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Meet the 5 projects from Code for Philly’s Civic Engagement Launchpad

Connecting nonprofits with donors, easing access to open data and engaging voters are some of the goals the projects look to tackle through technology.

You'll get there. (Photo by Flickr user Michael Himbeault, used under a Creative Commons license)

After a monthlong civic-tech sprint, with guidance from mentors and community members, five teams presented their final projects as part of Code for Philly’s Civic Engagement Launchpad hackathon.

At the demo night, held Tuesday at Harrisburg University’s Philly campus, the teams presented the projects before a legit panel of experts that include Mark Wheeler, interim CIO for the City of Philadelphia; Sara Hall, product manager for the Office of Open Data and Digital TransformationShilla Saebi, Program Manager of Open Source at Comcast; and Lauren Lockwood, former Chief Digital Officer for the City of Boston.

“[Launchpad] is a hackathon with a higher purpose that asks volunteers to go on a month-long sprint to push their project past some of the thorny, early steps in its existence,” wrote Toni McIntyre, a civic technologist and writer recently announced as the group’s second co-director. “Our volunteers are people who are enthusiastic about building something that can create change in their city. Launchpad is how we give them the best running start we can.”

Code for Philly, the local brigade of Code for America, changed its leadership roster in March, with former executive director Dawn McDougall stepping down after three years. She was replaced by former projects lead Rich McMillen, also in the co-director chair. Charlie Costanzo and Sophia Ezomoghene were also brought on as part of the new leadership team.

“Our panelists this year were really amazing, had very well-thought out questions and direction for our teams,” McIntyre said of the demo night. “We had a great turnout and our project teams really had good ideas and worked hard.”

Here are the projects presented at the demo night, as told by their team leads:

My Brother’s Keeper

  • Team lead: Michael Lamb

Tell us a bit about the project:

The basic concept of the project was to provide a simple and easy-to-use app for donation centers who serve the poor to be able to let the community know what items they need the most. It also provides an equally easy-to-understand map UI where donors can find out what those organizations’ needs are, so they can make informed an impactful giving decisions.

What did you learn from the Launchpad process?

As much work as you have to put into the actual coding and architectural choices, half the battle really is keeping project scope under control. Our group did an awesome job at this!

What impact do you hope the project has?

We hope our project will build bridges between people who may not normally mix, so they can come together to solve an old problem in a new way and strengthen the social fabric of our city.

Cypher Philly

  • Team lead: Jason Cox

Tell us a bit about the project:

Cypher Philly is a data hub of open and public data.

What did you learn from the Launchpad process?

Getting documentation and the plan mapped out is extremely important to make it easy for people to join your project!

What impact do you hope the project has?

To make open data much more accessible to journalists, activists, app creators, and general citizens.

Match Match Philly

  • Team Lead: Jaclyn Boone

Tell us a bit about the project:

The Match Match Philly project is working to connect the City of Philadelphia’s new engagement database to the Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service’s online volunteer recruitment system via API services.

What did you learn from the Launchpad process?

Throughout the process of working with my Code for Philly team, I’ve been impressed with the extent of their knowledge and their continued commitment to this project.

What impact do you hope the project has?

The API will expand my office’s capacity to track and report on volunteer initiatives, which will allow us to spend more time providing support in the community.

Philly Ward Leaders

  • Team lead: Pat Christmas

Tell us a bit about the project:

The project’s main goals are to increase understanding and awareness of the ward system and how it works.

What did you learn from the Launchpad process?

Quality product development is a lot of work! The Code for Philly volunteers have been incredibly thoughtful and deliberate in plotting a course for the project. We’re excited to share the new improvements in the coming weeks.

What impact do you hope the project has?

The more people are in-the-know and engaged in local politics, the better!


  • Team lead: Spencer Snygg

Tell us a bit about the project: is a non-profit, non-partisan website aimed at connecting voters, politicians, and organizations without advertising dollars getting in the way.

What did you learn from the Launchpad process?

A month is an appropriate time to get people excited, maintain enthusiasm and create something worth keeping. It’s important to get team members who comprise all the skills required to complete the job, but if you can’t, then shift gears and accomplish something else. It’s also a lot of fun to see what everyone else is working on.

What impact do you hope the project has?

We hope to make it easier to learn about the issues, vote for the politicians that match your vision of the future, and to engage in continuous community improvement. The launchpad was one step in that direction.

Companies: City of Philadelphia

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