The Next Big Step for Civic Commons: Looking for an Executive Director

Civic Commons was born, appropriately, because several people had the same idea at the same time, and were able to pool their resources to get something off the ground. So far it has run as an informal consortium, led by the Office of the CTO of the District of Columbia, Code for America, and OpenPlans. It’s also been supported by a variety of other folks, most notably O’Reilly Media, who has contributed Karl Fogel’s invaluable time to the effort. What sparked the formation of the organization, the first Code for America cycle and OCTO’s willingness to fund a cohort of Fellows to work on this project, hasn’t even begun yet. And already we have the concrete beginnings of something that many people are eager to see succeed. But the stakes are higher and the possible returns greater than our individual efforts can support, and to get to the next level, what this effort needs is a dedicated, full-time leader.

That’s why we are announcing our search for an Executive Director for Civic Commons. This could sound misleading; as of yet, there is no legal entity called Civic Commons. But there needs to be, and the person we hire will make bring that entity into being. Even that statement could sound misleading; we’ll be “hiring” someone in the sense of empowering them with the resources and authority to act as this organization’s leader, but while we are in encouraging discussions with several funders about an operating budget, there is no guaranteed salary until these conversations move forward. This is a true start-up job; the ED will help raise his or her own salary and will build the organization from the ground up.

There are other daunting aspects to this job. We need someone with the energy, skills, and leadership to match the ambitious scope of our vision. The ideal candidate will have held leadership positions at one or more levels of government, will have a firm grasp on the technology landscape, especially with open source and cloud-based solutions, will have worked with private sector software vendors and implementations, and will have experience with non-profits, consortia, and/or standards bodies. This organization will succeed to the extent that it can articulate a vision and engagement model that a large set of stakeholders can get behind, so that delicate balance of leadership and consensus-building is critical here.

The only thing bigger than the challenge of this job is the potential impact. Andrew Hoppin, whose blog post last January was part of the inspiration for Civic Commons, has thrown down the gauntlet, challenging efforts like this one to save the government a billion dollars. A lot of barriers would need to be broken to make that happen, but it is possible. And it’s more than just cost savings, it’s the spread of innovation that we think Civic Commons could enable. We think this organization will be a very big deal, and the person who takes this position will have had a lead role in a major transformation of government technology.

How will we conduct the search and choose an ED? Because Civic Commons isn’t a legal entity yet, there is no board of directors to approve the process. The three partner organizations are conducting this search, so resumes should be send to, which will go to myself, Nick Grossman at OpenPlans, and Bryan Sivak at OCTO. The three of us will consult with the board of advisors who’ve agreed to help with this project, and we will make the final decision. We are not putting out a formal timeline, but will take resumes as they come in and interview candidates as appropriate until we find the right person. Any interested parties should contact us at this email address as soon as possible.

Please help us spread the word about this important opportunity.

Jennifer Pahlka
Founder, Code for America

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  • Sid Burgess

    Best of luck finding the perfect person. There is so much talent and passion out there I know it is just a matter of letting the cream rise to the top.

    Can’t wait to see what comes of CivicCommons