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.

Parks Take Active Health Role at Obesity Conference

LaSalle II school

Children play at LaSalle II school, 1148 W. Honore.

Health workers treating obesity in children are looking beyond what they see in clinics, to what’s at play in Chicago parks.

“Can you imagine camping in Chicago within 15 minutes of downtown?” said Zhanna Yemakov, Chicago Park District conservation manager. At the quarterly meeting of the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, Yemakov outlined park plans for the roughly 1,000 acres of Southeast Side brownfields now among park holdings.

Other speakers addressed the city’s playgrounds, plazas and pocket parks. “Our focus is what we call a socio-ecological approach, where we look at all the factors that influence childhood obesity at all levels,” said Adam Becker, CLOCC executive director, after the June 9 conference. The focus extends beyond individual cases to family, community and the broader social and political environment.

Chicago Health Atlas

Chicago Health Atlas: Diabetes hospitalization per 10,000 residents, 2011

A 2013 city study finds Chicago Public Schools students have above-average obesity rates – 48.6 percent of sixth-graders were overweight or obese. In 8 of the city’s 77 community areas, fewer than one-third of students fell outside the healthy range; in 15 communities, it was about half.

Overweight and obesity do carry long-term risks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In children and adolescents, they include cardiovascular disease and elevated blood sugar levels that can lead to diabetes within a decade.

Obese children also are more likely to become obese adults, with higher rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancers and osteoarthritis. The Chicago Health Atlas charts variations by neighborhood in several such adult conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and breast and colorectal cancers.

“If you’re focusing on one you’re not going to solve the problem,” Becker said. “We try to measure impact as best as we can, but with obesity it’s just so complicated. You can’t just say A equals B. The lines are very indirect.”

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Results of the CDOT / Textizen Poll on Placemaking

CDOT Textizen Poster

CDOT Textizen Poster

As part of the CivicWorks Project, we maintain a Textizen instance so that local nonprofits and government agencies can get feedback from residents. Our most recent partnership was with the Chicago Department of Transportation and their placemaking survey.

We wanted to give a few highlights of what we learned doing the survey as well as talk about how your organization can take advantage of Textizen.

Overall Results:

Total number of participants: 2117

English: 1887

Spanish: 220

Total Texts: 13485

Completion Rate: 58.5 %

Age Range: 41% of English respondents were 15-25, 36% were 26-35

Most Active Times: 9am and 7pm

Responses to Select Questions:

I would like to see more _ for Chicago’s streets! (Multiple Choice) [English]
A. Trees & Landscaping 44
B. Seating 13%
C. Public Gathering Spaces 19%
D. Bike Amenities 17%
E. Wider Sidewalks 7%
Which events do you want to see more of in Chicago? (Multiple Choice) [English]
A. Cultural event/art 22%
B. Street Fests 23%
C. Farmer/flea markets 34%
D. Free community services 22%
Cuales eventos le gustaria ver mas en Chicago? (Multiple Choice) (Spanish)
A. Evento cultural/arte 28%
B. Mercados 22%
C. festivales en la calle 29%
D. Servicios comunitarios 21%
How do you mainly get around your neighborhood? (Multiple Choice) (English)
A. Drive 9%
B. Bike 14%
C. Walk 38%
D. Transit 38%
E. Other 1%

Mindmixer Results

The Chicago Department of Transportation also ran a Mindmixer campaign at the same time as the Textizen poll. Mindmixer helps governments get feedback from residents by letting them post ideas on different topics. One of the most popular ideas on this Mindmixer poll was the idea to create a suburban bus station on the empty lot at Michigan and Roosevelt.

The Chicago Department of Transportation will use the results of the campaigns to further develop their Complete Street design guidelines. You can find our more information about the program on the Chicago Department of Transportation website.

Textizen Record set for most participation in a Spanish Language Poll 

This CDOT campaign had the most participation out of any previous Textizen poll with 221 total responses. CDOT achieved this by deploying an equal number of ads and using different photos. CDOT also gave presentations at Spanish speaking audiences to help spread the word.

The campaign also hit several community blogs which helped spread the word throughout different neighborhoods.

Next step: Crunching numbers

The next step for CDOT is to take the Textizen and Surveymonkey results and merge them together. The team will then start to run analysis so they can give better guidance to policy makers. When the CDOT team makes their recommendations for placemaking, the document will likely have a lot of technical information.  CDOT intends to interject results from the survey into their recommendations so that they can tie their results back to people.

To keep up with the progress, you can visit for more inforation on CDOT’s efforts.

If you think that Textizen could help you government agency or non-profit, feel free to start a conversation with us here!

Smart Chicago and the Chicago Department of Transportation launch Textizen campaign for placemaking

CDOT Textizen Poster

We’re partnering with the Chicago Department of Public Transportation to help get citizen feedback on their Chicago Complete Streets Program.

CDOT is using flyers and posters on the Chicago Transit Authority asking Chicago residents to take a quick text survey about how they want to see Chicago’s street spaces improved.

Smart Chicago is helping CDOT through our CivicWorks Project through our Textizen account. Textizen’s web platform sends, receives, and analyzes text messages so you can reach the people you serve with the technology already in their pocket, 24/7.

We are a customer of Textizen because we believe in their product and we believe in helping them make it even better. By connecting them with organizations like CDOT, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for their Public Art Plan, and the Metropolitan Planning Council for transit-oriented development in Logan Square, we’re able to fund not just projects, but products.

All of this leads to a stronger civic innovation sector of the technology industry, one that can support itself with revenue driven by software that people love.

Christopher Whitaker runs the CivicWorks project and has been his amazing self in pulling together this initiaitve. CDOT has also launched a campaign on to get ideas from Chicago residents about placemaking in Chicago.

For more information, you can visit CDOT’s Complete Streets website at If you would like to get started on your own texting campaign for civic engagement, take a look at our Developer Resources.