During conversations and campaigns, and in hackathons and projects, it’s been apparent that Baltimore’s technologists want to improve the community. In 2017, a civic hacking group affiliated with Code for America is starting up to channel that energy toward change.
The organizers of Code for Baltimore are looking to provide a place for technologists to build tools to help the community. Captain Wes Etheredge, the founder of Meta Studios, also said the group is aiming to add a “larger context of bringing the community together with city leaders.”
That’s evident in plans for the first meetup on Jan. 12 at Alexander’s Tavern in Fells Point. The Mic Check event is aiming to provide a chance for people who want to get involved to talk about what issues they want to address, and what they are interested in building. Leaders from the Baltimore Police Department and City Councilman Zeke Cohen will also be in attendance.
Etheredge and Rachel Davis work with data and visualizations with the federal government through Meta Studios, but said they also had the desire to work on a local level. It turned into action after they met a leader of Code for Philly through a data science hackathon Meta Studios ran at Spark Baltimore during Baltimore Innovation Week.
They also learned about the police department’s work with Code for America to bring an open data tool to the city, and found Chief Ganesha Martin, who heads the Department of Justice Compliance and Accountability and External Affairs, was eager to work with a local group.
The duo teamed up with co-captain Luke Barsotti, and they secured the Code for America affiliation. The brigade leaders are looking to provide a space for coders as well as designers, project managers and others who want to have a voice.
“We want to show that it can be inclusive of everyone,” Davis said. “You don’t have to know how to code.”
Keeping with that theme, Code for Baltimore around three different types of events: community events to share ideas (such as the first event), learn nights to focus on teaching skills and hack nights to build.
Partnering with leaders and institutions that are working to help the community is also important for developing tools that can make the most impact.
With the exchange, “Community leaders will better understand the wants of the community, but the community will also understand the problems of the city on a different level as well,” Etheredge said.