Pretty much every organization has a set of principles or a mission statement or some other text that they craft and put on their website. We actually live by ours. We repeat them at the start of every meeting, and they are a part of every decision we make. Our principles are: Technology, Open, Everyone, Chicago.
We’re all about technology. Everything we do relates to technology. We are of and about the Internet. We are passionate about creating new apps and websites that people love. We share our knowledge and support those who teach digital skills. Most of all, we believe in the transformative power of the Internet to change lives and build the economy for all. It is a simple matter of equity. Of justice.
We are open. In the technology industry, the primary manifestation of that is the use of open source code. We have dozens of repositories on Github, for every piece of software we’ve made over the last three years. But being open means more than using a particular license for our software. It means having open processes, so that people know what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and how they can affect it. This is about allowing others “in”, wherever that may be in any particular situation.
Lots of organizations gain strength from a laser focus on a subset of people. That can be about geography, or age, or activity type. At Smart Chicago, our focus is on everyone. The network—the aggregation of human attention— is the great creator of value in our economy. In order for us to create technology that has broad popularity and utility— that improves relationships with governments, institutions, and each other— we have to include everyone.
Chicago is one of our values. It is our middle name. All of our work is done here. It’s the place we call home, and a place that has a unique and thriving ecosystem for our work. From our base here, we serve as a model for others. And we’ve gotten lots of attention for our model, because the model is working. So we are finding ways to be helpful nationally without letting the attention distract us from our work.