This is the full report on the Adler Civic Hack Day from Nicole Cipri as part of our Documentor Program.
On June 6th, the Adler Planetarium joined venues across the world to host Civic Hack Day as part of National Day of Civic Hacking. National Day of Civic Hacking brings together community members, developers, programmers, and organizers to tackle tough problems and present practical solutions. Hackers come from a variety of backgrounds and bring diverse skill sets. Problem-solvers, makers, coders, tinkerers, anyone is invited to join the events.
Last year, National Day of Civic Hacking saw 123 events in 13 different countries, including at Adler Planetarium. Kelly Sutphin-Borden, an educator with the Adler who also handled logistics for the Hackathon, said this was the third year the Adler had participated in Civic Hack Day. Last year, groups created several seed projects, including an app to help link homeless LGBTQ youth to resources, and a searchable and simplified website explaining the CPS code of conduct to students and parents.
This year, six different people pitched issues facing Chicago. Among the proposals:
- A website to help engage citizens on proposed legislative regulations.
- A media campaign to protect Chicago birds.
- An online archive for photographs by Vivian Maier, a Chicago-area street photographer, which would complement a brick-and-mortar archive of her works.
- A more accessible and streamlined portal to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook
- A data collection app for Cancercodebreaker.org, which would collect cancer patients’ treatment histories and share them with researchers.
- An app to help hospital patients with follow-up care after their discharge
The last of the problems presented, about helping discharged hospital patients, was proposed by Dr. Pam Khosla, an oncologist at Mount Sinai. She had not planned on participating in Civic Hack Day, but only on keeping her daughter company there for a few hours. She became inspired after listening to some of the other proposed issues.
She confessed that she’d heard about National Day of Civic Hacking first on NPR, and had been confused by the term. “I thought all hacking was bad,” she explained. “Who are we hacking? Why?”
Mount Sinai is a hospital on Chicago’s West Side, an area of the city that suffers from high rates of poverty. Many of Khosla’s patients have trouble navigating the labyrinthine process of longterm cancer treatment. Some of her patients have limited English, or low literacy, or no support network to help them. She envisioned an app or device in which a patient could input their treatment plans, and would then remind them to book transportation to their appointments, take their medication, or help explain procedures or processes. The point was to get better patient compliance, and thus, better quality of care.
After presenting the problems, Clint Tseng of Socrata offered a crash course in accessing open data provided by Chicago, Cook County, and the State of Illinois. He also stayed on hand to help groups utilize this data for their projects.
Individuals broke up into teams to tackle each of these issues, usually starting with a brainstorming session. Problem Owners were interviewed about what kind of solutions would be practical, while everyone pitched in to come up with ideas for formats, funding possibilities, and organization. After a rough idea is drafted, the group had the next 24 hours to fine-tune their proposed solution, presenting it the following morning.
For those interested in seeing what the groups came up with can look through #hackforchange and #civichackday on Twitter.