Boulder links with Code for America to improve community engagement

BOULDER – The city of Boulder will pay Code for America $100,000 for a seven-month project aimed at developing new approaches to encouraging and facilitating community engagement from all segments of the city’s population.

Code for America is a non-profit organization that builds open-source technology and organizes networks of people “dedicated to making government services simple, effective and easy to use.”

As part of Boulder’s project, Code for America senior fellow Becky Boone will live in Boulder full-time and work with the city on creating ways for community members – with an emphasis on the traditionally under-represented – to help officials address important issues.

The full cost of the project is $150,000, with Code for America working to raise $50,000 of that total from the community.

“The city takes transparency and community collaboration seriously,” city manager Jane Brautigam said in a statement. “Communication in the twenty-first century is changing and we want to harness the entrepreneurial spirit of our community and be part of that change.”

City of Boulder spokesman Mike Banuelos said in a phone interview that the city will look to create new ways for citizens to weigh in on the city’s comprehensive housing strategy as a sort of pilot project, with the idea that whatever platforms are created could be used by all projects and programs within the city to increase engagement.

The city already uses online tools like the MindMixer platform for its Inspire Boulder website that is an online forum for residents to make their voices heard on issues. Banuelos said the solutions created by the project with Code for America wouldn’t replace avenues like MindMixer but rather add more “tools to the toolbox” to get people involved. Those could range from digital solutions to in-person solutions.

“We’re a little obtuse purposely so we don’t lead the process in any one way,” Banuelos said about what specific solutions the city expects or hopes to see arise. “I think this is really just to broaden what we offer residents (to enable engagement).”

In addition to Boone, the Code For Boulder Brigade – a group of local volunteers – will participate in creating the solutions for improving community engagement.