Oakland, CA (October 18, 2023) — U.S. Digital Response (USDR), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps governments respond quickly to the critical needs of the public, today announced a new initiative focused on helping government agencies across the country attract and retain skilled digital talent. Through building their digital capabilities, agencies will be able to deliver improved benefits, services, and operations that are responsive to the evolving needs of their communities.
This undertaking comes after USDR completed talent-focused engagements with multiple city and state governments over the past year. These engagements revealed a widespread desire for more staff with skills in areas like user research, design, and product management to help agencies deliver improved digital services, benefits systems, and operations. More information can be found at usdigitalresponse.org/program-areas/talent.
Governments also shared common challenges in attracting and retaining this talent, from cumbersome hiring practices and challenges in upskilling existing staff to new digital roles, to misperceptions about technology roles in the public sector. According to Mission Square, over half of the state and local government human resource officers surveyed had to reopen recruitment processes “very often” or “frequently” due to lack of applications. USDR’s initiative aims to directly address these barriers through tailored strategies and resources for both government hiring managers and technical candidates.
"We have seen firsthand the challenges many governments face in attracting and retaining digital talent," said Hillary Hartley, U.S. Digital Response CEO. "With this new focus area, we aim to directly support governments in building skilled, diverse, and innovative digital teams who can meet the public's needs now and into the future."
USDR will engage directly with government leadership and technical candidates to implement best-in-class strategies tailored to both audiences' needs. For governments, this will include guidance on hiring and recruitment best practices as well as onboarding and retention programs optimized for technical talent. What’s more, USDR is able to tap its pool of over 8,000 technologist volunteers and directly raise awareness of government positions. For candidates, USDR will provide insight into rewarding public sector technology careers, help connect them with governments ready to bring them on board, and provide direct support through volunteer engagements. Nearly 5% of USDR’s deployed volunteers have transitioned their careers to the public sector, citing their engagements with government partners as a key reason they made the jump.
Keith Wilson, former head of people operations at the General Services Administration Technology Transformation Services, recently joined USDR to lead the initiative. To date, USDR’s talent-building partnerships include helping the City of Baltimore build its new digital service team, and assisting the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in establishing CODE PA, among others.
“As we focus on delivering better online experiences for our constituents, we are creating new opportunities for digital professionals to bring their skills and experience to the public sector and enjoy incredibly rewarding careers,” said Neil Weaver, Secretary of the Office of Administration for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. “USDR's guidance and resources have been invaluable as we continue to expand our digital capabilities in Pennsylvania and become a destination for top technical talent to build new digital services."
USDR is joining a rich ecosystem of organizations working to increase both the quantity and quality of digital roles in government, advance digital best practices, and build community among practitioners, such as the Tech Talent Project, Govern For America, Technologists for the Public Good, Coding It Forward, and the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation.
This effort comes as major tech companies like Meta, Amazon, X (formerly Twitter), and others have laid off more than 235,000 employees globally. With vast opportunities to work on critical systems that serve millions of Americans, government provides a viable and meaningful career option for impacted technologists.
“USDR has been a great advisor and partner for the City of South Bend as we’ve built up our new Digital Team in 2023.” said Denise Linn Riedl, Chief Innovation Officer and Head of the Department of Innovation & Technology for the City of South Bend. “The volunteers helped us craft hiring plans, job descriptions, and training plans. Their rich experience across roles and sectors gave us confidence as we managed change and grew our Team.”
With its fourth anniversary on the horizon, USDR launched with a vision to assist local and state governments in responding rapidly to the critical needs of the public. Since its inception, USDR has partnered on nearly 400 engagements to help deliver technical solutions for our country’s most pressing problems. USDR’s projects with partners span from country-wide solutions to community-specific needs.
Interested governments can learn more and sign up for assistance building their digital teams at usdigitalresponse.org. USDR also invites experienced technologists interested in serving their community to see working in government is right for them by signing up to volunteer.
About U.S. Digital Response
U.S. Digital Response is a nonpartisan nonprofit that helps governments and organizations respond quickly and efficiently to support the critical needs of the public. Founded in 2020, USDR connects governments with technology, resources, and support, leaving them better equipped to deliver services and support to millions of people nationwide. To date, USDR has built a dedicated community of over 8,000 volunteers driven to serve in a time of need and has partnered with nearly 300 government and nonprofit partners on more than 400 projects.
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