Q&A with Code for America's Emily Tracy

Over the years, our US grantees have had to be agile, courageous, intersectional, and collaborative to continually build new opportunities and futures for people fighting against oppressive and racist systems.  As we wind down our domestic work in the US by the end of 2023, we've asked our partners to share, in their own words, their plans for the future, learnings from the field, and how funders can support their continued progress fighting for social justice and equity.

By Emily K. Tracy, Chief Revenue Officer at Code for America

1. What does Code for America do?

At Code for America, we work with people in communities and in government to build digital tools and services, change policies, and improve programs that impact millions of individuals and families. We believe that government and technology are our best levers to make positive change happen at scale. Our work in the areas of civic empowerment, the social safety net, tax benefits, and the criminal legal system reaches tens of millions of people across the country. At the core of our work is what we call human-centered government: our vision for how government can and should serve the public in the digital age. In our ten plus years of working with governments, we’ve seen communities, civil servants, and organizations deliver critical services to people that not only met their needs, but treated them with respect and dignity as well. We believe services that are meant to lift people up in times of need should be simple, accessible, and equitable. Our mission is to make that happen.

2. What are the greatest lessons you've learned over the past two years?

Three years ago, one of our mottos was “No one is coming. It’s up to us.” In the past two years, we’ve learned that that statement is no longer accurate. It should say “everyone is coming. It’s up to all of us.” The pandemic laid bare the cracks in our social safety net, and that increased attention brought together new partnerships, coordination, and response unlike ever before. States are looking to leverage human-centered technology to better reach and serve their communities. New coalitions around data, policy, and equity have emerged. A new federal administration has committed to equitably expanding the safety net and improving the service it provides. Funders have come to the table in historic ways and are resourcing nonprofits to have transformative impact at scale. What was once a cluster of digital corps is now a robust ecosystem of organizations, individuals, and government partners. We’re proud to have led this transformation with the help of our funders and supporters. We have partners in our ecosystem tackling areas we cannot, and by staying focused on growing and scaling in our areas of expertise, we’ve delivered billions of dollars in benefits to people in need.

3. What opportunities do you see on the horizon and what are your plans for the future?

We are in a fundamentally different landscape in 2022. The federal administration recognizes that government has a history of institutional injustice and disparities, particularly by race and ethnicity. President Biden has signed Executive Orders targeting the administrative burdens we seek to remove and setting expectations for equity in access. Additionally, state agencies’ public agenda include equitable, human-centered technology.

We have several unique opportunities right now to leverage data and digital technology to convert ambitious policy into positive outcomes for people, navigate meaningful systems change, and use human-centered design and technology to reach excluded communities. 

We’re working towards: 

  • Helping millions more people by scaling our social safety net work nationally
  • Clearing all eligible criminal records in the US
  • Ensuring that families and individuals with low incomes receive all of the tax benefits they have earned, and helping the government provide a free, mostly automated tax filing service
  • Growing our movement of tech and organizing volunteers from 25,000 to 60,000, strengthening local communities and helping 6 million people along the way

Code for America and the civic tech ecosystem community are in position to build a path forward that will have impact for generations. 

Over the next seven years, building on the work Code for America has already done to reimagine safety net services, the organization will partner with 15 states to reach 13 million people and unlock $30 billion in benefits in the areas of food assistance, health care, and other basic needs through its new Safety Net Innovation Lab.

4. How can funders support you right now?

Delivering impact at scale requires resources at scale. And we’ve never had an opportunity like we do right now to transform systems that touch millions of lives. We need funders that see and believe in our vision, and are ready to invest and partner with us to make it happen sooner than we ever thought possible. 

Specifically, funders can support Code for America right now with unrestricted and multi-year investments in our programs aimed at:

For more information on how you can invest in Code for America’s mission, contact Emily Tracy at [email protected].

Read more Q&As with leaders of our US portfolio who are working to move the country toward justice in small and big ways.