Kelly Garvy, the founder of Upstate, wanted to make North Carolina legislation more accessible for everyday citizens, so she created an app with Code the Dream that would accomplish this goal. The goal of Upstate is to help community members track bills by organizing data better and notifying people of changes in a more modern way. The alternative involves looking at the North Carolina General Assembly website and manually refreshing the page each time you want to see the changes on bills.
Kelly, originally from Florida, graduated from Notre Dame University in 2010 and studied Environmental Sciences. After her undergraduate studies, she did field research with animal behavior and worked with marine mammals. She got her Master’s in Environmental Management at Duke University in Environmental Economics & Policy and started to get into the policy side of environmental work. After her Master’s, she started doing more research into state policies and realized that it was incredibly difficult for the public to know what was going on. She began meeting with nonprofits, and she saw that nonprofits were also having a hard time tracking policies in the state legislature. The learning curve is really steep for people who want to track bills and there were not many good options for people to follow policy changes. The available tools are really expensive and outdated and there are no public options. In order to combat these obstacles, Kelly created Upstate, which is more modern and has a public option.
Kelly decided to work with Code the Dream because she did not have any technical experience or a background in tech. The more that she did research on creating a bill tracker, the more she realized that she needed to find someone who had more advanced knowledge on developing apps and websites. She liked the mission of Code the Dream because her company is also mission-based. It was important for her to partner with someone whose mission aligns with her company’s mission. She also loved that Code the Dream teaches people and prioritizes diversity.
The Code the Dream developers who helped create Upstate are Ramiro Rodriguez, Crystal Williams-Brown, and Cruz Nunez. These developers along with Kelly have been developing Upstate over the last year. Upstate checks the legislative website every few minutes and alerts users of updates With Upstate, you can use a smart search bar to find specific bills, committees, and keywords. Additionally, users can search for phrases in bills using a dynamic search bar. Users also can follow those same bills, committees, and keywords and get notifications with text message and email alerts.
For example, if you want to follow Environmental Protection bills, you could follow a keyword like “Environment.” Whenever there is a change to a bill that relates to the Environment, you would get an email or text message about the change. These emails and text messages prevent you from checking the bills all of the time and you would not miss any changes to the bills.