For the last several months I’ve been working at DemocracyLab, and I wanted to take some time to talk about it. I was just asked to write a one-sentence bio and answer ‘what drew you to DemocracyLab’ for the site, which made me step back for a moment and take stock of my time there so far … and of course, write far more than just one sentence!
In short: It’s been a very fulfilling time so far, and being able to help an existing product in the early stages really start to grow and present itself in a more and more refined and usable way is very satisfying.
A little history on the tech end, because it’s inevitable I’m going to talk about it: DemocracyLab was originally a WordPress/jQuery site and there are still pieces of that we’re bringing into the current site, which is a Django backend on top of a postgreSQL server, and the frontend is pretty much all React. I work in that most of the time though I’ve written some Python as well. The combination of a codebase I could start working in right away for a project I think has the potential to do some real good was too tempting to pass up. And so, I get to work in my area of expertise but also learn new things; Python and Django today, but who knows about tomorrow?
DemocracyLab’s mission is helping civic tech, or civic tech-for-good projects succeed. Not just nonprofits but any project of that type may need help from any number of volunteers with a wide range of skills – business planning, administrative skills, fundraising, developing, designing, and we try to help find ways to get volunteers from “I want to help,” to “I’ve found a project that speaks to me” to “I’m volunteering.” That speaks to me a lot – there’s a lot of friction in that process which is, from personal experience, more than there should be. I’ve worked in nonprofits previously and we all wanted to get the job done, but there were often a lot of skill gaps that were painful to close for one reason or another. DemocracyLab could serve to make that process a whole lot easier, and I’m glad to be contributing towards that future, if just a little.