How Code for Milwaukee is building a diversified community through collaboration and civic engagement

Originally from New York, Andrew Yaspan moved to Milwaukee to start a job at the Medical College of Wisconsin as a programer analyst for the Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Yaspan completed his undergrad in political science, and did an AmeriCorps term in New Orleans with the rebuilding post-Katrina where he learned a lot about public health and public health perspective. He eventually realized his interest in public health and public policy and took an opportunity in the New Orleans Health Department. While working for the Health Department, Yaspan learned a lot about technology and IT infrastructure. He saw the potential in spreading across departments and using that as a way to break down divisions within government and encourage more collaboration and feedback in government.  

Andrew Yaspan, Code for Milwaukee’s Captain

Yaspan’s consistent interest in well being, social determinants of health, and different aspects of people’s lives that contribute to how much opportunity or disparities in opportunity people have, started with the criminal justice system. One of the first areas that grabbed his attention is how counter-intuitive and destructive our criminal justice and incarceration system is. A lot of his attention was brought to the issue through his love of hip hop music. Additionally, Yaspan’s interest in computer science and policy inspired him to complete the Master of Science in Computational Analysis and Public Policy program (MS-CAPP), blending together new ways of doing data analysis, data collection, and using it to inform evidence-based policy. 

After moving to Milwaukee, Yaspan began to see some of the issues regarding segregation and equality in the city. Motivated by his love for service and seeing people’s creativity through the face of adversity, Yaspan worked with a core team to revitalize the Code for Milwaukee effort here. Code for Milwaukee is a Code for America Brigade, which are volunteer groups that collaborate with local government and community partners to build new tools that help with local civic issues.

“Tech for good is one of the pillars, clear connection, symbiosis.”

—Andrew Yaspan

The core Code for Milwaukee team is: Andrew Yaspan, Captain; Mitchell Henkie, Co-Captain & Development Lead; Erin Magennis, Community Organizer; Romke De Haan, Storyteller; Brian Barkley, Communications Lead; Danny Capozzi, Financial Lead.

Erin Magennis, Code for Milwaukee’s Community Organizer, hopes that Code for Milwaukee will be as welcoming, collaborative, and impactful as they envision it can be. 

“Technology isn’t great for technology’s sake, technology is great because it makes people’s lives better. I believe that when initiatives and objectives that can have a considerable effect on people’s lives, are paired and enhanced by technology, that impact can be exponentially greater.”

—Erin Magennis

Moving forward, Magennis and the team is excited to enhance collaboration between tech and civic enthusiasts with:

  • Artists, writers, and videographers who can translate the purpose of the projects into something meaningful that others can connect with. 
  • Marketing and branding masterminds to help promote the projects created to the people who can actually get value out of their existence.
  • Tech and civic engagement inquirers who haven’t yet delved into these realms, but who are interested in learning more about technology, programming, or civic engagement. 

Magennis believes that through the public good projects Code for Milwaukee will be involved with, more people will come to a deeper understanding and connection with the policies affecting our lives and the governing bodies ruling in such a way that they now feel empowered to have a voice and be involved. Magennis also believes that Code for Milwaukee can create a pathway towards a more technologically sustainable community with greater technological interest and literacy starting at young ages. 

“Technology is the future, so having a technologically savvy population will create a more vibrant community.”

—Erin Magennis

Erin Magennis, Code for Milwaukee’s Community Organizer

Magennis hopes that Code for Milwaukee will ignite a series of bridges being built throughout our community, breaking down silos through cross collaboration and diversity of thought. She believes that diversity is key for survival, and by facilitating opportunities for connection to others who may have substantially different backgrounds, but similar interests and passions, will allow us as a community to be better connected and more sustainable. 

One of the projects Code for Milwaukee has in the works is their website to provide a space where people can understand what they’re doing, learn about projects, get to know who the core team members are and their philosophy, and how they can promote good things happening in the city. Code for Milwaukee is also working on creating a de-incarceration platform, providing a space for collaboration for organizations interested in reducing the prison population, and resources for people who are re-entering society. Additionally there is a project being built around one of the core team members’ interests in how property assessments are being done and the disparities in how that’s being done within and across neighborhoods. 

A lot of other projects will be brought to the group, and people can decide which projects they want to be involved in. The Code for Milwaukee team is excited to be part of a solution to support The Milky Way Tech Hub Initiative, to get people involved, and to collaborate on projects. Code for Milwaukee is made up of individuals who are interested in bringing technology to various parts of local government, whether you’re a designer, developer, or a product manager, everyone is encouraged to join regardless of experience. Check out the Code for Milwaukee Meetup page to get involved!

“To achieve real, beneficial impact on people’s lives, meaningful projects need to be tackled. By establishing a community of people who envision a better future and who regularly support, contribute, and commit to working together to build this vision, a better state of Milwaukee can be created. Although Code for Milwaukee may appear to be simply a tech group on first glance, it is so much more than that.”

—Erin Magennis

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