Announcing the April 22nd Community Technology Forum at Greater Southwest Development Corporation

The first Community Technology Forum, an event hosted in partnership with the Greater Southwest Development Corporation (GSDC), DePaul University, and Connect Chicago, will be on Saturday, April 22nd. GSDC, our local partner for this event, produces the Tech Thursdays workshop series and has been a featured speaker at Connect Chicago Meetups.

Event: Community Technology Forum hosted at the Greater Southwest Development Corporation

Date: Saturday, April 22, 2017

Time: 10am — 1pm

Location: 2601 W 63rd St.

A light breakfast will be served at the beginning of the event and lunch will be served toward the end of the event.

The Community Technology Forums are participatory design sessions aimed at understanding hyperlocal digital equity ideas, assets, and needs. Hosted in partnership with nonprofits and community anchor institutions in Chicago’s neighborhoods, these sessions will give residents an opportunity to articulate a vision for technology in their community. The forums will be facilitated by Professor Sheena Erete, Jessa Dickinson, and other community design experts at DePaul University.

Spread the word!

For all interested in spreading the word and putting this event information on emails and websites (please do!), copy and share the write-up below:

You’re Invited to a Community Technology Forum at the Greater Southwest Development Corporation!

When: Saturday, April 22, 2017 from 10am – 1pm

Where: 2601 W 63rd St.

What: Join community members and local advocates for a civic conversation about the technology in your neighborhood. What do you love about your community and what is working well? ¿Qué te gusta de tu comunidad? What technology resources do you use a lot and appreciate? ¿Qué recursos tecnológicos utiliza mucho y aprecia? You’re invited to share your ideas and help design solutions that leverage what works to improve what doesn’t. This Community Technology Forum is hosted at the Greater Southwest Development Corporation in partnership with DePaul University, the Smart Chicago Collaborative & Connect Chicago. Breakfast & lunch will be provided! Sign up for more information and RSVP at bit.ly/chitechforum1.

Here is the flyer for this meeting:

If you are interested in attending the April 22nd Community Technology Forum or would like to receive more information, please fill out this form also embedded below:
Fill out my online form.

Community Technology Forums: Objectives & Model

In partnership with DePaul University and various Connect Chicago Meetup partners, Connect Chicago will be engaging directly with residents through Community Technology Forums.

The Community Technology Forums are participatory design sessions aimed at understanding hyperlocal digital equity needs, assets, and ideas. Hosted in partnership with nonprofits and community anchor institutions in Chicago’s neighborhoods, these sessions will give residents an opportunity to articulate a vision for technology in their community. We hope the ideas and needs identified by residents in these sessions inform future work and community investments.

Community Technology Forum Objectives

There are several objectives to these Forums:

  • Understand what residents see as the main challenges or gaps for their community/neighborhood when it comes to technology, Internet access, and training
  • Discover in what ways, both big and small, people would like to see technology improve their daily lives and the quality of life in their communities
  • Find out how people have participated in conversations about technology in their communities in the past, and how they would like to in the future

About the Community Technology Forums

The forums will look like a guided community brainstorming meetings. They will be facilitated by Professor Sheena Erete, Jessa Dickinson, and other community design experts at DePaul University. The Forums will include introductions/icebreakers and about 2-3 interactive group activities for attendees. We will release session schedules for each Forum.

The Forums will amplify hyperlocal opinions and ideas about technology. We recognize that there are many nonprofit and anchor institutions already leading the way in community technology resources and training. Their work is featured at Connect Chicago Meetups and the whole ecosystem benefits from their lessons. By partnering with these institutions as hosts, we hope to not only shine a light on their leadership, but also utilize their position in the community to recruit residents and capture local perspectives.

The Forums will be welcoming & inclusive. All will be welcome at these events, including walk-in participants. Food will be provided and we will schedule the timing of the event in consultation with our nonprofit or community anchor institution host who knows best about the scheduling preferences of their patrons and their community.

The Forums will be well documented. The messages and lessons from each Community Technology Forum will be synthesized and circulated after the events. As with other Smart Chicago engagement events, the work will be shared broadly. We will also be open about meta lessons — what went well, what could be improved, etc. —  for others interested in adapting the work.

Check back on the Smart Chicago blog as Community Technology Forum events are announced. If you are interested in getting involved, volunteering, or hosting a Community Technology Forum later in 2016, please email Program Analyst Denise Linn at dlinn@cct.org.

Women in Tech Speakers Series

Co-authored by Kyla Williams and Derek Eder

Smart Chicago Collaborative and Chi Hack Night have teamed up to create a speaking series in celebration of Women’s History Month in an effort to elevate the talented, diverse women in civic-driven technology across Chicago.

Too often in the tech space we hear about what people do or what product they have made and less about their personal narratives. In this series, we encourage our speakers to share their stories as a transformative learning and inspirational opportunity.

Additionally, we acknowledge the lack of diversity in the civic tech community and believe that becoming more community-based with easier opportunities for engagement and gaining experience will spurn interest in the field and potentially serve as an economic solution to fill technology vacancies in Chicago.

This partnership is especially timely considering Smart Chicago is currently an all women team fighting the good fight on behalf of civic technology and engagement and Chi Hack Night has set a priority area of focus on diversifying its thriving developer community.

The Women in Tech Speakers Series will coincide with the four weekly Chi Hack Night events that occur on Tuesdays at Braintree in Merchandise Mart for the month of March.

Additionally, two community events will be held on Wednesday, March 29th in Homan Square and Thursday March 30th at the DuSable Museum.

It’s important to ensure we are not just highlighting women in technology and their respective stories, but also their roles within the field. Further, if we are going to influence a paradigm shift and draw more interest into the field, demystifying roles and types of opportunities is necessary. We are hopeful that we will be able to continue this partnership and related activities on an ongoing basis, as this is important work.

Event #1 – March 7th, 6pm

The Speaker Series kicks off tonight March 7th with special guest Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Braintree
222 W Merchandise Mart Plz, 8th Floor
Chicago, IL 60654

RSVP – sold out!

Event #2 – March 14th, 6pm

Next week will feature Sandee Kastrul, president and co-founder of i.c.stars, an innovative nonprofit leadership and technology training program founded in 1999 to prepare inner-city adults for technology careers and community leadership.

Braintree
222 W Merchandise Mart Plz,8th Floor
Chicago, IL 60654

RSVP

Event #3 – March 21st, 6pm

Our third event will feature Melissa Pierce, Director of “Born with Curiosity: The Story of Grace Murray Hopper”, an independent documentary about Grace Hopper, who in 1944, was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer and invented the first compiler for a computer programming language.

Braintree
222 W Merchandise Mart Plz,8th Floor
Chicago, IL 60654

RSVP

Event #4 – March 28th

On Tuesday, March 28th, we will welcome Robin Robinson, a longtime Chicago television news anchor turned special advisor on community affairs for the Chicago Police Department. In her talk, Robin will discuss the role she has taken on and the work needed to rebuild trust between the Chicago Police Department and the communities it serves. We also welcome the Chicago Federation for Women as they share their Talk It Out initiative, a weeklong conversation series designed to spark understanding about gender bias and the ways it affects women and men.

Braintree
222 W Merchandise Mart Plz, 8th Floor
Chicago, IL 60654

RSVP

Event #5 – Creators & Founders: Women in Civic Tech

Wednesday, March 29th we will welcome a panel of creators and founders, with speakers Allyson Scrutchens of Forward Planning and Dima Elissa of VisMed-3D.              

Homan Square Community Center
3517 W. Arthington Street
Chicago, IL 60624

RSVP

Event #6 – Amplifiers of Community Voice: Women in Civic Tech

Thursday March 30th  we will welcome a panel of amplifiers of community voice with speakers Andrea Hart of City Bureau, Aviva Rosman of Ballot Ready, and Tiana Epps-Johnson of Center for Tech and Civic Life.

DuSable Museum-Auditorium
740 East 56th Place
Chicago, IL 60637

RSVP

We hope you’ll join us in celebrating Women’s History Month and Chicago’s unique and amazing civic technology community. Here’s to Women’s History Month and fruitful partnerships!

 

Digital Inclusion Innovation in Chicago: Wi-Fi at Windsor Park

Windsor Park Lutheran Evangelical Church in Chicago’s South Shore is the home of a collaborative, community-based connectivity initiative. Along with Leave No Veteran Behind, Cambium Networks, and a neighboring local restaurant, the Church set up a Wi-Fi network —  something to power job searches, homework, and communication even when libraries and computer centers are closed.

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I had the opportunity to visit the project in November and invited other members of the Connect Chicago Meetup to join me. I’ve had my eye on this initiative, not only because it was hosted in a faith community, but also because of its smart combination of partners: an anchor institution, a training nonprofit, an equipment donor (Cambium Networks), and a broadband provider (American Wide Broadband). During our visit we met with the champions that pieced together their strengths and expertise to make this work happen: Ray Savich of Cambium Networks, Kitty Kurth a consultant assisting with the project, Alvyn Walker of Leave no Veteran Behind, and Will Williamson of Windsor Park Lutheran Church.

Rural Solutions in City Neighborhoods

One obstacle that the group met when advocating for the project was the attitude that free Wi-Fi was plentiful in all parts of an urban area. “Why don’t people just go to Starbucks?” was a common question they encountered. Of course, you can’t see a Starbucks in every other block of South Shore as you do in other Chicago neighborhoods or in the Loop. Plentiful public or semi-public Wi-Fi is simply not there and, despite being in one of the largest cities in the U.S., the South Shore’s public connectivity lagged behind.

The solution implemented by partners was a fixed wireless network, powered by an antenna placed on the steeple of Windsor Park Evangelical Lutheran Church. Fixed wireless connections, Ray Savich of Cambium pointed out during our tour, are more commonly seen as a connectivity solution in rural areas. In this case, it also suited the needs of the South Shore community.

The network has been used by the church itself, supporting summer programming and community food pantry operations. Community programs supporting veterans and seniors have also utilized the connected space. Alvyn Walker of Leave No Veteran Behind described the reentry process for Veterans, sometimes additionally complicated when online resources are hard to access. Job training and searching, accessing medical services, signing up for public benefits, and navigating bureaucracy is that much harder without the Internet and digital literacy, he explained.

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The Compelling Partnership Equation

This project’s model is one to watch and potentially replicate in neighborhoods with similar challenges and community assets. There were complementary partners with different resources, but a common mission:

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As with many neighborhoods and cities, churches and other communities of faith play an important center of gravity for civic life. Voting, charity work, training, and language programs (just to name a few) are housed in these spaces and fueled by the volunteers and community networks that the buildings host. It is almost natural that such a place could be the great home for a hyper local connectivity solution as well.

Here are more pictures from Windsor Park:
Windsor Park Lutheran Church November 2016

If you’re interested in this model for community connectivity or would like to help host and plan an event about public Wi-Fi in Chicago, email dlinn@cct.org.

Youth-Led Tech 2016 Innovations

 Youth-Led Tech 2016 is in the books, however the work that was done in partnership with the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center  (JTDC) and Nancy B. Jefferson School is still resonating. This being my first year with Smart Chicago and performing in my role as Youth-Led Tech Project Coordinator was everything I thought it would be; innovating, engaging, inspiring and fulfilling. We undertook a groundbreaking opportunity working with 50 youth students at JTDC. Over the course of several months and numerous meetings, Smart Chicago received the nod to present Youth-Led Tech at JTDC, and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) granted approval for the Youth-Led Tech program to provide the .5 credits high school students needed towards their graduation requirement. JTDC residents without a high school diploma or GED are required to attend school during their stay.

Access and Skills

The JTDC program presented unique challenges due to the high security levels in the facility. These challenges were overcome with the development of a modulated curriculum on a closed platform which allowed the JTDC students to experience the technology training and develop their websites in a nearly identical format as the community students. The six week curriculum was modified to three weeks for this pilot to meet the specific needs of this population. During each of the three week sessions we served two cohorts of students.

Students who successfully completed the program were awarded certificates of completion at a graduation held in their honor where they presented their websites to proud family members, friends, JTDC staff members, and teachers. Similar to the community program youth were also provided with an earned learning incentive of keeping the laptop used during the program. Students completing the Youth-Led Tech program and are released on or before 12/31/2016, can contact Smart Chicago to retrieve the laptop and be formally connected to other programming as a recidivism prevention opportunity.

“Smart Chicago is committed to providing ongoing opportunities to support and connect our youth to services that will provide increase access to resources, especially those that touch tech in an effort to sustain and improve the quality of their lives. JTDC students, although currently involved in the juvenile justice, are bright, innovative, and full of potential. The Youth-Led Tech JTDC program pilot proved that if challenged to learn, make better decisions, increased access to technology and tools, and inspiring hope through redemptive opportunities, many of these youth have the ability to be positively contributing community members. We all should want that.” Kyla Williams, Interim Executive Director, Smart Chicago Collaborative

Creative Career Day

Along with the intensive technology training the students at JTDC/NBJ also participated in the 7th Annual Creative Career Day event. This event is a one day opportunity for the students to interact with the Arts and Culture community to visualize employment opportunities in those sectors. This year the event was expanded to include traditional and non-traditional business and tech occupations. Students had the privilege to hear from over 19 organizations and and interact with nearly 40 professionals.

The impact of both programs can be seen in the comments from the presenters as well as the students:

“…thanks so much for this wonderful opportunity to reach out to youth.  It is an important event and I look forward to next year.”  Dr. Lorri Glass, Governor’s State University

“I truly appreciate the opportunities this summer with your programs, they definitely made an impact on my life and I was honored. David Wilkins, RallyCap

“It was the best one ever!” “I could see myself doing that.” “The people had real stories about their life.” Student Comment

Statements like these are part of the reasons why Smart Chicago strives to innovate around solutions and make data driven decisions. Due to the noted success of the program, JTDC administration has requested programming for the Fall 2016/Winter 2017. Youth-Led Tech staff are currently working on a proposal to support meeting that request. 

Smart Chicago Ash Fellow Glynis Startz featured on Microsoft Chicago’s Civic Chat

This year at Smart Chicago we were pleased to host Glynis Startz, a Harvard Ash Center Summer Fellow in Innovation. As an Ash Fellow hosted by Smart Chicago, Glynis assisted as a writer, thinker, and strategist on the Array of Things Civic Engagement Project.

More about the fellowship:

The Ash Center’s Summer Fellowship is designed to prepare students for careers in the public sector. Students work with some of the most creative and effective public officials and policy advisors in the country, not only to learn but to add value by sharing cutting-edge trends and ideas explored at the Kennedy School.

Glynis was featured on Microsoft Chicago’s Civic Chat on Advisor.tv. Watch the video linked below to learn more about Glynis and Smart Chicago’s 2016 civic engagement work with data and the Internet of Things.

http://microsoft-chicago.com/2016/09/14/civic-chat-networking-our-neighborhoods-glynis-startz-ash-center-fellow/?src=%22Staff%22

Here are all of the blog posts that Glynis wrote while she was working with us:

To learn more about the civic engagement process behind Array of Things and its privacy and governance policies, read our Array of Things Engagement Report.