NYC[x] Innovation Fellows: Cohort 3

Since March 2020, the New York City Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer team has successfully partnered with volunteer technologists from U.S. Digital Response on multiple COVID-related projects. Now, New York City is launching the third cohort of its NYC[x] Innovation Fellows program to expand on this successful collaboration, embedding small teams of technologists with City agencies to rapidly solve specific challenges through the use of best practices in digital service delivery.

About New York City Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer

Our mission is to ensure that technology is inclusive, accessible, human-centered, and works for all New Yorkers. We view technology as a critical tool for realizing the Mayor’s vision of making New York City the fairest big city in America.

About U.S. Digital Response

U.S. Digital Response is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps governments and NGOs respond quickly and efficiently to support the critical needs of the public. When public servants are faced with extraordinary tasks, USDR’s team of pro bono experts provides a surge of technology, resources, and support. Since its founding in 2020, USDR has partnered on more than 250 projects in 36 states and territories, helping deliver services and support to more than 42 million people nationwide.



NYC[x] Innovation Fellows are working toward one of three high-priority projects alongside New York City agencies as part of Cohort 3:

  1. Improving supply delivery in crisis situations: Working with the FDNY robotics unit, this project focuses on creating a way to request, pick, deliver, and track requested emergency supplies to waiting ambulances or emergency scenarios. By creating a “request/pick/track system,” FDNY will be better able to assist in mass casualty events, deliver to locations that have become inaccessible, or more quickly respond to fires and other emergencies, helping save more civilian and firefighter lives.
  2. Bringing the parking ticket notification and payment process into the digital era: This project will create improved options for how New Yorkers pay for parking tickets, a process that generates over half a billion dollars of revenue for the City of New York and represents one of the most common points of contact between residents and the City. Fellows will work on building a proof of concept to assess the impact of email or SMS alerts and low-friction payment options such as single-click payments for parking ticket collections, creating opportunities for revenue for the City and an improved, more accessible user experience for New Yorkers.
  3. Replacing paper forms for affordable housing residents: Most government services start with a form. Many of those are still inefficient paper processes. This project consists of a forms modernization pilot to improve how New Yorkers access affordable housing services and reduce expensive and inefficient processes for agencies. The project focuses on building an exemplar process, documenting it as a case study and using it to demonstrate the real financial impacts to inform and scale future form modernization projects.



The NYC[x] Innovation Fellowship first started with a cohort of volunteer technologists in fall 2020 (read the press release about their work here). A second cohort of the program followed in November 2020 for a ten-week sprint (read the press release about the second cohort’s work here). Mayor Bill de Blasio publicly acknowledged the Fellows’ work, saying, “The work of the NYC[x] Innovation Fellows will have a lasting impact on improving New Yorkers’ lives.”

Now, a third cohort of the NYC[x] Innovation Fellows Program will launch in August 2021 for a ten-week sprint, with each fellow contributing approximately 20 hours per week. The cohort 3 fellowship will end in mid-October.

Volunteer fellows gain invaluable hands-on experience solving critical problems for the largest municipal government in the United States, demonstrate how powerful using digital best practices can be for agency partners, and create tangible benefits for millions of New Yorkers. NYC[x] Innovation Fellows are also fully integrated into the broader volunteer community within U.S. Digital Response.

Applications for Cohort 3 of the NYC[x] Innovation Fellows Program are now closed. USDR still has many opportunities where technologists can meaningfully contribute to helping governments meet the needs of their communities. We encourage you to sign up to volunteer as a pro bono technologist with USDR. 

If you’d like to learn more, you can watch our info session where we were joined by members of the USDR and NYC Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer as well as past NYC[x] Innovation Fellows. The passcode is: .0Q5Ygkx. Follow us on social media to learn when we may be launching future Fellows programs. 


What skills are required or preferred to be selected as an NYC[x] Innovation Fellow?

First, availability. All volunteers are asked to contribute approximately 20 hours of volunteer time weekly. If you are not yet certain about your availability, you may apply and note your availability questions in the form for further discussion.

Second, fellowship teams have full support from the New York City Mayor’s Office of the CTO as well as from the team at U.S. Digital Response, but they are largely responsible for setting their own timelines, product decisions, and communication schedules. NYC[x] Innovation Fellows are those with demonstrated expertise in their particular technological area as well as experience working on complex, collaborative projects.

Finally, while many of the teams are made up of technologists with a variety of skills, some projects require specific experience, such as:

  • Experience with product management, particularly with helping to introduce user-centered design, inclusive design, and agile ways of working to new partners
  • Both front and back end developers. Different projects have different technology needs, so please let us know if you have experience with any combination of: Microsoft systems, including Microsoft Azure; Java, especially the Play! Framework; SQL; SAML 2.0 or other Single Sign-On flows; OpenID, OAuth2; role-based access controls; Cloud DevOps; Cloud Database; Angular 6; .NET Core 2.1 or 3; and/or React.
  • User experience and user interface designers and researchers
  • Analytics and user experience experts interested in optimizing user flows
  • Front-end engineers who can create and architect responsive designs

We urge potential NYC[x] Innovation Fellows of all backgrounds to apply. Some of our most effective USDR volunteers are technologists with non-traditional backgrounds, and we value teams with a diversity of backgrounds and experiences.


How do I apply for the NYC[x] Innovation Fellowship program?

Applications for Cohort 3 of the NYC[x] Innovation Fellows Program are now closed. USDR still has many opportunities where technologists can meaningfully contribute to helping governments meet the needs of their communities. We encourage you to sign up to volunteer as a pro bono technologist with USDR.


How are NYC[x] Innovation Fellows selected?

Prospective NYC[x] Innovation Fellows submit an application that is reviewed by the U.S. Digital Response team for relevant skills and commitment. For applicants who could be a good fit for the NYC[x] Innovation Fellowship program this cohort, USDR collaborates with the NYC Mayor’s Office of the CTO to conduct screening calls where we discuss their specific qualifications, interest, and availability and provide a deeper overview of the fellowship program. Once a pool of qualified volunteers is identified, we inform the potential Fellows of their status and do a final vetting and review.


How do I learn more about previous Cohorts of the NYC[x] Innovation Fellowship?

Read press coverage of the NYC[x] Innovation Fellowship below, read thoughts from former Fellows here, and watch this video from NYC Chief Technology Officer John Paul FarmerIn addition, follow USDR’s social media accounts, where several former fellows will be sharing their stories. Finally, during the interview process, potential fellows will have the chance to learn more about the program from both U.S. Digital Response and the NYC Mayor’s Office of the CTO.




Is this a paid opportunity?

No. This is a volunteer opportunity. NYC[x] Innovation Fellows are experienced professionals who are able to volunteer their time to this effort.


Will I be employed by USDR or the NYC Mayor’s Office of the CTO?

No. This is a volunteer opportunity. NYC[x] Innovation Fellows’ status as volunteers is not a step toward obtaining employment with USDR or the New York City team. All volunteers will follow U.S. Digital Response’s Volunteer Oath and will sign an NDA with New York City in order to access relevant city information for their projects.


How do I learn more about U.S. Digital Response?

Visit our website at If you are a government interested in receiving pro bono technical support, reach out here. If you are interested in volunteering with government, but the NYC[x] Innovation Fellowship is not the right fit for you, sign up to join our hand raiser community. You can also access frequently asked questions by both governments and volunteers.


Who do I contact if I have more questions?

You can email us at [email protected].