“This experience with Code for America has ignited a tremendously exciting cultural shift in our metro that, I believe, will make both Kansas Cities much more accommodating both to our residents and to the business community.”
- Kansas City, KS Mayor Mark Holland
Code for America’s selection of our two cities is further validation that the rest of the nation is looking for us to lead. I cannot wait to see the innovations they bring to the table to help our residents.”
- Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Sly James
In Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri there’s real advancement in civic tech and Brigade involvement. In 2013 Kansas City, Missouri put its open data portal online and Kansas City, Kansas passed a resolution to begin doing the same. Also in 2013, the Code for America fellowship team helped the city establish a Brigade by partnering with those in the startup scene, student groups, larger corporations and the KCMO Mayor’s Challenge Cabinet. Today, the Kansas City Brigade has 51+ members and local leader Jase Wilson is currently looking for a co-leader. For more info on how you can get involved visit the Kansas City Brigade Meetup page.
(L-R) Ariel Kennan, CfA Government Relations Director Luke Norris and Andrew Hyder sit down for some Kansas BBQ.
Kansas City Spotlight at the Code for America Summit
Mayor James and Mayor Holland weigh in on the Code for America experience
In 2013, Code for America’s fellows Andrew Hyder and Ariel Kennan teamed up with Kansas City Kansas and Kansas City Missouri Mayor’s Offices to understand new opportunities for economic development. While their city contacts were extremely helpful, one challenge for the project was the fact that an administration change happened in Kansas City, Kansas during the course of the year. Nevertheless, city contacts David Rowe (Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Mayor, KCMO), John McGurk (Chief of Staff, KCMO), Ashley Hand (Chief Innovation Officer, KCMO), Jason Banks (Director of Business Access, KCK), Brett Deichler (Unified Government, KCK) and Chris Cooley (Director of GeoSpatial Services, KCK) worked alongside the fellows and helped set up 62 meetings with hundreds of community members.
In all of those sessions, a common theme the fellows heard throughout their interviews was that many of the city’s positive projects were being done in silos with little sharing of resources or information across disparate groups.
In response, the fellows hosted two roundtable meetings inviting close to 200 community members from the business community, NGOs and city government. The events fostered a number of new relationships. Additionally, the fellows worked on developer events including Hacking the Gigabit City, CityCamp KC and Hack Kansas City. The Hack Kansas City event alone brought out more than 80 participants and actually solidified the creation of the Code for America Brigade.
In addition to distillation and ideation from the community interviews and events, the fellows looked at the Google Digital Divide Study on Kansas City and saw that adults without web skills and internet access were at a disadvantage in obtaining city info or completing complicated tasks. The fellows set out to improve the basic web skills of those in the city (primarily business owners) in the hopes of creating a healthier community and a more prepared workforce.
The result was BizFriendly — an app that helps business owners learn new web skills and engage with their customers. Users log-in, follow a step-by-step lessons with dynamic feedback, connect to locals and teach others. Presented to the Cities as a minimum viable product in April, the app continues to add new users and lessons.
Beyond the app, Kennan and Hyder saw their fellowship year as an opportunity to use technology as the forcing factor for cultural change. While both Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri had city staff who wanted to embrace innovation, the collaborative act of app-building led to concrete discussions about shared data, open data policies and joint best practices. The duo coached a number of government stakeholders on the merits of releasing open data and even went so far as to help draft policy. A digital literacy app didn’t just help small businesses, it helped innovation take root in two great cities destined for bright futures.
To see digital innovation recommendations from the fellows on a regional and city level check out their resource post.
Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
Hall Family Foundation
Hallmark Cards, Inc.
H&R Block Foundation
Sharing key moments and insights from the 2013 fellowship year working with Kansas City, MO, Kansas City, KS and Wyandotte County.
Now for people who enjoy using technology, it might feel like there’s an app for everything. Some are mindless. I mean I’m a little embarrassed to tell you how much time I spend baking fake pizza on my mobile device. Then there are apps that are meant to actually be productive. And let’s hear about one of those now…Laura Ziegler of member station KCUR reports on what Code for America is doing in the Kansas City.