Why Code for Philly's leadership team is stepping down - Technical.ly Philly

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Mar. 14, 2018 12:47 pm

Why Code for Philly’s leadership team is stepping down

A confluence of personal and professional factors, really. It's a natural part of the evolution of a group like Code for Philly, said exiting Executive Director Dawn McDougall.

Code for Philly's leadership team (until April 1, that is).

(Photo by Chris Kendig)

Major changes are coming to Code for Philly, the local brigade of Code for America with roots going back almost a decade in civic tech.

The Philly group’s leadership team, which came together last year, is stepping down effective April 1. Executive Director Dawn McDougall, will leave her position after three years in the nonprofit’s top chair and will be replaced by two co-directors. Rich McMillen, former Projects lead, will take one of the co-director seats and will be tasked with filling the second one.

McDougall, who also joined Center City dev firm PromptWorks as its operations manager in 2017, will remain connected to the organization as a senior advisor and will serve as liaison to Code for America as newly elected regional representative in the org’s National Advisory Council. Longtime Code for Philly leader and Jarvus Innovations CTO Chris Alfano will also stay on as a senior advisor.

“It’s been an exciting journey to lead Code for Philly during such a stage of growth,” said McDougall in a blog post published Monday. “With our leadership team, we piloted the month-long hackathon format in late 2016 and we’ve seen the model picking up in popularity with redeploys by the state, Open Savannah, and most recently Open Delaware. While there’s still more to go, I’m incredibly proud of the team’s accomplishments.”

Also stepping down are Jacqui Siotto, Community Lead; Elsiever’s Meghan Kelly, Events Lead; and PromptWorks’ Pat Woods, Communications Lead. Postings for the volunteer roles are coming soon.

But there was a big question missing from the announcement post: Why?

“A big part for me was wanting to step down from leadership to give an opportunity for others to bring new and fresh ideas so it can go to the next level,” McDougall told Technical.ly. “It’s very easy in leadership and in volunteer role to continue on to think the way you manage is the best way.”

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It’s a natural part of the evolution of a group like Code for Philly, said McDougall. Additionally, the board members were already past the pre-established one-year mark in their volunteer posts.

“When we started building the board, it was in response to how people were starting to step up,” said McDougall. “I’ve learned in the last few years that I can’t be the single voice for code for Philly. Me and Chris [Alfano] can serve a stronger role as advisors.”

McDougall said it didn’t just happen overnight. The triggering factor was the end of yearlong terms and personal circumstances of board members. Woods, for example, is taking on a big project with his wife: parenting a newborn due in April.

“It’s *the* reason I’m stepping down,” Woods said in a text message.

Admittedly, limits in time commitment are, in part, why the board is stepping down, McDougall said.

“The thing with groups like this is that you can put in whatever amount of time you can put in,” McDougall said. “But leadership is different. I’d hate for people to feel like they have to take as much as we took on.”

What’s next for the beloved civic-tech organization? Stay tuned for more insights from the departing leadership team, plus what McMillen brings to the table as new co-director.

Companies: Code for America
Projects: Code for Philly
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