Session proposals are now closed. Our content committee will review all submissions and notify speakers if their session has been selected. We aim to let you know by Friday, March 26, 2021.

We want to hear from you.

We welcome submissions from everyone whose work touches government technology and civic innovation.

Whether you’re a government employee, work or volunteer at a non-profit, an academic, or more, if you’re doing the work of improving peoples’ lives through technology and government, your knowledge and passion has a place here.

Summit is the place where newcomers and beginners meet with experts and leaders. You don’t have to be an experienced professional to present and share your story.


The theme for 2021 is Designing An Equitable Government Together.
Learn more about this year’s theme.

Before getting started

A few things you should know before getting started. Summit is a bit different this year. We’ll be fully virtual—which means that we are scoping down the format from the prior 2-3 full in-person days to 2 virtual days. We hope that this makes it easier for a wider audience to attend

Unfortunately, this means that we will be reducing the number of breakout sessions and will not be able to select as many of your amazing ideas as we’d like.

Submissions for sessions were accepted Monday, February 8, 2021, until 11:59pm Pacific Time on Tuesday, February 23, 2021.
Why apply?

Show what’s possible

Let’s face it, this is hard work–that doesn’t always get recognized or appreciated. Summit is your opportunity to show others what’s possible, but also an opportunity for you to learn about what your peers are doing across the country.

Teach others

Have a really interesting problem that you, your team, or your organization solved in the past year? Share your story, and show others how you made it happen: chances are, if you had a challenge and struggled with something, someone else did too.

Increase broader visibility into your work

Raise up your organization or agency. Whether you’re hiring or looking to build the profile and your brand, Summit is the influential audience you’re looking for.

How to submit your proposal

Follow our three easy steps to apply.

Step 1

Review our submission guidelines and tips.

Check out our helpful FAQs on Summit Submissions to help make your proposal the best it can be for Summit attendees and to stand out in the crowd from the hundreds of submissions we receive annually.

Step 2

Submit your proposal.

Session proposals are now closed. Our content committee will review all submissions and notify speakers if their session has been selected. We aim to let you know by Friday, March 26, 2021.


Get ready to send your submission

When? Where?

The 2021 Code for America Summit will be held virtually on Wednesday, May 12 and Thursday, May 13. You’ll be able to tell us which day you’re available to present.

Choose a topic and a track

We’ll be selecting around 20 one-hour submissions from a diverse group of speakers from around the world.

Your submission should fit into one of our four tracks:

Design + Delivery

From introducing attendees to human-centered design to product management, from user research to managing products that focus on outcomes, this track will concentrate on how teams design and deliver government services.

Cracking the Toughest Digital Form Design Problems

In the civic tech world we are constantly designing digital forms, and we do this well with simple, reusable patterns that allow us to build form experiences in just a few hours. Despite this, there are some form scenarios that are challenging to design for. How can users easily enter five consecutive years of their travel history—without gaps and overlaps? How should we capture occupational history, while being sensitive to periods of un- or under-employment? How can we be sensitive to users who need to document the death of their child? We’ve come across these scenarios and more designing federal forms for immigrants via U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and for veterans via the Department of Veterans Affairs. This workshop will introduce these and other complex scenarios, and then break participants into groups to work together to design solutions to some tough form design problems.

Civic Innovation + Data

Civic Innovation is where government and technology come together for a more just and equitable society. Where we learn how smart, new uses of technology (but not necessarily new technology!) supports deep, authentic relationships between government and the people. Where promises meet reality and where we focus on cities and grass-roots involvement.

We’ll also focus on data: from ethics to privacy, from putting out fires to building for the future, from the practicalities of sharing across silos to clearly communicating how and why data is being used.

Making a Smart City About People and Outcomes — Not Just the Tech

Cities are booming with interest in how we might use data, automation, and increased connectivity to improve services. But as we are seeing across the globe, bleeding-edge technology alone won’t fix problems, and can actually make problems worse. Solving problems means that we need to understand those problems and the potential unintended consequences of tech—before we talk about how sensors, algorithms, and big data might help. This session will discuss learnings from Austin, Baltimore, and other cities on how government can up its game in partnerships, policy and practices, and civic trust to go beyond the hype of the “smart city” and put residents at the center, particularly with regard to data collection.

Bias in Datasets & Fairness in Machine Learning

We hear a lot these days about biases in algorithms. At the core of these biases is the data which are fed into algorithms. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can’t happen without some initial data to be considered by an algorithm. This session will have a demonstration of how radically different conclusions and insights can be drawn from similar datasets with the same algorithm applied to them. To tackle these complexities, computer scientists create formal definitions of fairness in machine learning. But what if instead of just automating decision-making, we used machine learning to make institutional decisions more just in the first place? In this session we interpret ML as a tool for revealing when and how measures fail to capture purported constructs of interest, augmenting how hospitals, prisons, and child welfare agencies understand their own values and priorities. Machine learning can thus be understood as a form of quality assurance for existing institutions, exposing the epistemic fault lines of their own measurement practices.

Operations + Management

Our Operations + Management track focuses on the processes, practices and people that help us be more effective. What’s working across procurement, project management, oversight and governance? Security and compliance? What have we learned about culture, development and hiring? And underscoring all of this, how will we change sustainably, without burning out?

Advanced Mistake Making: A Master Class

You’re going to make mistakes. That’s just the nature of things. As you learn, there will be errors and accidents, slip-ups and inadvertent breakages. What if your goal was to only make new mistakes? Others have gone before you, trying to get to the same place you’re trying to get to. They’ve already screwed up in countless, useful ways. What can you learn from them before you embark on the next attempt to fix your part of government? In this talk, you’ll learn how to preview the worst possible outcomes without actually messing anything up including using discovery to learn from survivors, future casting outcomes to visualize impacts, and mapping the worst possible scenarios to assess risk and cost of getting things wrong.

It’s Not a Technology Problem: Practical Tips for Elected and Appointed Leaders on Effectively Leading Digital Transformations in Their Cities and States

It’s 2019, people expect government to deliver easy-to-use digital services. Does your city/county/agency still run on clunky, outdated and expensive legacy IT systems that urgently need modernization? Are you worried that you lack the in-house talent or budget to avoid a high profile tech project failure. Are you haunted by stories of past efforts to outsource IT projects to one big vendor that blew through the budget and the system still doesn’t work? In this session, we’ll go over the basic concepts of modern software development (user centered design, agile development, and modular procurement) as well as alternatives to the traditional IT procurement approach and practical tips and questions you can use to help reduce risk and deliver valuable services faster to end users.

Technology + Policy

The Technology + Policy track explores how researchers, designers, and technologists working with policy and program managers reduces the risk of implementations that check the requirements of policy, but don’t deliver intended policy outcomes. We’ll cover what leaders need to know and how effective collaboration happens, how delivery-driven policy applies to existing programs, and the hot and up-and-coming technology issues policy and program managers need to know about.

Practical Tactics for Guerrilla Policy

In civic tech, it can seem as if we are building linear solutions in a world of exponential risk. But when aligned properly, product delivery can go beyond solving a problem and add up to government- and industry-wide change. Join a discussion about how small teams can align product decisions to inform and implement policy change at scale. The U.S. Digital Service will talk about how it is expanding its impact and the larger forces at play in civic tech, but attendees are welcome to contribute their own challenges and victories. Takeaways include practical advice and free resources to increase technical capacity while pursuing modern policy objectives.

The Policy Innovation Lab: A Starter Kit for Citizen-Centered Policy Design Courses and Future Public Interest Technologists

The Policy Innovation Lab—a course at Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University—is designed to introduce students to an agile-driven, human-centered design approach to addressing pressing issues for real-world partners, following best practices introduced by digital service teams. Attendees will hear from course instructors and students on course materials and resources, as well as a case study in a student team’s recent work on increasing voter turnout through local and state elections through

Pretrial Justice Reform: Reducing Incarceration and Inequality in Our Criminal Justice System

The United States leads the world in incarceration. Currently, 2.2 million people are held in the nation’s prisons and jails, a 500% increase over the last 40 years. We know this issue disproportionately affects black and brown Americans, with black men being six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men . A key portion of criminal justice reform includes everything that occurs at arrest through the pretrial period. We’ll talk through the challenges of reforming this portion of the system and some of the policies and tools currently being deployed and tested to affect change.

Think about your audience

Just like our call for proposals, our Summit is open to everyone whose work touches government technology and civic innovation.

Here’s what you need to know about attendees to make sure your proposal meets peoples’ needs:

  • About 60% of our attendees are new to the Summit. Think about whether your content is introductory level, or more advanced.
  • 45% of our 2020 registrants worked in government and 55% of our 2020 registrants were volunteers or worked in nonprofits, the private sector or philanthropy.
  • Many of our attendees are involved with the government and civic technology world in some way. For example, they are public servants (both technical and non-technical) who are involved in delivering government services, representatives of technology vendors who work with governments, non-profit advocates and change agents, and local volunteers with Code for America Brigades across the country and with Code for All international chapters.
  • Our attendees represent a wide range of local, state, and federal audiences from across the country and more.

Choose a session

Across our two days of Summit, we’ll be choosing around 20 sessions. Sessions last an hour, and you should allow for at least ten to fifteen minutes for questions and answers. We strongly encourage no more than four people be a part of an hour long session: three plus the submitter. We’re eager to see how you would structure an hour long session, whether that’s a series of short talks, or discussion panel, or interactive activity – please do specify and share how you’ll use the time to deliver quality, engaging material.

Get your submission ready

For your submission, you’ll need to let us know:

  • About you: your name, contact information, title and organization name,
  • About your submission: your target audience, your chosen track, title and description
    What happens after you submit

What happens after you submit

Here’s what happens next:

  • The submission deadline was 11:59pm on Tuesday, February 23, 2021.
  • We aim to let you know if your submission has been chosen by Friday, March 26, 2021.

How we’re choosing sessions

All submissions are reviewed by our Content Committee – your peers in the government technology and civic innovation community. We review submissions based on the quality of title and description, how well they fit in with our 2021 theme of Designing an Equitable Government Together and other submissions, and most importantly, for diversity, equity and inclusion. Our Content Committee is looking to create a coherent agenda that complements the theme across all four tracks and may work with submitters to “mix-and-match” speakers or sessions if necessary.

A diverse, equitable, and inclusive Summit

At Code for America, we strive to foster a diverse, equitable and inclusive attendee experience that meets our vision and values.

We prioritize this vision at the Code for America Summit because government must work for everyone by including everyone in the conversation.

Please note that we may not accept submissions, especially for larger panels where all the participants are homogeneous, and we strongly encourage you to include a wide range of perspectives in your proposals.

If our committee finds that your submission topic is relevant to our attendees, but doesn’t meet our diversity, equity and inclusion goals, we will contact you to make sure the session is representative.

What you’ll get:

All session speakers will receive one complimentary registration for the Summit.

Ready to share what you know and inspire your peers? Let’s go!

We receive hundreds of submissions, so make sure you’ve reviewed our guide to help make your proposal the best it can be.

Ready? Submit your session, and good luck!