Did 2016 fly by for anyone else? It’s hard to believe that another year has come to a close, but as we reflect back on the last 12 months, we’re thrilled by what Code for KC and KC Digital Drive have accomplished, not to mention the foundation we’ve built to continue our work in 2017.

Community partners, stakeholders, volunteers and sponsors are critical to our success. And whether you’ve worked with Code for KC before or are just learning about the organization, we wanted to share a brief look at some key Code for KC highlights, including projects, events and the people that helped make them happen.

What We Built in 2016

Projects are, simply put, the lifeblood of Code for KC. They’re how we strive to fulfill our goal of mobilizing volunteers to improve how our local governments and community organizations use the web. Considering what we accomplished during four key projects throughout 2016, we’re making important progress to this lofty but achievable goal.

CommunityKC: This crowd-sourced digital map tracks neighborhood and community improvement projects throughout the Kansas City metro. Not only does the map build awareness among groups who might be working toward the same goal; it also serves as an effective starting point for those looking to be more involved in the community. The initial site was built in a mere three months with the help of volunteers from Code for KC, Community Capital Fund and Greater Kansas City LISC. The site launched in early 2015 and, since then, has undergone a steady flow of functionality and design improvements, including a migration to Drupal that improved the back-end capabilities. Read more about the ongoing evolution of CommunityKC on the KC Digital Drive blog.

I Got Mine: Code for KC teamed up with our Health Innovation Team to create an HTML5 website for the City of Kansas City’s Health Department that helps residents locate free condoms, STD testing and up-to-date sexual health information. An increase in sexually transmitted diseases throughout the Kansas City metro area prompted the I Got Mine project, a comprehensive outreach campaign anchored by the website. The I Got Mine website is an ideal example of how a collaboration between Code for KC and a civic or government entity—in this case, the City of Kansas City—can efficiently create digital tools that help fight pervasive community-wide problems.

Side Lot Program: The Kansas City Land Bank inventory includes a number of small lots that are adjacent to residential properties throughout the city. To help decrease this inventory and save the City of Kansas City the cost of mowing and upkeep, the lots are sold for as low as $1 through the Side Lot program. Although neighborhood associations were notified about the available lots, sales remained low. The Side Lot program team decided to do a direct mailing to target prospective buyers. Code for KC used an algorithm to compile a mailing list of those residents who lived next to one of the vacant lots. Using that list, nearly 400 people were reached and, so far, 26 properties have been sold, which will save the city $9,100/year. Plus, conversations are ongoing with a number of other prospective buyers, with additional sales likely.

Street Medicine KC: After a year of visiting encampments to learn more about Kansas City’s homeless community, a sizable team of Code for KC volunteers (including the designer and developer from the I Got Mine project) worked to deliver a prototype, Street Medicine KC, that uses data from currently disparate systems and agencies to more efficiently connect clients and providers with available resources. That idea fed directly into the creation of Joyn, a modern end-to-end Homeless Information Management System, created by the Code for KC team during the 2016 GlobalHack, a national event held in St. Louis. After an exhausting weekend of work, the team was awarded fourth place and a cash prize of $25,000. Additionally, prospective funders have expressed interest in launching Street Medicine KC and we hope to see that happen in 2017.

We fulfilled additional projects with the invaluable help of two key community partners. The Human Factors class at Missouri Western State University has been a key resource in helping to test these projects and many others over the last year, including assisting city government sites and targeting the digital divide. Professor Jo Elliot and her team have provided a necessary human-centered perspective to inform our work.

We’ve also continued our rewarding partnership with the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law’s faculty and students. We collaborated with class project teams working on real estate (Property Assessment Tool), an inventory of blight management initiatives, and improved city permitting processes for the City of Kansas City (City Permit API). The law school has graciously provided space and support for events, including our signature annual event, Hack KC. Our work benefits immensely from a civic-minded partner with a clear focus on project-based civic tech.

Events: Keeping Volunteers Engaged and On Track

At Code for KC, our projects and their outcomes are an essential way to measure our success. Yet these projects would be much less likely to happen without regularly occurring events that keep our gifted volunteers involved and up-to-date on what we’re doing.

Because Code for KC was created from a hackathon, those events remain near and dear to us. But we’ve also taken a longer view of project development and combined hackathons with other events and other KC Digital Drive programs to create a longer and more consistent continuum of project delivery.

That continuum began with Code Across KC, held in March, which helped us identify community needs and stakeholders eager to engage with Code for KC and focused specifically on collaboration with our Health Innovation Team. During the National Day of Civic Hacking (Hack KC) in June, we built toward well-defined projects with project kick-offs and the goal to make meaningful progress during the two-day event. And at the Report Out and Recruitment event, held in September, we showcased what’s happened so far throughout the year to identify and celebrate project benchmarks and accomplishments.

These larger events act as key milestones throughout our overall project work, yet we couldn’t accomplish nearly as much without our weekly Hack Nights, held every Monday in downtown Kansas City. This is where our volunteers gather to create, test and refine in a communal atmosphere. Throughout 2016, we welcomed more than 150 people to more than 40 Hack Nights, with an average Hack Night attendance of 17 people. We also continually add people to the Code for KC online Meetup group, which now has a membership of more than 700 people.

Meet the Code for KC Team and Get Involved

We can’t celebrate the accomplishments of the Code for KC team without mentioning the people who make it happen. Our core team includes:

Paul Barham
Aaron Deacon
Oleh Kovalchuke
Scott Stockwell
Anurag Patel
Leslie Scott
Ronh Allaboutgis
Eric Roche
David LaCrone
Jake LaCombe

We also want to thank our community partners and volunteers. And to our sponsors–Google Fiber, POLSINELLI and Sprint Accelerator–we’re grateful for your support and commitment. As we mentioned earlier, this involvement and participation is a critical part of what keeps us going. Throughout 2016, we’ve created a momentum that will continue to fuel our work in 2017 as we commit code to make a difference in our city.

Ready to join us? Mark your calendar for January 23, 2017, when we’ll host a special Hack Night celebration to recognize the aforementioned projects and the people who made them happen. This is a great opportunity to meet many of the faces behind Code for KC and learn more about how you can get involved. And feel free to join the Code for KC meet-up to get regular event announcements and other info.

From all of us at Code for KC and KC Digital Drive: Happy New Year! Here’s to achieving great things in 2017!

Further Reading