National Day of Civic Hacking

People Over Paperwork: Civic Action for a Stronger Safety Net

Saturday, September 12, 2020
new hampshire and massachusetts team up for NDoCH
9:30 AM EDT
Opening Remarks

#cafe-hangout is open all day. If you have some questions need tech help or just want to take a break and chat come and stop by.
10:00 AM EDT
Activity Block
Food Link in Arlington
Speaker: Elise Springuel Operations Manager

Food Link MA is a food rescue organization that traditionally rescues good food from groceries and restaurants that would otherwise go to waste and transfers it to food banks and other organizations that distribute it to food insecure people. The onset of COVID upended this business model causing an increase in demand and a complete change in the nature of the supply. This was a common experience across the food system in the USA. Come and hear how Food Link pivoted, what it revealed about our systems and how we are working to continue to adapt and build new resilient systems to manage similar challenges in future.

11:00 AM EDT
Activity Block
Massachusetts Association for Community Action (MASSCAP)
Speaker: Martha Rogers

In the first month of 2020, Code for America had started a small pilot called GetYourRefund to help volunteer tax assisters work digitally for the first time. In April, the Code for America non-profit and its volunteers began dramatically scaling the pilot as part of the COVID-19 response.

In June this year, many of the 23 Massachusetts Community Action Agencies coordinating tax volunteers joined the pilot, coordinated by Martha and her team. She will talk about taxes in the time of COVID-19 and what virtual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is enabling. Because MASSCAP is essential to the Commonwealth safety net in many ways, she may also help contextualize the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities in the subsequent session.

12:00 PM EDT
CFA Keynote

Join a panel of leaders from Code for America, the SF-Marin Food Bank, and the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities discuss the current state of the social safety net as the impacts of COVID-19 continue, approaches to strengthening it for those who need it most from grassroots to government at all levels, and what’s on the horizon.


Code for America: Amanda Renteria, Meredith Horowski, Tracey Patterson, Veronica Young
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: Jennifer Wagner
SF-Marin Food Bank: Liliana Sandoval

1:00 PM EDT
All activities start
at the same time

Participents should
pick one
Activity Block
Speaker: Quinten Steenhuis

Join MassAccess as we talk about how COVID-19 has changed how Massachusetts residents can access the courts since in-person court servicies are almost impossible. We will explore how moving virutal has changed filing documents and access courts affects us all.

Budgeting - Workshop
Speaker: Annie LaCourt, Michael Morisy

As the idea of defunding the police has entered the mainstream conversation this year, one question raised by this goal doesn't get a lot of attention - what is an effective approach to changing a municipality's budget priorities? This workshop will show you how to find your community's budget, how to understand the budget process, and what you need to consider if you want to move the needle on budget priorities. We will use participant's communities as examples so you may learn more than you might think!

CFA Design Audit
Speaker: Francesca Costa, Diana Varnes, Kelli Shewmaker

Bringing benefits applications online presents opportunities to dramatically improve access, but many of today’s online applications for public benefits are long, visually cluttered, and challenging to understand. The resulting user experience can create significant barriers to accessing critical safety net benefits. State agencies usually understand they have some room to improve, but lack the time and resources to examine their benefits applications. Sometimes, there is a lack of awareness about how challenging the benefits application might be to complete - and how many clients may be missing out on these benefits as a result.

CFA Asset Mapping
Speakers: Dustin Palmer, Kate Hanson, Marena Brinkhurst, Alex Merritt, Tom Dooner

Asset mapping is an integral part of empowered community building that is based on understanding the strengths and needs of diverse communities. First, use publicly available information about your locale to give a sense of the landscape and demographics. Next, research the location and availability of government programs (e.g. county health and human services offices), community based organizations (like resource centers, food banks, and legal aid clinics) or other resources that are vital to your community. Visually documenting the landscape can help identify what might make your community more equitable and accessible to all who live there.

CFA Generate insights around COVID-response
Speakers: Eleanor Davis, Will Pfeffer, Julie Sutherland

Problem statements are concise descriptions of an issue that help understand the problems better and come up with effective solutions. They are like navigational compasses – the direction north being your desired outcome. Whether you are conducting an idea challenge, an internal hackathon (hackathon for your employees) or a full-fledged innovation campaign, the problem statement is key in determining the success.

2:00 PM EDT
Project Challenge
Project Breakouts
Refunder Budget Editor

Refunder is an exploration, analysis, and communication tool for municipal budgets, aimed at helping cause-based advocates bridge the gap from a hashtag (like #DefundThePolice) to meaningful policy outcomes. It will do this by allowing advocates to create personalized modifications to a specific city budget that reflect their policy priorities, and share them with the public and with local legislators and policymakers as a way to show the path forward for meaningful change.

The Budget Editor is the core technology that will underlie the Refunder application. It will allow for the intake of a city budget (preferably from open data), and for the modification of that budget by a user through easy-to-understand UI controls. In the future, this functionality may be used to develop other features for Refunder, like an easy budget creator based on policy areas.

Shared: Google Doc

Nashua Emergency Management Project
As part of the City of Nashua’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they set up a call center to support residents in need. In order to keep their work organized, and to support following up with residents who have requested specific services, the City has asked to create a lightweight case management system that will enable Call Center employees to track their work, and that will allow non-profit partners in their ecosystem, as well as residents, to enter cases through a web interface.

MassAccess - Access to Justice

MassAccess is a project that helps Massachusetts residents access the courts at a time when in-person court services are impossible or unsafe. With MassAccess, court users can fill out forms online with step-by-step guidance that clarify terms and and processes that are confusing to navigate. Many forms can then be directly filed with court clerks electronically. Survivors of domestic violence can use our forms to request a restraining order or for their abuser to leave their shared home. Tenants who are living in dangerous housing conditions can file a petition with the court to get immediate repairs. We have both research-based and code-based projects that support our mission by improving our database of courts with features that help users of the court get to the finish line.

Shared: Google Doc

MA Benefit Design Audit (CFA)
How well do the benefit programs offered by the state of Massachusetts stack up against the rest of the natation. We are going to be auditing Unemployment, Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, WIC, LIHEAP to see what's good what's bad and what we need to fix.

50-State Assessment

Shared: Google Doc

5:30 PM EDT
Show and Tell
7:00 PM EDT
After Party
After a hard days work of learning and civic hacking come join us for the after party for a some fun and relaxation. We will be running Jeopardy and there will prizes.