Why Should You Join a Civic Tech Project?

If you're looking for a sign to join a civic tech project, this is it.
October 6, 2021
Three women talking and brainstorming at a whiteboard. Whiteboard has wireframes of an app drawn on.

It may sound corny, but volunteers change the world.

Civic tech volunteers change the world by building tools that educate the public, boost advocacy efforts, and advance structural change. We’ve seen civic tech projects change policy, help implement new laws, and connect people to much-needed resources.

So what is civic tech? It can encompass a wide range of community-driven projects. The resulting apps, visualizations, and websites do everything from connecting people to public services to amplifying policy initiatives.

Civic Tech in Action

In one example, Code for America and the California Department of Social Services launched GetCalFresh in 2019 to close the massive gap in those eligible for SNAP benefits and those actually receiving them. Civic tech volunteers built GetCalFresh, which continues to help vulnerable Californians apply for benefits.

After California passed the Tenant Protection Act in 2019, the largest tenant protections expansion in U.S. history, TechEquity launched a civic tech project to help ensure that the implementation of the law had the greatest possible impact. We collaborated with community organizations and organized volunteers to build a calculator and resources site which continues to help vulnerable renters understand their rights; Civic tech volunteers are currently hard at work on a new version that includes local rent control. Stay tuned to learn more about this project!

Often, social justice campaigns don’t have the resources for dedicated technical staff or expensive consultants. The Fair Chance Housing Coalition, which advocates for the removal of background checks from rental applications in California, tapped TechEquity civic tech volunteers to build their campaign website. In January 2020, the Oakland City Council passed a law banning these discriminatory checks, opening up rental opportunities to formerly incarcerated folks. Berkeley followed suit shortly afterwards. These sort of policy wins, bolstered by online presence and public support, can often have a powerful domino effect across cities, states, and the country.

Building the Movement

These are just a few examples of the power of tech volunteers. While we can’t innovate our way out of the huge challenges our society faces, we can build tools that support and create real, meaningful change.

At TechEquity, we’re building a movement of volunteers to make that happen.

Here are a few of the projects we have in the pipeline:

  • A calculator helping renters navigate complex state and local rent control ordinances
  • Open source California state legislation tracking tools
  • Interactive maps of California commercial property tax inequalities, down to the parcel level
  • Creative visualizations in support of housing and labor advocacy efforts

Coders are welcome, but you don’t need to know how to code to participate! We’re building diverse project teams of volunteer designers, data analysts, researchers, idea people—and, yes, coders. The best part: we’re collaborative, open, we learn from each other, and we have fun.

Think civic tech might be for you? I’d love to meet you. Take the first step and sign up!