by Justin Sane

freeCodeCamp’s 1,000+ study groups are now fully autonomous

The Providence, Rhode Island freeCodeCamp Study Group.

When the first local freeCodeCamp (fCC) study group popped up, we had no idea that within less than a year, nearly every major city on Earth would have one.

Before I knew it, I became the person who campers reached out to register their group. I found myself activating more than a dozen study groups a day, and sharing with them the awesomeness of coffee-and-codes.

Today, we have over 1,000 Facebook groups, in more than 160 countries. Absolutely mind-baffling, eh?

I’ve been blown away by the innovation and sheer tenacity some of our campers have shown in recruiting members, securing venues, publicizing events, and bringing in-person coding opportunities to their communities.

Who I am, and how I came to run the fCC Toronto study group

I was a moderately successful designer (graphic and web), but didn’t feel satisfied. So I decided to take some time off and search for something to make me happy.

I had long flirted with coding. We’re talking C++ back in my early university years, and heaps of HTML and CSS ever since. But I had never found a way to properly get along with it. To me, coding seemed like this elusive, esoteric thing that only a few were capable of.

Long story short, I moved from San Francisco to Toronto a bit over a year ago to live with my fiancée (who’s Canadian). This meant that I had to wait for a work permit. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to conquer that summit that is coding. So I spent months attending a variety of technology events, and studied coding full-time.

freeCodeCamp helped me achieve what previously seemed like an unreachable goal — being a competent web developer.

Through the study group, freeCodeCamp also introduced me to good friends, who were also transitioning their careers toward software development. (I’m looking at you Alexander Kallaway and Ha Le Minh.) It also gave me a sense of fulfillment from helping other campers make the big leap into coding.

Within one week of getting my Canadian work permit, I landed a job as a front end developer. And I’m no exception — several other campers in our group have recently gotten their first developer jobs, too.

The fCC Toronto study group. I’m the guy in the flannel shirt with the big smile.

Having benefited so much from this community, I’ve decided to double down and help more than ever on my nights and weekends.

But this is not my story alone. All around the world, fCC study groups are helping people build their skill sets. They’re providing opportunities to hang out with other developers and network with hiring managers at local employers.

The fCC Busan study group, in a venue they obtained through the local government

Think global, act local

Several Campers are currently achieving creative and ambitious goals through their freeCodeCamp study groups.

Our friends at the fCC Providence study group met with their city’s mayor to form a partnership. Their government now helps sponsor their activities. They’re also establishing relationships with local tech companies, and are applying to become a registered nonprofit organization.

The fCC Guam study group is partnering with the University of Guam, and their Department of Education in promoting computer science, math and English education through a summer pilot program using freeCodeCamp’s curriculum.

The fCC Dallas study group has built its own website to help each other and benchmark their progress.

Some campers from the fCC Dallas study group hang out at NoD, which hosted one of their events.

freeCodeCamp study groups are fully autonomous

Rather than try to straight-jacket study groups by imposing a bunch of rules, the leaders of freeCodeCamp’s open source community have chosen to give each study group full autonomy.

This means each study group can:

  • Freely partner with local organizations and sign paperwork without needing to ask freeCodeCamp’s core team for permission
  • Apply for tax-exempt (nonprofit) status, which can be beneficial in using public spaces for event venues
  • Collect dues if absolutely necessary to pay for pizza and soda
  • Basically anything else a regular group of people can legally do

Not only does this give campers flexibility to adapt to local customs, it also releases freeCodeCamp — a small team of developers who are mostly volunteers — from liability for things that happen half way around the world.

The fCC New South Wales study group.

The only thing we ask that study groups not do is print t-shirts or other merchandise with the freeCodeCamp logo on it, as our shop is currently the only way freeCodeCamp supports itself.

If you want custom gear for your local study group, reach out to us. We can handle printing and distribution in a way that’s transparent and risk-free for your team.

The fCC Moscow study group.

We even have a repository on GitHub that contains all of our Creative Commons-licensed assets, and you can modify these and use them on posters, websites and signs to promote your group.

Even though I’m settling into my new job, I’ll continue to provide support for all of our study groups and help share best practices. Reach out to me on Gitter if I can be of any help at all.

Also, I invite you to write about what your local study group is doing. This is a great way to share your group’s innovative approaches, as well as inspire campers in other groups.

Here are some classic Medium articles written by campers about how they are leading their local study groups:

Growth Hacking Your City’s Campsite
More than 500 cities now have Free Code Camp Campsites. Most of these are new, and still relatively inactive. This…medium.comIt turns out my neighbours wanted to learn to code, too. They just didn’t realize it was possible.
We all have different motivations for starting a coffee-and-code. Studying by yourself at home can be lonely, and less…medium.com

I’ll close with some more photos from our amazing study groups. Hope to see photos from yours soon. Happy coding!

The fCC Mexico City study group.
The fCC Tabriz study group
The fCC Mississauga study group
An fCC Delhi study group event in an art museum.
The fCC Pittsburgh study group
The fCC Seoul study group
The fCC Ho Chi Minh City study group
The fCC New York City study group
The fCC Lagos study group
The fCC Manila study group
The fCC South Los Angeles study group

When not coding, you’ll find me mentoring other coders, playing with freeCodeCamp’s design, building internal apps at Metrolinx, hanging out with friends in Toronto, or maybe lost exploring other amazing places just about anywhere around the world.

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