Let’s code for Europe

Nesta, in partnership with 6 European cities, is launching Code for Europe to put the talent of data technologists at the heart of city halls. We are exploring how this contributes to a step change in how cities and local governments run public services. Our aspiration is that cities become more open and transparent, more effective at gathering relevant talent to deliver services with impact for citizens and more efficient in using technology to best effect.

The programme draws lessons from Code for America which has gained significant momentum across US cities as the ‘peace corps for geeks’ and which brings together coders, technology industry leaders and US cities to develop new types of public services using the power of the internet. The format is simple: cities recruit interdisciplinary teams of ‘Fellows’ (data technologists, designers and entrepreneurs) with an eye on the key challenges they would like the teams to explore through new software solutions. In return the Fellows receive a crash course in municipal government and professional development including access to world-class mentors.

We’re seeking to learn from best practice in the US but with some important differences. Each of the 6 European cities – Helsinki, Rome, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Manchester – runs its public services in a slightly different way and we’re setting out to understand how a Fellowship model can add value to each. The cities are all currently recruiting Fellows – in some cases to work on clearly defined projects, in others with a broader area of focus. In some cities, Fellows will work in multi-disciplinary teams, while others are adopting a ‘Fellow in residence’ programme (match-making talented developers with services less accustomed to agile/digital innovation). At Nesta we are currently recruiting for a Fellow/data technologist whose role will be to encourage reuse of existing apps and services across cities, drawing from the marketplace of products which have already been developed and tested. We’re keen to see great digital public services scale.

We’ll be capturing evidence of practice as we go so that we have a clear story to tell about how to have lasting impact in city halls. What’s clear is that the problem at the heart of this movement is the same across all cities: citizens are demanding more tail tailored support with less money available. And as Code for America and projects like Nesta’s Make it Local initiative have begun to show, the opportunity of the digital revolution to address this could be considerable.

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