeff Atwater, six years (2009-2014) of vendor payment data will now be made available for download. With this data,  technologists, designers, data visualizers, and anyone interested in exploring for potential insights can  go forth and query. Play with the data and make something interesting or informative, creativity is encouraged.  You can use tools like fusion tables, D3.js, tableau, plotly, or any other source tools to create interactive visualizations of payments over time that can show which vendors contract with state agencies, what type of work is being done, or which areas where state business concentrates.  

Local Projects

Here's a short list of other potential projects:

Hillsborough County Entrepreneur Collaborative Center (ECC) Website Enhancement

The ECC is intended to serve as a convenient, central location and depository for potential, or existing, entrepreneurs amd small business to discover resources of local non-profit partners and to receive financial and technical information.  The ECC provides free, individual, and confidential consulting, workshops, seminars, and general information on marketing,  getting businesses online, using QuickBooks, SBA loans and programs, bookkeeping, local government vendor applications, the bidding process, Minority/Women Certification forms, vendor directories, and more.   Enhancements needed include 

●Improved site and services description
●Partner links  and services provided
●Schedule of Events
●On-site registration for events, appointments and meeting space reservation
●Ability to create database from registrants
●Downloadable brochure
●Contact Us
●Video
●Tour of ECC
 

Multicultural Visitors Guide to Hillsborough County

The county seeks a dedicated multicultural guide to the area, preferrably as a mobile app, which:

9-1-1 Educational App

The county would like to create a website which gamifies the concepts of 911 Services for younger audiences that would: 

Young coders from Coder Dojo Tampa   are joining us on Saturday to help with this project!  More on this great group in an upcoming post.

Traffic Forecasting App

This idea, suggested by Phil M., a  high school student member of our Code for Tampa Bay Brigade,  incorporates historical traffic data and local road conditions and information, with Google Maps real time traffic data to "forecast" what can be be expected on different routes on different days or times of day.  Elements that can be taken into consideration include:

Jail Population Management Dashboard

The Jail Population Management Dashboard is intended to helps  local law enforcment & judicial communities understand the occupancy within the county jail system.  This application can be created through adaptation of app code from City of Louisville, KY and consists of a simple dashboard view to let agencies see:

and more.

Code , data and various information resources will be available throughout the weekend on cloud based servers, for collaboration and sharing.  

What will you help us make?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The compass points for this year's National Day of Civic Hacking are the Principles for 21st Century Government.  These are key principles that Code for America, and Code for Tampa Bay Brigade, believe are critical for governments of any size, structure, or political persuasion in serving their communities effectively.   You can read the principles in detail at Code for America's website, but they're essentially common sense guidelines for open, inclusive, accessible and efficient governance.

It can be a little challenging for people to get their minds around just what a "hackathon," or in Hillsborough County's case, a "codathon" really is.     They sound trendy and clever, and fun.   But a good hackathon - and especially a good National Day of Civic Hacking event - is more than just a techy social statement.   Coding events like Code for Hillsborough are opportunities to make important and positive impact on our community.

These events offer unique opportunities to employ - for the price of food, t-shirts and swag - some amazing and often very expensive skill sets and sophisticated knowledge base in a volunteer capacity to solve real problems.  In the Hackathon Guide, by Joshua Tauberer ,  Tauberer defines a hackathon as any event of any duration where people come together to solve problems.  Good hackathons, he says:

And the best projects should be:

It takes some practice and a lot of collaboration to build a good coding event, and now in it's 3rd year, Hillsborough County is clearly on its way.  Working together  with commuity and local government stakeholders we believe we're creating a good event, in alignment with Principles of 21st Century Government, with  potential projects that meet the criteria Tauberer suggests.

Some of the potential projects on tap for our June 6 & 7 event:

Plus National Day Challenges like Local Digital Services Census .  

Principles for 21st Century Government give us a great road map for plotting the way forward, and events like Code for Hillsborough give us a powerful vehicle for getting there!  Join us June 5-7 to  help make Hillsborough better!

Learn more at Code for Hillsborough and Register to participate in Code for Hillsborough here 

 

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 "Democratic societies progress by democratic means - that is, when citizens participate fully and fairly in public life, working for the common good." Paul Loeb, Soul of a Citizen

If you're a programmer by trade or interest, seeing something called Code for Hillsborough that's part of something else called National Day of Civic Hacking, that promises food, t-shirts and swag, probably sounds like a done deal!  If you're not a programmer though, you may wonder what's in it for you (besides food, t-shirts and swag) and why you should be involved.

Well, the fact is that without everybody who's not a programmer sharing their ideas and insights about community challenges they encounter everyday, there wouldn't be a whole lot for the coders to do.  Sure, they have ideas for improvement and they certainly have the skills and expertise to make those improvements happen - but these are whole brain problems that require whole brain solutions; essentially, the skills and types of thinking that writers, artists, business people, social workers, teachers, students, scientists,  laborers, doctors, tradespeople AND programmers bring to the table. 

What it is

Code for Hillsborough is one of nearly 100  National Day of Civic Hacking events going on throughout the country the weekend of June 6.   The national event has a very simple, straightforward mission:  "To improve our communities and the governments that serve them."   Organized by Code for America, of which Code for Tampa Bay Brigade is a part,  with support from NASA and SecondMuse, the overarching goal of National Day of Civic Hacking is for residents, community groups, and government to collaborate to make their communities stronger.

Now the super awesome cool thing about this idea is that it's a collaborative notion shared by the governments of the communities that are hosting these events! In an era of political bottlenecks and ideological logjams,  the idea that citizens and governments can work together for the good of both should be cause for celebration by one and all. 

How it Works

Our two day event invites citizens from throughout Hillsborough County to join with developers,  coders,  government staff and community organizers, to tackle a number of potential projects put forth by the county, local citizens, and Code for America.   The general project themes are transportation, an emergency services educational app for youth, and some community mapping efforts, among others.   Those who aren't programmers help articulate ideas, designs and pathways to solutions that participating coders can develop into actual frameworks

We'll publish the final event schedule soon, but generally speaking,  Code for Hillsborough will work like this:

Why it Matters

Some of the projects we'll work on will become long term projects for Code for Tampa Bay Brigade and other groups.  Some may be adopted by the county for further development, to become resources and tools from which citizens can benefit.  And every moment spent together as citizens and government working for the common good, will be well spent.

 

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Plans for the 3rd Annual Code for Hillsborough event (formerly Hillsborough Hackathon) are steaming right along, with amazing collaborative energy by Hillsborough County administrators and a great collection of community partners that includes, in addition to Code for Tampa Bay Brigade, Microsoft, Castleroc, Laicos, Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay, Eureka! Factory and Red Hat.

Hillsborough County is setting the bar high for municipal governments, opening doors and data in celebration and support of the National Day of Civic Hacking.  The Hillsborough County Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2) program, which provided an EDI2 grant for the program,  is leading organizaton Hillsborough Hackathon June 5 - 7 at the Microsoft Tampa office at  5426 Bay Center Drive, Ste. 700 in Tampa.

Together with all our partners, we invite urbanists, civic hackers, government staff, developers, designers, community organizers and anyone with the passion to make their city better. Collaboratively, we'll work to build new solutions using publicly-released data, technology, and design processes to improve our communities and our government, with the support of both.  Anyone can participate; you don’t have to be an expert in technology, you just have to care about your neighborhood and community.

The purpose of the Hackathon is to illustrate the power of open government practices, particularly where data is readily available to support meaningful collaboration between the public and private sectors.

The National Day of Civic Hacking is a unique opportunity to bring together some of the best and brightest minds in the technology community to push forward civic innovation and open idea-sharing.  And we're so very proud of Hillsborough County for taking the lead on open and collaborative government support.

Register for Code for Hillsborough at Eventbrite .   Read the recent press release here:  Hillsborough Hackathon Set for June 5-7   Learn more about National Day of Civic Hacking at HackforChange.org

Stay tuned for more event news and updates soon!

 

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Code for Tampa Bay Brigade joins Hillsborough County's 3rd annual National Day of Civic Hacking event as an event partner, in collaboration with Microsoft,  Eureka! Factory,  Laicos ,  CastleRoc Information ServicesThor International, Red Hat and other community partners to help improve our communities and the governments that serve them. 

We'll be part of a community of  thousands of people from across the United States who will come together for National Day of Civic Hacking. The goal of National Day of Civic Hacking is for residents, community groups, and government to collaborate to make their communities stronger. This is the third National Day of Civic Hacking. National Day of Civic Hacking is organized by Code for America. The leadership team is made up of NASA, and SecondMuse.

The theme for National Day of Civic Hacking is Principles for 21st Century Government, which we introduced at our Code Across meetup back in February. We encourage events to organize around one or more of the Principles. In addition to the theme, Code for America will be offering challenges for organizers to use at  events. 

You can RSVP to participate with Code for Tampa Bay Brigade at our MeetUp page , as well as join in any upcoming planning meetings.  More information will also be available soon on the Hillsborough County website.

 

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Code for  Tampa Bay has had an interesting journey over the past year and a half. As we move into 2015 with a  dedicated  and visionary core group of members, projects underway and plans for National Day of Civic Hacking on the calendar for the summer, it seems like a good time to look at where we've been and where we hope to be going.

At our March meeting this week,  several members shared why they were there, at 6pm on a Monday, after a long day of work or school.  Gathered around the Media:scape collaborative work station, at the awesome Hive at John F. Germany Library, Tampa's beautiful public makerspace, they spoke of wanting to create solutions instead of complain about problems, about the opportunity Code for America involvement gives us to be active and engaged citizens.   Voting , they agreed, gives us a voice.  Coding for Tampa Bay, they said, gives us the ability to physically make a difference, to be civic partners with government and citizens, to build bridges instead of walls.

And that, in a nutshell, is what Code for America is all about, and what Code for Tampa Bay Brigade exists to accomplish.

In the Beginning

Code for Tampa Bay Brigade got its start in November 2013, as Code for Tampa, with two members who were excited about the possibilities inherent in a Code for American group here in the Tampa area.  The Hive was just getting started, and was then known as the Community Innovation Center, and the CfT group looked like a natural fit in a public makerspace.  

But it proved a little challenging to get others on board.  Initial interest turned out to be private sector groups with personal agendas who thought Code for Tampa was a convenient way to get free programming solutions .   One apparent early adopter was even on a phone call with local organizers and Code for America, but then failed to show for subsequent meetings.   Local government contacts seemed interested, as well, but never made meetings, or fully engaged at this early stage.   Another potential partner persuaded us to change our name to Code for Hillsborough, with the thought that we'd get more buy in from local government that way, and then that partner disappeared.

We just kept meeting, two or three of us, attending the local National Day of Civic Hacking event in the summer of 2014 as Code for Hillsborough. And all the time, Code for America stood by us, patiently guiding and supporting. 

 
Turning the Corner

By fall of 2014, we'd picked up a couple more new members, enough to strengthen our core team, updated our Community Profile and decided there was more to be gained with a more inclusive name, better representative of what we hoped to achieve, and we were reborn as Code for Tampa Bay.  

And we kept meeting:  now four or five smart, dedicated people willing to wait it out; a Red Hat sales director with  a  commitment to the open source movement, a local resident and his son, interested in prison reform and learning about civic coding and it's potential to improve social issues; a young local software developer, a writer. We launched our website, started a localwiki that we debuted at the November 15 Grand Opening of the Hive.

After meeting a few more milestones, we qualified for free MeetUp membership with Code for America support,  and that made all the difference. as more people with interests in coding and civic engagement began to find us. We applied for a Hillsborough County Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2) grant to host a National Day of Civic Hacking event in the summer, reaching out to past organizers, and now we were a presence.

Potential partners came and went - and we kept meeting..

New Year, Fresh Energy

In early 2015, another new public space opened up in Hillsborough County, the Entrepreneur Collaborative Center (ECC), and they welcomed us there as well.  IT staff from Hillsborough County began coming to meetings.   An energetic local coder took it upon himself to do a demonstration of data organizing, using GIS  subsidence data from the Florida US Geological Survey, and now we had an educational component, as well as an actual project. 

We held our February meeting at the ECC, as part of Tampa Bay Startup Week and about 15 people attended.   Our Twitter page began garnering new followers, our MeetUp page membership pushed past 50.   

At our March meeting, we were joined by IT staff from the City of Tampa, who had been encouraged to attend by supervisors, just as our Hillsborough County IT staff member had been, and now we have representation from both the County and City, and a solid core of Brigade members with a variety of skills and interests who are actively interested in positive community engagement, who believe in the power of collaboration between government and citizens to make things better for both.

Lessons Learned

The lesson we bring from our first year and a half is this:  Play the Long Game.    Things of worth and meaning take time.  Building community takes time.  Making positive change takes at least as much time, if not more time, than it took to create negative situations.   Slow and steady, if it doesn't always win the race, keeps you on the journey.  

So we will continue to meet,  gathering the first Monday of each month at the Hive at John F. Germany Public Library, and we will keep the conversation going, the bridge building going,  the light on for transparency and openness in our communities at all levels, and the door open to anyone who wants to join us to help make Tampa Bay better for all of us.

If you want to be part of our civic engagement group,  join up at Meetup page, and follow along on Twitter and Facebook.   And if you're in the Tampa Bay area and are aware of a problem or challenge in your community that you have an idea for solving, or would like to bring to our attention, please share your thoughts on our Code for Tampa Bay Brigade Projects form.

Code for Tampa Bay Brigade - Coding for the Greater Good

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In celebration of CodeAcross 2015, and to help kick off Tampa Bay StartUp Week, and we're partnering with the Mark Sharpe Entrepreneur Collaborative Center (ECC) in Tampa & the Iron Yard in St. Petersburg for this month's Code for Tampa Bay Meet Up, on Monday, February 2nd at 6pm at the ECC!  

CodeAcross is officially held Feb. 20-22 , marking a weekend of civic hacking events hosted by nodes of the Code for America network around the world. It is timed to coincide with both the last weekend of the Code for America Fellows residency andInternational Open Data Day. The goal of CodeAcross is to activate the Code for America network and inspire residents everywhere to get actively involved in their community. The theme for CodeAcross 2015 is Principles for 21st Century Government . 

Together with Iron Yard St. Pete, we'll be welcoming guests and new members, taking a look at the Principles for 21st Century Government and how they might apply in our community, and finishing our GIS Data journey that Jeremy White started us on, taking the data he showed us how to clean up, and converting it into a web based resource for ease of use and application, via Rails and Javascript. 

Like the Hive, where we also meet, the ECC is a community gem:  8,000 square feet of shared space, providing traditional Small Business Information Center services , and serving as a place for community partners and local entrepreneurs to comingle and  collaborate.  It's a fitting place to bring together citizens and government in open collaboration for the benefit of all. 

 It's great to be part of the growing and increasingly collaborative tech and business community in Tampa Bay, and we're excited about all the opportunities for open government and robust economic development that working together on both sides of the Bay makes possible! 

Tampa Bay Startup Week is, at heart, a "reflection of our community's unique entrepreneurial identity."  We don't have to "be like" Silicon Valley, or Chattanooga, or any of the other great places putting their own industrious stamp of identity on their communities.  We're Tampa Bay! And we can build together on all the resources and skills that make us strong and competitive economically, and also make us caring and compassionate communities for all our residents.

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Many thanks to Jeremy White for his great first hand look at cleaning up data (GIS data, in this case) with Python. It was really interesting and shed a lot of light  on the many facets of organizing data. Thanks, too, to Sean, from  Hillsborough Count IT, for looking into ways we can collaborate with the county, and for being so welcoming and supportive to our young Brigade. We're looking forward to becoming a resource both our community and local government can count on.

We also enjoyed some good discussion about some of the inherent challenges of different types of data sets, from how they're used to how they're interpreted, and how to make things more accessible and usable for a variety of needs.

Next month, Jeremy will walk us through creating a web app for the GIS data, with Rails and Javascript. We're hoping to hold our February meeting at the new Entrepreneurship Collaborative Center in Ybor City.

Follow along on Twitter, Facebook and on our MeetUp page for more news & updates

Code on! 

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We hope your holidays are happy ones, and that 2015 is bright and promising for you and yours!  We're excited about the New Year, and look forward to working together with our collaborative partners and community volunteers to help make Tampa Bay better, brighter and more transparent for all. 

We hope you'll join us at one of our upcoming meetings - the next one is January 5 at the Hive Community Innovation Center (RSVP at our MeetUp page)  And in February, we're going to try meeting at the new Mark Sharpe Entrepeneur Collaborative Center, where we hope to help host the 2015 Hillsborough Hackathon, for which we're grateful to have received a Hillsborough County EDI2 grant

Thank you very very much to our great core group of Brigade organizers:

Co-captain John Punzak, of Red Hat; the Phil Muinos -there's two of them, Jr. & Sr.for providing storytelling support - and Chris Willingham, a programmer at SourceToad, our delivery lead who made our website possible and manages our projects.

And very special thanks to Code for America, for their neverending support and encouragement along our sometimes halting journey to Brigadehood.  

We were recently asked, along with other  Brigades, to share our 2014 story, including any lessons learned, warts and all, and not to leave out failure. We're glad they asked about failure, because real success isn't possible without it.

We're great at failure! Or at least near failure - let's call it periodic fainting spells, mild swooning, occasional light headedness. 

The biggest lesson we learned in our inaugural year is the power of perseverance; get a fainting couch for those weak moments, rest a spell, then get up and try again.  If you believe in the value of Code for America for your community - and we deeply do - then you have to be prepared to play the long game. This is especially true if your community is new to the idea of open government, and startles easily when someone asks for data.

In less than one year, we went through three name changes trying to find our place and our voice, suffered the loss of a major nonprofit partner afflicted by mission creep, and experienced the challenge of helping the local community and municipal partners understand what Code for America is and how it can help our community - and came out strong, vibrant and viable.

We now have grant support from Hillsborough County for Hack Tampa Bay 2015, two great meeting spaces, a location for our 2015 National Day of Civic Hacking event and collaborators with whom to host it, and a strong relationship with our municipal partners.  

We'll probably have more fainting spells in the coming year, but we know now that we can keep moving forward, that slow and steady wins the race - although it's not really a race; it's a steady way of being that's inclusive, open, forward looking and always ready to help make our community better.

Happy Holidays, and an Open New Year!

-Terri Willingham, co-captain, Code for Tampa Bay Brigade

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Monday evening, at 6pm, we'll hold our monthly meeting at the Hive Community Innovation Center at John F. Germany Library, at 900 N. Ashley Drive in downtown Tampa.  
On the Agenda -

Our meeting starts at 6pm, and you can find us over at the Media:Scape area by the Robotics Center.  RSVP at our Meetup page.

Hope to see you there!

 
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