The civic tech nonprofit Code for America on Thursday announced it’s eliminating 35 staff positions and making major changes to its strategy.
In a website blog post, the group announced that it will use “cutting-edge technologies” to center its work on the projects that will have “the most impact for the most number of people.” The company said it also “needs to evolve to respond to high-impact opportunities with agility” via “multidisciplinary collaboration, rapidly prototyping solutions, and adapting more quickly.” Lastly, the group said it plans to refine its financial and staffing models in the face of revenue projections that are 20% lower for 2024.
The group, which has made a name for itself over the past 15 years by assisting government agencies in streamlining confusing web forms or automating outdated processes, obliquely addressed the reason for the changes. The announcement cites a shifting civic tech landscape following a period of rapid change during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many government agencies were seeking outside help to fix their unemployment or public health systems. The group also cited in 2021 receiving major philanthropic investments and federal funding to continue that work.
“Now as we look beyond 2023, we see a clearer picture of the new world ahead of us and the civic tech community,” the announcement reads. “We are proud to be part of the movement that has made digital delivery the norm today. And, we are even prouder to see how the public has grown to expect fast and reliable access to digital government services, and leaders in government are moving more quickly to adapt to a changing technological landscape, exploring new tools, including artificial intelligence (AI) and automation.”
The announcement comes amid negotiations between the group’s management and its union, which have in recent months inched contentiously toward resolution. In the nonprofit’s Thursday announcement, it notes that negotiations are not yet finalized on a collective-bargaining agreement, but that a tentative agreement on layoffs and severance “helped us develop an equitable process and a meaningful severance package, including extending health care benefits.”
CfA Workers United, the group’s union, responded to the announcement in a blog post Thursday, noting that its members are “disgusted” by the layoffs.
“The manner in which Code for America management announced company-wide layoffs shows that they have abandoned their commitment to our organizational values, our mission, and our staff,” the post reads. “… We are disgusted by Code for America management’s shirking of their collective responsibility to our mission, our clients, our partners, and our staff members. Never once, in their email announcing layoffs or during bargaining, did [Code for America CEO Amanda] Rentería or any other member of CxO apologize or take any form of responsibility whatsoever for their actions that led to the upending of 35 of our coworkers’ lives with next to no advance notice. The responsibility for mismanaging our organizational growth lies with those who have the most power in this organization; the people most impacted by their failures are those who had no say in these decisions at all.”
The announcement also follows Code for America’s announcement in February that it was planning to cut financial ties with its local brigades. Renteria said at the time that the pandemic had made it difficult to convene the groups and that volunteerism was down.
“We learned that this post-pandemic environment has challenged volunteer engagement for more reasons than just COVID,” she wrote in a memo in February. “Volunteerism is down across industries. There are growing privacy and security concerns with volunteers partnering with governments.”