Kyla Williams Co-Presents Today at Philanthropy Ohio’s Annual Conference

Today, Leon Wilson, CIO of the Cleveland Foundation, and I will co-present at the Philanthropy Ohio’s annual conference with a theme this year of “Philanthropy Forward” and a concentrated discussion on Digital Civic Engagement & Community-Centered Design. Philanthropy Forward ’17 is set to inform practices, strategies and goals and connect peers in the field of philanthropy. The conference will also focus on the future of philanthropy with insight into the current state of the sector – fueled by recent research – addressing transitions, change and the leadership pipeline. With several networking and roundtable discussions, attendees will discover how to shift failures to successes, effectively fund advocacy and civic engagement and hear from  exceptional leaders across the state and country.

Leon and I also presented in April 2017 at the Council on Foundations Annual Conference “Leading Together” as part of a panel discussion with: Aaron Deacon, Managing Director, Kansas City Digital Drive; Elizabeth Reynoso, Assistant Director of Public Sector Innovation, Living Cities; and Lilly Weinberg, Program Director/Community Foundations, John S. & James L. Knight Foundation on “Supporting Civic Engagement through Technology and Community-Centered Design”. After finishing that presentation we decided more collaborative sharing between cities was necessary and lead to this opportunity at Philanthropy Ohio.

Community building in the digital era requires providing a space for the public sector and local communities to interact. Building solutions with peoplenot just for them – by using community-centered design can have profound social impact. This has been central to Smart Chicago’s work and has lead to the building of processes, products, services, and other lightweight tech solutions that have been helpful.

Our presentation today has the learning objectives:

  • To introduce different models developed in communities to address civic engagement digitally
  • To encourage the consideration of embedding support for digital civic engagement into existing grantmaking & advancement efforts

You can follow the happenings of the conference on Twitter @PhilanthropyOH and @SmartChgoKyla or by using the hashtag #PhilFWD17.


Good News!!! The Smart Chicago team is moving and now will be co-located with the City Digital Team at UI Labs. As such, our individual emails will be changing to:

Kyla Williams 

Sonja Marziano

Denise Linn     

Leslie Durr       

Our new mailing address is 1415 N. Cherry Avenue Chicago, IL 60642 and general phone number is 312.281.6900.

Please check our website at or follow us on twitter @smartchicago for more updates.

We appreciate your patience during this time of transition.

Smart Chicago Joins the NTIA’s Community Connectivity Initiative as a Collaborator

Smart Chicago is a Collaborator in the National Telecommunications & Information Administration’s Community Connectivity Initiative. The Community Connectivity Initiative was launched in March of 2016 as part of the White House’s broader ConnectALL Initiative. Here is how the Community Connectivity Initiative is described:

The Initiative will empower communities across the country by giving them tools to support and accelerate local broadband planning efforts. NTIA, in close collaboration with its partners, will create a comprehensive online assessment tool to help community leaders identify critical broadband needs and connect them with expertise and resources. The tool will provide a framework of benchmarks and indicators on access, adoption, policy, and use for communities.

As a collaborator, Smart Chicago has an opportunity to shape the Community Connectivity Indicators Framework. In May of 2016, I participated in the National Digital Inclusion Alliance’s Net Inclusion Summit which included an informational session and workshop on the Community Connectivity Framework led by the NTIA.



The Community Connectivity Indicators Framework, being co-built with other local and national institutions, will be a flexible assessment guide for a 21st Century information ecosystem — assessing technology assets & infrastructure, skills, and Internet access, among other things.

This initiative is aligned with Smart Chicago’s work in community indicators and, most importantly, is aligned with the mission and work of Connect Chicago — the cross-sector civic leadership initiative seeking to make Chicago the most digitally skilled, connected, and dynamic city in America. Part of Connect Chicago’s leadership & coordination efforts will involve increased measurement to better understand our skill and access gaps. The Community Connectivity Indicators Framework will inform our approach to that measurement. 

This isn’t the first time that the Smart Chicago has aligned with the NTIA’s federal efforts. From 2010–2012, Chicago made made major strides in expanding and evaluating digital access & skills programing with support from the National Telecommunications & Information Association’s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP). You can read about our work in program here.

To learn more about the NTIA’s Community Connectivity Initiative & Framework, visit this website.

Smart Chicago Collaborative and the City’s Technology Plan

Earlier this month, Chicago Chief Technology Officer John Tolva unveiled the city’s very first technology plan. The plan was a result of a year-long process of research, brainstorming, and thinking about how to make all of Chicago competitive in the new digital economy.

This plan is a comprehensive framework for growing Chicago’s technology sector , getting broadband connectivity for everyone, and  ensuring that Chicago remains a leader in open government data .

The plan also highlights the work that the civic technology community has been doing in Chicago. From the weekly OpenGov Hack Nights, the Smart Communities Program, and youth STEM programs; Chicago already enjoys a strong set of technology strengths and this plan will enable the city to advance even further.

Smart Chicago Collaborative is proud to have a key role in many of these initiatives and is dedicated to  implementing this plan. Here’s a look at our role in the plan and the aspects of our existing work in this context.

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More than 1,000 Photos of Public Computer Centers and Community Technology Centers Were Taken in the Connect Chicago Summer of Data

The Connect Chicago Summer of Data is almost over. 14 canvassers travelled the city to visit more than 200 Public Computer Centers and Community Technology Centers. They interviewed center staff, updated detail pages, and took many, many photos.

We outfitted each 2-person team with an iPad that allowed them to take high-quality photos of building exteriors, computer stations, and community rooms. The idea was that as people prepared to visit a public computer center, the more they knew about the place they were about to visit, the more confident they would be about it.

Ends up that the teams took hundreds of great photos. See them all here.

Northeast Senior Center

Here’s all of them, in a slideshow:

US Ignite Summit: Building the next digital world (and what it means for Chicago)

Ballroom Crowd at the US Ignite Application Summit at the Allegro Hotel, Chicago

The US Ignite Summit highlighted the potential and the opportunities that the next generation internet will bring to the United States. The next generation internet will have upload and download speeds above 1000MBps. (For comparison, the average download speed in Chicago is 50Mbps and the average upload speed is only 10MBps.)

The summit highlighted the potential of next generation apps and the economic development that’s possible with gigabit internet. The summit was attended by 300 people, 53 of whom hailed from the City of Chicago. Through Smart Chicago’s sponsorship of the event we were able to give out several free passes to Chicago residents to ensure that there was a wide variety of fields represented at the conference.

Pallavi Anderson leads a group at the Ideation session of US Ignite

Smart Chicago Collaborative also ran an ideation session as part of the summit. With so much money, time and effort being invested into the gigabit internet it’s important to gain a wide variety of perspectives on what we could do with the next generation internet. Several fantastic ideas where generated out of this session including apps centered around emergency response, healthcare, and library systems.

Smart Chicago Collaborative was also proud to host a reception where internet advocate Susan Crawford spoke about the progress of communication technology – and how we can support real world ties with technology.

Susan Crawford Addresses the US Ignite Application Summit at the Cultural Center in Chicago

Gigabit internet is coming to Chicago. Smart Chicago Collaborative looks forward to assisting in efforts to bring the next generation internet here and looks forward to the economic and social opportunities that it will bring.