Launch: The Chicago School of Data Book

Today the Smart Chicago Collaborative is proud to publish and share the Chicago School of Data Book. We saw this work as an essential first step to understand and convene the mission-driven players leveraging local data for the public good.

The book summarizes the Chicago School of Data project  which included a scan of our local data ecosystem from 2013 – 2014 and a convening we built on top of that scan. Typical with other Smart Chicago projects like CUTGroup and the Array of Things Civic Engagement Project, we also included “meta” sections in the Chicago School of Data book which share specific details about how we executed our projects, what tools we used, and the guiding principles behind our program design decisions.

The Book’s conclusion wraps up the themes from the 2014 Chicago School of Data convening, but does so in current context. Specifically, three themes were brought to light as major gaps identified at the Chicago School of Data Days that are still relevant today:

  1. The need to understand local data training supply and demand
  2. The need for more data support services for capacity-strapped, mission-driven organizations
  3. The need to incentivize and facilitate collaborative data work and data sharing across specialized institutions and research fields

The Book

You can view a PDF of the book below or order a copy on Amazon HERE.

This book adds to Smart Chicago’s list of publications aimed at documenting our work, methods, and lessons. It joins the ranks of the CUTGroup book, Experimental Modes of Civic Engagement in Civic Tech, and The Civic Whitaker Anthology.

Gratitude for our Chicago School of Data Collaborators & Partners

This work would not have been possible without a few key players, which we want to call out in this blog post.

Lindsay Muscato: Lindsay is Smart Chicago’s publications consultant. She organized, edited, and assisted with design work for this book and many more of Smart Chicago’s publications.  

Andrew Seeder: Andrew was a consultant with Smart Chicago who assisted with writing for the Chicago School of Data Days blog posts, building a taxonomy around our data ecosystem, and compiling book content.

Smart Chicago Documenters: The Smart Chicago Documenters Program —  now transitioned over to the lauded community news organization, City Bureau — was integral to transforming the Chicago School of Data into lessons and writing that would live beyond the project’s lifecycle. Our Documenters were the boots on the ground note-takers and photographers that memorialized the Chicago School of Data Days.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation: The MacArthur Foundation is one of Smart Chicago’s founders and also provided the support for the Chicago School of Data scan, convening, and book. They have championed many other civic projects across the U.S. that have catalyzed the use of data for the public good.

  • Thumbnail Schematic of Chicago Data Ecosystem with Representative Organizations

What’s Next?

Since the original scan, Chicago’s data ecosystem has only become more sophisticated. New data initiatives have emerged. The City of Chicago’s Open Data Portal has grown and now is visualized on The Array of Things will soon open up new data that can help us understand neighborhood public health and public services challenges. New data players have also emerged —  very notably, Smart Chicago’s new collaborators, City Digital at UI Labs. City Digital has demonstrated an original approach to cross-sector, collaborative problem solving, often involving original data collection or innovative data sharing agreements presenting enormous potential for civic innovation.

Going forward, matchmaking these new data sources and new collaborative opportunities to the right community organizations or data intermediaries will be key. There were 200+ institutions that participated in the Chicago School of Data Days in 2014 and likely 100+ more today that can be engaged. While the Chicago School of Data Days facilitated an important conversation around shared challenges and opportunities, it did not directly catalyze new partnerships or scope new work. Action-oriented workshops could be the future for (1) nurturing this community of practice and (2) ensure that local data work catalyzes progress or change. We need to think about creating clear pathways toward data collaboration for the public good and how our ecosystem can incentivize that collaboration.

More on the Chicago School of Data

To read more about the Chicago School of Data project, take a look at these important links:

Data Convening & Collaboration in Other Cities

We’re also inspired by many other cities convening around data and working to put data in service to the public interest. We learn about a lot of these innovative projects from the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership. Here is just some of the impressive work happening in other cities:

  • Data 101 in Pittsburgh, a series of introductory data literacy and training sessions held in libraries to engage residents with open data
  • Cleveland Data Days, an annual event that gathers local researchers and nonprofits around local data
  • Alamo Regional Data Alliance, a coalition of local data organizations that regularly meets and collaborates


Cook County Forest Preserves Map

Where can I bring my dog? How do I access that trail? Where can I go cross country skiing? Where can I have that big party? The Forest Preserves of Cook County in partnership with Smart Chicago has developed the Forest Preserves of Cook County interactive map. The Cook County Forest Preserves Map shows location and information about trails, points of interest, activities, and groves.

Some special features of interest:

  • Uses GPS to find trails, points of interest, and activities near you and get directions.
  • Users can search by activity, location name, city, and zip code.
  • The page URL updates as you search or view location details. You can bookmark all the best places to fly model airplanes or share with friends that the picnic is at Schiller Woods-East. Because the page URL updates, the browser back and forward buttons can be used to go to the last search or view.
  • Mobile friendly: The map is designed for both desktop and mobile use. On a mobile device, a user can toggle between list and map views.
  • Search and filtering is local making it more reliable out in the field with an inconsistent mobile connection.

On 10/30/17,  we rolled out the alerts functionality. The map will now show any alerts on the map detail panel. There is also a list version that is embedded on the Forest Preserves website under “Construction, Closures & Other Work“.

The web application is built on two pieces of source code: Trailsy and Trailsy Server, both pioneered by Code for America. All of the data used to power the site is open for all and can be followed on the project’s GitHub page. I am a long-time Smart Chicago Consultant and the main developer on the project who is also working closing with Cook County’s Department of Technology to tackle open data processes and policies countywide. This project was made possible with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Healthy Hotspot initiative led by the Cook County Department of Public Health. Learn more at

So what can you do at the Cook County Forest Preserves? Here are 5 suggestions:

  1. Did you know that you can play Disc Golf at Cook County Forest Preserves Rolling Knolls Disc Golf Course in Elgin?
  2. Hike 16 miles through the North Branch Trail System Red Paved Trail.
  3. Check out the Kid’s Corner and Butterfly Garden at Sand Ridge Nature Center in South Holland.
  4. Go on a Treetop Adventure and Zip Line at Bemis Woods.
  5. Rent a boat at the Busse Lake Boating Center and explore Busse Lake.

Let us know what you think! Tweet to us @smartchicago and to me @joshkalov.

Documentation from the Array of Things Public Meeting at Association House of Chicago

We’ve compiled documentation from the Array of Things Public Meeting on October 18, 2017 at Association House of Chicago. This is part of our Array of Things Civic Engagement project — a series of community meetings and feedback loops to create dialogue around the Array of Things project, collect community input on policies, inform the deployment of the sensors, and introduce concepts around how the Internet of Things can benefit communities.

The purpose of this Array of Things Public Meeting was to educate the public on the Array of Things project and continue a conversation about how Array of Things sensors and research can align with and support hyperlocal priorities around bike and pedestrian traffic, vehicle traffic, air quality, noise pollution, and flooding. Our meeting on October 18th was open, set in the Association House of Chicago, an important institution in the Humboldt Park community that, in addition to being a high school, also provides basic technology training and workforce development services.

As with every tech-related civic engagement event Smart Chicago hosts, we see great value in sharing documentation after the event is over — not only because it’s a good open working practice, but because it continues the conversation beyond the boundaries of the scheduled meeting. Below is a collection of photographs, handouts used at the event, notes capturing the question and answer portion of the meeting, and follow-up material we sent out after the meeting was over. If you have any questions about this work, please email me at


Here is a link to a Smart Chicago album on Flickr with photographs from the event. See a selection of the photographs below:

Array of Things Public Meeting at Association House


Here is the agenda for the meeting:

Below are the table worksheets used at the meeting. Attendees were invited to take notes on these and use the framework to help guide input and questions they wanted to present to the larger group.

Below is a map of Humboldt Park and surrounding areas. Several of these maps were hung up around the space to capture input on sensor placement.


Below are the notes from the Q&A portion of the event. Very important disclaimer: this is an unofficial record of proceedings and not an exact transcript of the event — rather, a summary of the questions and answers exchanged. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please email me at

Event Follow-up

As follow-up the the discussion at the event, we sent out material to attendees who either RSVP’d through Eventbrite or opted to share their email address during event sign-in.

We sent this follow-up message, highlighting several relevant follow-up websites. In particular, the City’s open data resources (like and as well as the online Array of Things feedback form (for sensor placement and community ideas) were the most of interest.

More Reading on Array of Things Civic Engagement & Civic Engagement with IoT

To learn more about the Array of Things and the public feedback process for this project, you can look at:

  1. The Array of Things Civic Engagement Report
  2. Array of Things FAQs
  3. All public questions and responses about the Array of Things Governance and Privacy Policies


Chicago Celebrates the Unveiling of the New Chicago Health Atlas

Cheers to Four Years

In 2013 with the generous support of the Otho S. A. Sprague Memorial Institute, the Chicago Health Atlas debuted as the number one resource and repository for health data in Chicago. The Atlas displayed huge amounts of data so that residents could take action to improve their own health, including detailed pages for every hospital in Chicago.

In September 2016, Health & Disability Advocates (HDA) and Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) added a new data set to the Chicago Health Atlas. This addition made demographic and population health data available by Hospital Service Area. Next up, the 75 indicators from the Healthy Chicago 2.0 plan were added to the Atlas. This section allowed CDPH to publicly display the progress of the indicators for plan goals and for residents to follow.

“This new data set is the first time, to our knowledge that population health has been made available at the Hospital Service Area level. These data will help hospitals in their efforts to better understand the needs of the communities they serve, not just their own patients.”- Erica Salem, MPH, Director of Strategic Health Initiatives, Health & Disability Advocates.

On Thursday, October 12th the  City of Chicago’s Public Health Department celebrated the launch of the new Chicago Health Atlas. The new Atlas was originally previewed during the Health Chicago 2.0 one-year anniversary event in held late May.

To date 174 strategies first identified in the plan or (76%) have been implemented or are in progress. Healthy Chicago 2.0 is guided by four key principles; Healthy Chicago 2.0 prioritizes health equity, Healthy Chicago emphasizes collaboration, Healthy Chicago 2.0 addresses root causes of health and Healthy Chicago 2.0 leverages data.

“The Chicago Health Atlas is a key component of our citywide Healthy Chicago 2.0 strategy. Not only does it provide a direct portal for partners, funders and policy makers to access data, but it pr it in an intuitive interface that allows users to create visualizations in real time. This tool will help groups across the city, from government agencies like ours to neighborhood organizations to make more informed decisions that will lead to better health outcomes for all”.– Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Julie Morita, M.D

What Does the New Atlas Offer?

Today, the new Chicago Health Atlas has increased functionality, including data visualization at the community level, the ability to print and/or download raw data and a link to resources by community and, the Health Atlas also maps over 20,000 community resources through data provided by MAPSCorps, a non-profit organization that delivers hands-on STEM training for youth through neighborhood asset mapping. This partnerships marks the first time MAPSCorps data will be used by the City of Chicago for distribution to the public.

“Information is power and MAPSCorps is committed to providing communities across Chicago with quality information about community assets to support residents’ well-being,” said MAPSCorps Executive Director Andres Alvear.

If You Build It They Will Come

With continued support from the Otho S. A. Sprague Memorial Institute, development of the new Health Atlas began in the summer of 2016 with the City of Chicago Department of Public Health, the Smart Chicago Collaborative and the development team at Dom and Tom. This team set out to integrate feedback from users, the Healthy Chicago 2.0 data and ease of use for the city’s consumers of health data.

This integrated process was coordinated by the Smart Chicago team; and after hundreds of hours of targeted weekly meetings, countless video conference calls, revising of data templates and intense discussions around quality and quantity of information the Atlas was ready to be tested.

In Spring of 2017 the Smart Chicago Collaborative conducted the first of a series of usability tests for the new Atlas with volunteers from Chicago’s Health and Human Service community.

The feedback from the initial round of user testing was aggregated and used to inform the future design and further development of the Atlas. The fixes, updates and changes are logged and managed in the smartchicago/chicago-atlas GitHub repository. This repository allows the team to address issues quickly and categorizes others for future updates and enhancements. We are encouraging prototypes of health solutions for our region using the Atlas and its data as a tool.

CDPH is currently planning community based user testing opportunities so that  residents can give feedback on the usability of the tool in help inform future enhancements. These community based events will also provide more focused insight into how residents react and interact with the information that is available on the Atlas.

For example, we are equally as interested in what a parent looking for a resource for childcare in their community has to say, and the researchers who may use the Atlas for the development of policy for specific health related issues.

Sprague Executive Director, James N. Alexander says of the Atlas,

“The Chicago Health Atlas emerged from the need of the community’s public health leaders to have better data for their program and policy work. Portraying complex data through maps and charts to assist the broader community in understanding health patterns and empower wellness was seen as the complementary benefit of an on-line Atlas. By inviting all those with health data to contribute to the expansion of The Atlas, The Institute also achieves its mandate to investigate the cause of disease and prevent and relieve human suffering.”- Otho S. A. Sprague Memorial Institute Executive Director, James N. Alexander

Our hope is that you will use this data to both better understand health in Chicago and identify opportunities to improve health and well-being.

The Chicago Health Atlas is, by design, an evolving tool. Through new and continued public-private partnerships, improved data and continuous updates to the site, we will be better equipped to understand and improve our city’s health.

“The Chicago Health Atlas meets our shared goal of making information more transparent and accessible for all residents. Congratulations to the Smart Chicago Collaborative, CDPH and all our partners for not just creating a new and necessary asset for our city, but creating an example for all other cities to follow”.– Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

For more information regarding the Health Atlas or if you have feedback, questions or ideas or are interested in becoming a data partner for the Atlas, please email us at or The Smart Chicago Collaborative is now co-located with City Digital at UI LABS at 1415 N. Cherry Ave., Chicago, IL. 60642.

Follow us at: Twitter: @ChiPublicHealth; @smartchicago;  @SmartChiLeslie; @UILABS_

Community Call: NTEN’s Digital Inclusion Fellowship Q&A

The Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) has just announced that applications are open for their 4th Cohort of the National Digital Inclusion Fellowship. For this round, 2 positions are available in Chicago, supported by Capital One. Since many of our Connect Chicago trainers and nonprofit staff will be eligible to apply for this opportunity,we wanted to elevate it!

What: Digital Inclusion Fellowship (DIF) Cohort 4 Community Call

When: Tuesday, November 7, 2017 1pm central / 11am pacific

Register: Please visit this NTEN website to RSVP and receive call-in information. 

Why apply for the NTEN Digital Inclusion Fellowship? You’ll have access to NTEN resources to help you craft or improve new, needed digital access and skill-building programming for your organization. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to travel, participate in monthly online trainings, learn from fellow cohort members’ work across the country, and receive 1-on-1 support from NTEN staff. Your work will also be of value to the whole Connect Chicago community — your methods, new materials, and lessons learned will bring value to our whole community of practice. We look forward to seeing the progress your leadership brings and potentially showcasing your work through our Meetups and newsletters!

Note that the call is free and you don’t have to be an NTEN member to attend, but you do have to sign up in advance! To sign up, visit this page. 

On a personal note, I’m so pleased to see this opportunity come to the Chicago ecosystem which is rich with creative, passionate tech trainers and advocates from many mission-drive organizations. I’ve had the opportunity to support, advise, and collaborate with previous Digital Inclusion Fellows, so it’s wonderful to see the work spread to new cities!

About the Digital Inclusion Fellowship (DIF)

The Fellowship program supports local non profit leaders in creating and building the most effective programs that best serve their communities. With the support of their organization and supervisors, non profit staff participate in a year of learning, sharing, and developing their digital literacy programs.

Fellows in this year-long professional development cohort will develop digital literacy programs specifically suited to serve their communities. These programs may help:

• parents access online school portals job seekers achieve certifications develop, resumes, and search for jobs

• seniors use tablets to communicate with family

• residents access government information and programs

• entrepreneurs start or expand an online business

• participants acquire devices

The Fellow, Fellow’s regular employer, and NTEN staff will craft a set of tangible goals including the number of individuals served, instruction time, and volunteers trained.

You can apply for the Fellowship online HERENote that prospective fellows and their supervisors are expected to submit material, too!

IoT Council Series: How will IoT Impact your Life?

Smart Chicago and City Digital invite you to join us at the next IoT Council Series event: How will IoT impact your life? This event will explore how the Internet of Things (IoT) can impact our personal and professional lives while sharing examples of IoT in homes, healthcare, and our cities. Everyone is invited and no knowledge of IoT is required to participate in this event. This will be an opportunity to learn more about current IoT applications and ask questions about the impact to you or your communities.

Event: IoT Council Series: How Will IoT Impact Your Life?
Date: Tuesday, November 7, 2017 from 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: UI LABS, 1415 N Cherry Ave, Chicago, IL 60642
Free parking! Accessible via CTA Red Line, Blue Line, and buses (#70, #132 and #8)

RSVP here:
Questions related to registration or the event? Email

UI Labs Building with Chicago skyline in background

The Internet of Things (IoT) describes a vast network of connected devices–appliances, buildings, vehicles, and more– that contain sensors and are able to connect to the internet. Examples of IoT include wearable fitness trackers, devices that regulate temperature in homes, and Chicago’s  Array of Things sensors which collect data on the city’s environment and activity for research and public use.

A panel of speakers will discuss these different IoT applications:

  • Danielle DuMerer, Chief Information Officer of the City of Chicago who will share connected government solutions.
  • Chad Curry, Managing Director of CRT Labs– a research group to track emerging technologies that will affect real estate.
  • Gary Conkright, CEO of PhysIQa company that takes data from wearable and implantable devices to learn more about a person’s health.
  • Moderated by Steven Philpott, Co-founder of Colony 5

The event will be hosted at UI LABS, which is our new home, an innovation accelerator that connects partners from university, industry, startups, government, and community groups to address problems in order to advance manufacturing and create smart city infrastructure.

At Smart Chicago, we value opportunities where we can engage people from different sectors and perspectives to learn about and discuss our technology ecosystem. As our world becomes more connected, we need to ensure that people are included in the conversations that will help shape the technology devices and systems being created.

Register here to join us on November 7!


About the IoT Council
The Internet of Things Council’s mission is to drive advancement of IoT technology, policy and industry, establishing Chicago and the Midwest as an epicenter of IoT.