On a snowy Saturday in February, 54 members of the Boulder area gathered for a day of ideation, active listening, and problem solving. The goal: identify ways to improve and increase the engagement citizens have with local government, with a focus on the topic of housing.

Code for Boulder volunteers were joined by city and county staff and community members for all-day event at Impact Hub Boulder. This was all part of the international event, CodeAcross sponsored by Code For America. Entitled “Crafting Civic Tech: The Housing Edition,” Boulder’s CodeAcross event focused on the topic of housing issues within the local area. Watch a 90-second overview of the day, produced by City of Boulder’s Channel 8:

David Driskell, City of Boulder

David Driskell

David Driskell, City of Boulder’s Executive Director of Community Planning and Sustainability, introduced the city’s goals for Housing Boulder.

  1. Reach or exceed Boulder’s goals to serve very low, low, and moderate-income households.
  2. Prevent further loss of Boulder’s economic middle.
  3. Facilitate the creation of a variety of housing options in every part of the city
  4. Foster mixed-income, mixed-use, highly walkable “15-minute neighborhoods” in amenity-rich locations.
  5.  Strengthen current partnerships and explore creative new public-private partnerships.
  6. Enable aging in place by providing housing options for seniors of all abilities and incomes to remain in the community.
Ronica Roth

Ronica Roth

Ryan Martens of Rally Software, a supporter of Code For America, introduced the group to the Design Thinking methodology that would shape the day. Ronica Roth then led the series of exercises, including empathy interviews, problem statement creation and brainstorming solutions in small groups. Attendees paired up to engage in “empathy interviews.” They listened and noted the concerns of their partners. Among the stated concerns were:

  • “The homeless need to be engaged – to connect people with resources. Engage the homeless.”
  • “There’s a need for economic diversity, but why?”
  • “We need to build a sense of community among adults living together.”
  • “How do we address the constraints around regulations of 3 unrelated people living together?”
Becky Boone, Code For America Fellow

Becky Boone

Becky Boone, Code For America fellow, is conducting an in-depth exploration into the needs and challenges of improving community engagement in Boulder.

Becky shared her findings with the group. Read all of Becky’s community engagement problem statements.

Participants engaged with each other and the overall group with earnest enthusiasm and intention.

“The Code for Boulder Civic Tech Forum was excellent because we were encouraged to stay in the place of inquiry, rather than racing superficially to find the solution. We worked in small teams with other community members who care deeply about an issue. Each group identified two core ideas which we presented to the full group.

I am focusing on senior housing issues, and I am thrilled that two very concrete and needed tech solutions arose from our discussions today.”
Neshama Abraham, Board Member of Our Home-Colorado

Code For Boulder - Code Across 2015
At the end of the day, seven groups presented their problem statements and proposed possible solutions to the attendees.

“Listening is a critical skill to develop – it was a great setting to practice listening.” Dina Robin

While participants kept one eye on the snowstorm, the artifacts of the day were gathered up to be documented.  David Driskell assured attendees that they would be shared with the Housing Process Subcommittee. Stay tuned: Code for Boulder will publish another story soon that will share follow-up activities from the event.

You’ll find more photos of Code For Boulder’s Crafting Civic Tech: The Housing Edition on Flickr.

Photography generously donated by Luis Carducci