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City of Seattle shares best practices for community-driven design at Code for America Summit

City of Seattle staff with fellow speakers from the Community-Driven Product Management session at the Code for America Summit.

Last week, City of Seattle staff traveled to Oakland, CA to present at the 2024 Code for America Summit. The annual Code for America Summit brings together over 1,000 participants to learn best practices that can change government for the better. Innovation & Performance’s Long Dinh and Seattle IT’s Matt Sprenke presented alongside partners from and Exygy on CiviForm, an open-source tool that allows residents to apply for multiple City benefits and discounts quickly and easily.

In their presentation, the panel shared how Seattle piloted a new way to deliver Fresh Bucks benefits, a food voucher program for low-income families, via community-based organizations and CiviForm. Through the pilot, the team discovered unanticipated barriers to access that its intended users were facing. In collaboration with and Exygy, the City removed these barriers and established a process for ongoing community-driven improvements. The session explored tactics of agile product management and demonstrated the importance of building trust with community partners. Attendees came away with practical ideas for product management and research tools to help them respond to needs in their communities.

A man speaking at a podium with three other panelists seated at a table next to him
Seattle IT’s Matthew Sprenke presents before the panel Q&A.

Affordable Seattle Program Manager, Elise Kalstad, explained the benefits of incorporating lessons learned from community into an open-source platform that is shared by other governments. “When we learn about a pain point for residents in Seattle and co-design ways to improve it, those improvements are then felt by residents in Arkansas, Bloomington, Charlotte, and other jurisdictions who use CiviForm,” she said. “We learned a lot through our community partners and the Fresh Bucks pilot. It was a humbling experience. CiviForm is a better tool for residents across the country because of the focus on direct community engagement.”

CiviForm was co-designed with residents as a simple tool to quickly and conveniently apply for City services to save residents time and money on basic living expenses such as childcare, transportation, and food. During the pandemic, the City of Seattle launched CiviForm for residents and community organizations to find and apply to programs in their preferred language. Since its launch, CiviForm has helped over 14,000 residents apply to City programs, with 19% reusing their information to quickly apply to two or more programs.

CiviForm delivers impact for residents and government staff. The program reduced time for residents to apply to City discount programs by 80% and offers up to $23,000 in total possible savings for qualified households. CiviForm is continuing to grow in Seattle, with more programs coming on board through Mayor Harrell’s Executive Order expanding the Affordable Seattle initiative.

CiviForm is the result of dedicated individuals at, Exygy, the City of Seattle, the City of Bloomington, the State of Arkansas, the City of Charlotte, the County of Miami Dade, and many other public benefit champions.

Three people smile for a photo in front of a decorated wall with the words Code for America Summit
City of Seattle staff Long Dinh, Matthew Sprenke, and Elise Kalstad.