Smart Chicago is a civic organization devoted to improving lives in Chicago through technology. We work on increasing access to the Internet, improving skills for using Internet, and developing meaningful products from data that measurably contribute to the quality of life of residents in our region and beyond.

We are a startup that was founded in part by our municipal government and nurtured by some of its most venerable institutions. Our founding partners are the City of Chicago, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and The Chicago Community Trust. As a funding collaborative, we help bring together municipal, philanthropic, and corporate investments in civic innovation.

We have a host of current projects and partnerships, and we are actively seeking to connect ideas and resources in all areas of philanthropy in Chicago.

New Dataset from the City Clerk’s Office: Residential Parking Zones

This morning, Susana Mendoza, the City Clerk of Chicago,  is set to release a new dataset to the City’s data portal: residential parking zone data. Here’s a link: https://data.cityofchicago.org/Transportation/Parking-Permit-Zones/u9xt-hiju. The data provides the starting and end points of all street segments that the City Council has designated as parking for residents.

WIcker Park, Late November Morning with Bright Sun

This data set is already going to have several organizations (including us) using the data. We’ll outline the efforts below the fold:


The Launch of Convicted in Cook

Today we’re launching Convicted in Cook, a joint project of Smart Chicago, the Chicago Justice Project, and FreeGeek Chicago’s Supreme Chi-Town Coding Crew (SC3).

Convicted in Cook is an analysis of five years worth of conviction data received through the Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County by Tracy Siska of the Chicago Justice Project. The goal is to shed a light on criminal convictions in Cook County.

The project is part of the Smart Chicago Collaborative’s Civic Works Project, a program funded by the Knight Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust to spur and support civic innovation in Chicago.



Sonja Marziano promoted to Project Coordinator

Sonja Marziano has been promoted to Smart Chicago’s Project Coordinator. Sonja first joined Smart Chicago last year as Smart Chicago’s administrative assistant, but quickly grew to be a huge part of Smart Chicago’s operations including managing the Civic User Testing Group and spearheading the Chicago School of Data Days.

Sonja Marziano at the Chicago Cultural Center

Sonja will be transitioning from her Administrative Assistant role and managing more programs and projects for Smart Chicago. This includes her continued leadership in the CUTGroup and Chicago School of Data Project, and now includes Expunge.io, Early Childhood Web Portal, and other projects as they arise.

You can follow her on Twitter at @ssmarziano.


Kyla Williams promoted to Director of Operations

Kyla Williams has been promoted to Smart Chicago’s Director of Operations. Kyla has been an integral part of Smart Chicago’s work helping to manage our finances, contracts, and grants. Kyla also runs all of our health initiatives including the Chicago Health Atlas and the Smart Health Centers.

Smart Chicago will be taking on more projects in 2015 and Kyla’s new role will be to help manage all of our operations going forward and will continue to spearhead our health initiatives.

You can follow Kyla on Twitter at @SmartChgoKyla.



New Project: Experimental Modes of Civic Engagement in Civic Tech

Today we’re launching a new project— Experimental Modes of Civic Engagement in Civic Tech. This is a project led by Laurenellen McCann that deepens her work in needs-responsive, community-driven processes for creating technology with real people and real communities for public good. See our project page for complete details.

I’m excited about this project because it supports so many important nodes for Smart Chicago:

  • Keeping the focus on people and communities rather than technology. We are leading creators of civic tech, and we publish a lot of software. It’s people and impact we care about
  • Driving toward a shared language around the work. There is a lot of enthusiasm for “people” in our space right now. This project sharpens pencils and will put definition to the work
  • Highlighting the workers: communities are doing this work and doing it right. We seek to lift them up and spread their methods

Au Natur-Elle #latergramSmart Chicago is utterly devoted to being of impact here in Chicago. As our work progresses, we see that we have opportunity to have influence all over. This project, rooted in the Chicago Community Trust, funded by them and the Knight Foundation, executed by a leading thinker in the field, is one way we’re doing just that.


Smart Chicago, Expunge.io, and Ecosystem

This is one in a series of posts that help us at Smart Chicago to develop a cohesive product strategy that helps us deliver on the promise of access, skills, and data. As we’ve grown, more and more cities have an interest in how Smart Chicago works and how the model can be used near them. These detailed posts, showing all of the steps we take, are a way to keep us in check locally while be of service nationally. Here’s more information on our model.

Expunge.io is a youth-led project.


Toward Estimating Value in Civic Tech

One of the great challenges of our work in open data is making a concrete case for value. For me, the question comes up all the time, going back to my time at EveryBlock and even before that, as a tech contractor trying to convince a municipality to open more data.

We often rely on important but somewhat vague successes around weather and transit, but we really lack demonstrative examples of direct economic development around open data.

Now comes the inimitable Waldo Jaquith, Director of the U.S. Open Data Institute, with a detailed blog post that shows one small path to understanding: “The Financial Value of Open Corporate Data to Government” .

Awesome Market at Germain and St. Jacques, Paris, February 2012

The regulation of businesses is one of the most essential government functions and one that generates critical revenue for government services.