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 Partners with ORS Impact for Organization Evaluation

Smart Chicago has always relied on small teams to get big things done. Now we're doing an organization-wide evaluation of our work. This photo is from November 2014.

Smart Chicago has always relied on small teams. Now we’re doing an organization-wide evaluation of our work. This photo is from November 2014.

For the last few months, Smart Chicago has been engaged with our partner ORS Impact to “conduct an evaluation of the Smart Chicago Collaborative’s programs and facilitate a robust strategy development process”.

Purpose of Evaluation

Smart Chicago has reached a time in its evolution when it is ready to take a step back and think critically about its path forward. A clear evaluation of what has been accomplished from inception to the present, coupled with a robust strategy development process, will help Smart Chicago make decisions about goals, growth, funding, structure, governance, partnerships, and programmatic strategies aligned with the specific outcomes and impact that Smart Chicago wants to achieve.

This document is focused on the first part of this project, which is the evaluation design phase. The evaluation findings will inform a subsequent strategy development process. ORS Impact has been contracted to help with both the evaluation and the strategy development process.

Key Evaluation Questions

The evaluation is designed to answer the following key questions:

  • What roles has Smart Chicago played within the community over the past four years?
  • What contributions has Smart Chicago made in the space in which it has operated?
  • Toward specific goals
  • On other actors in the community
  • On the ecosystem
  • What work has been most effective and why?
  • What has not been working well and why?
  • How has the Chicago-area landscape in which Smart Chicago operates changed over the past four years, and what are the implications for Smart Chicago?

Together, the answers to these questions will inform the strategy going forward.

In this context, consultants from ORS Impact will be kicking off interviews with dozens of Smart Chicago stakeholders.

We’ve settled on a number of representative projects to frame these discussions:

If you are contacted by our friends at ORS Impact, please consider participating in this important work!

Kyla leading a brainstorming session.

Kyla leading a brainstorming session.