For over ten years, our fully distributed team has excelled at staying connected in a virtual environment. From emoji-inspired internal jokes to earnest online retrospectives, CivicActions has perfected the use of tools and processes that allow us to work and support each other effectively.
But there are some kinds of growth that can only take place in a “real life” setting. Magic happens when you can get in the same room with team members you don’t usually collaborate with online, when conversation has a chance to flow freely between practice areas over lunch, or when new ideas are given wings through a lively back-and-forth discussion ending in a list of action items to take home.
So CivicActions plans a retreat every year, converging on a chosen city to accomplish a month’s worth of growing, learning, planning, (and playing!) in just three days. This year we met in Sacramento, California to check out the city’s emerging civic tech scene, colorful history, farm-to-fork dining . . . and a nostalgic pizza/beer/arcade joint.
Also, there’s the American River, so a boat ride was certainly in order.
Throughout the retreat, there was a buzz of inspirational energy that only happens when 50+ passionate people gather to discuss how to change the world by making government more open and agile. Also, we were just so happy to see each other.
Government transformation in Sacramento
Why Sacramento? The state of California has been a leader in digital transformation efforts for government services and procurement, establishing a pre-qualified agile vendor pool last year (which we’re thrilled to be part of!) to bring agile development and user-centric design to agency projects. Sacramento in particular has been a hub of energy for the civic tech community, and CivicActions has already been building relationships with government innovators in the area by hosting events such as Agile Government Sacramento. We’ve also been connecting with and hiring local talent as opportunities have opened to work with California agencies.
For us, Sacramento is an example of what government transformation can look like. So it became the site of this year’s retreat, in keeping with our chosen theme of ‘metamorphosis’ — exploring how we can change and adapt as a company to best support the agencies we serve.
Blending the family: remote and onsite teams
CivicActions recently started DevOps and UX project work with California agencies, which led to the hiring of onsite team members and introduced a new dynamic to our previously all-remote team. Ideas were exchanged about how our embedded teams can carry our culture of transparency and balance into their daily interactions with the government agencies in Sacramento, and how we as a company can work to ensure that new hires are successfully integrated with the distributed CivicActions family — even while working as part of an onsite agency effort.
Continuous learning is an essential part of our ability to be agile and efficient in our work. In a lively all-team discussion, we took a hard look at our own processes to determine if we could improve the continuous learning within our organization. We walked away with action items that will help each practice area own, organize, and distribute knowledge that is gleaned from project retrospectives. It’s not enough to perform agile project work — we are determined to be agile as an organization so that new learnings are translated into better performance and improved practices team-wide.
Taking it all home
CivicActions has experienced significant growth since last year’s retreat — but even as our numbers swelled to over fifty people, we managed to connect in meaningful ways and make sure everyone’s voice was heard. We believe that our ability to relate to each other as individuals equips us to better serve agencies in the creation of open and human-centered services.
We return to our respective places with a renewed sense of team confidence and excitement about the future of how technology can improve government. Energized by our time together, we’ll dive back into our work with actionable plans for improvement and a greater appreciation for each other as people. And a whole slew of new #quotes to keep us laughing together in Slack.