As an organizer of Code for Atlanta, I often hear the refrain, "I'm not a coder, this stuff's not for me!". That sentiment couldn't be further from the truth. Civic hacking happens whenever people work together quickly and creatively to make where they live better. Writing code is just one tool in our belt. We're also designers, data analysts, project managers, journalists, lawyers, policy wonks, and subject-matter experts of all stripes. Anyone who wants to make their community a better place can be a civic hacker.
This weekend, February 21-22, we're hosting CodeAcross Atlanta at the Center. The focus is on revitalizing the South Downtown neighborhood, which has long been neglected despite being home to Atlanta's City Hall and the State Capitol Building. The projects we're going to tackle need all kinds of civic hackers:
- A branding campaign and storytelling website for South Downtown that begins to change the hearts and minds of Atlantans and their impressions of the neighborhood. Yes, we need folks who can code and launch a website. But just as importantly, we need designers to think about the real-world implications of what a strong brand means for a neighborhood. And we'll need gifted storytellers to convey the gravity of the history of the neighborhood and the role it played in the civil rights movement.
- An interactive asset map that comprehensively displays existing properties in the neighborhood and opportunities for economic development. We need mapping experts to write the code to build the map, but we also need people with expertise in commercial real estate and city planning to help guide the design of the map. We need volunteers to go out into the neighborhood and figure out what exactly is there, because the data about the neighborhood is in many instances incorrect or out-of-date.
- A participatory tool that amplifies the voices of those who live and work in South Downtown. This tool needs to work both on-line and on-the-ground. In many instances of economic development, the powerful, monied interests coming in simply don't listen to the people already in the area. We'll build a platform that collects input from the community and actually delivers that input to key stakeholders. To design it well, it'll require the "soft skills" of listening and empathy. To make it effective, it'll need guidance from those experienced in advocacy and lobbying the powerful.
While the "code" part of Code for Atlanta is what makes our efforts unique, the ability to write software is just one of many skills our work requires. We hope to see you at CodeAcross this weekend. If you know how to code, that's great. If not, that's fine too. Civic hacking is for everybody.