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.

Moving Forward After National Day of Civic Hacking

Derek Eder teaching at Migrahack #hackforchange
National Day of Civic Hacking is over. It was a great event that brought web developers, journalists, designers, community activists, data gurus, and government officials together for a weekend civic hacking. Chicago was the most active city with 412 people taking part in events at Cibola, 1871, and the Adler Planetarium.
Youth Hackathon at Adler Planetarium #hackforchange
As a city, we should be proud of what’s we’ve accomplished. And not just for what happened during National Day of Civic Hacking, but proud of how far we’ve come since the days where the data portal only showed FOIA requests. We should celebrate these wins and in the coming days, we’ll be featuring these successes on the blog.
The City of Chicago's @ryanbriones talking about the idea for a civic needs app #hackforchange
However, it’s far more important to ensure that these efforts continue past this weekend. Civic issues are complicated, complex, and difficult to solve. It will take more than a single weekend to find solutions to these problems. As a community, we need to continue to connect civic technologists to community activists who are wrestling with civic issues on a daily basis. We must continue to outreach to every neighborhood in Chicago and ensure that the apps we build help the everyday Chicagoan and not just the geeks. While this weekend has been a fantastic weekend to organize around civic innovation there is still a lot of work to be done.
.@JazminBeltran learning data animation at @migrahack #hackforchange

We met a lot of people over the weekend: Journalists, scientists, community organizers, web developers and designers. We need to connect the dots and form new partnerships to help solve problems in our neighborhoods. We would love to stay in touch with everyone who participated in National Day of Civic Hacking. If that sounds good to you, please fill out this quick contact form so we can reach out to you about different projects.

On our end, the Smart Chicago Collaborative is offering the following to any and all participants of Chicago’s National Day of Civic Hacking.

1) We encourage everyone to continue their projects at the OpenGovChicago Hack Nights. They’e every Tuesday at 6:00pm inside 1871. The events are free and these nights are a great way to work on long term projects.

2) If you have a civic app that benefits the people of Chicago, you can get the app hosted on Smart Chicago Collaborative’s servers for free.

3) Smart Chicago will provide user testing to any Chicago civic app for free. Through the Civic User Testing Group, civic developers in Chicago have access to hundreds of testers to help test your app in order to improve it and make the best app possible.

4) We will help you tell your story. At the national level, the organizers are accepting submissions for stories about what came out of National Day of Civic Hacking. Teams with the best stories will be invited to The White House to be featured at an event in late July. If you need help writing your story, email cwhitaker(at) cct (dot) org and we’ll help you get your story ready. We’ll also help put together a short video to include with your submission.
Youth Hackathon at Adler Planetarium #hackforchange
It’s an exciting time to be involved in this movement. There are more and more cities getting involved in civic hacking thanks to the efforts of the Code for America brigade and through events like National Day of Civic Hacking. We’re looking forward to continuing this effort in the future.
National Day of Civic Hacking Chicago

Thank You

Smart Chicago Collaborative would like to thank all those that made this weekend possible:

Event locations: 1871, Cibola, and the Adler Planetarium.

Lead Organizations: Institute for Justice Journalism, The Adler Planetarium,  and  Code for America.

Event Sponsors and Partners: Azavea, Center for Evidence-Based MentoringChicago Architecture Foundation,  The Chicago Community Trust, the City of ChicagoFree Spirit MediaHive ChicagoKnight LabThe MacArthur Foundation,  Mikva Challenge, Rob Paral, and Open City Apps

Migrahack Projects

Chicago Migrahack  was held from May 31 – June 2, 2013 as a part of the National Day of Civic Hacking. I helped judge the hacktahon. Following is my take on the projects, including notes, screenshots, and images from the day. Here is a copy of the spreadsheet the organizers used to manage the projects, here’s the project page on the Migrahack website, and here’s a bunch of photos I took at the event.

The projects are listed in the order in which they were presented. The descriptions include any award the entry won and the commendation presented by the judges for any award.

Judging Migrahack


Recipes for Change
This was a concept for an app to help women build an underground support network. Domestic violence is a leading source of crime. It is under-reported, especially among those who are undocumented and/or are not native English speakers. They call it “recipes” and make it look like a normal recipe site. Dots on a map of women who can help them within a 5-mile radius.

Final Presentations at Migrahack

Finding Care
By the Los Almighty Windy City Data Hustlers team of Lucio Villa, David Eads, Maria Ines Zamudio, Yana Kunichoff, and Willberto Morales

“I’m being denied life”, says the homepage of this is explainer of stories surrounding the Affordable Care Act. They looked into PUMS data and pulled out some “By the numbers” stuff. All of this is driven by the Tarbell template as well as javascript and jquery.

Finding Care won “Best storytelling with data visualization”. Here’s the text of the commendation made by the judges on this entry:

Coherent, elegant narrative with lots of points of departure. Triggers questions for further research. Polished production in short time frame with simple, effective data visualization. Would love to see calls to action– links to advocacy groups, reporting on pending legislation, and so on.

Finding Care

Chicago MigraHack Web App
By Team DePaul (Paul Duszak, Temuulen Erdenekhuu, and Alex McCarten-Gibbs).

This team created a visualization of persons obtaining permanent resident status in the United States, broken down by region of origin. Mainly uses highcharts and other javascript. Allows the user to export all data.

Chicago MigraHack Web App won “2nd place data visualization team project”. Here’s the text of the commendation made by the judges on this entry:

Dead-simple visualization that takes a comprehensive look at a central dataset. Provides an understandable, useful, and portable tool for others to explore, understand, and share. Key insights into immigration.

Chicago MigraHack WebApp

Draw The Border and Naco or Naco?
By Dan Hill

This person made two related entries, both of which play on geographic perception and reality.

Draw the border! presents itself this way:  2,000-mile border between the United States and Mexico divides border city pictured below. Can you draw the line that splits this city? Start clicking on the map to create the points to construct your border line and click “Done!” to see the real border in green and learn about the cities on each side.

Draw the border won “Best insight team project”. Here’s the text of the commendation made by the judges on this entry:

Fun, intuitive tool that engages the user and challenges assumptions. Simple presentation that takes an current meme (GeoGuesser) and adds an education element. Extra points for individual creativity, persistence, and execution. Sometimes collaboration is all about just showing up.

Draw the border!

Inspired by GeoGuesser,  Naco or Naco?  is a website that shows a satellite view of a place that contains the border between two cities and prompts the user to draw that border. Naco or Naco? shows Naco, a city that has a country as a border, and presents some basic demographic information as a clue.

Naco or Naco?

Early Childhood Resource Need App
By Team RANCH (Norbert Winklareth, Carlos McReynolds, Heather Gerberich, Adriana Cardona-Maguigad, and Rebecca Harris)

The Early Childhood Resource Need App is a map that shows neighborhoods in Chicago color-coded by their need for early childhood education seats, as calculated by the Illinois Facilities Fund, representing thousands of children unable to access preschool and child care programs.

MigraHack Team Ranch


Team Maginificent 7
Antonio Garcia III,  Adam Pearce, ​Cindy Agustin, and Irene Tostados

Three Alarm Data Fire
No presentation
Kenneth Watkins, Oz du Soleil, Sachi Shirasaka

Illinois in the ICE age
By Ice Breakers (Geoffrey Hing, Tara Tidwell Cullen, Ruth Lopez, Jimmie Glover)

The Illinois in the Ice Age website is a snapshot of a two-month period of ICE activity in Illinois and a look at the journey of 7 people.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Illinois detained 966 individuals during November and December of 2012. During those two months, 915 people also left ICE custody. Many of these individuals entered a detention facility earlier and one individual had been held for more than one year. Of those who left, 390 were deported and 38 agreed to their own removal.

ICE Breakers won the “Best data visualization team project”. Here’s the text of the commendation made by the judges on this entry:

A complex analysis in an original presentation. Deep journalism that is ripe for further analysis and exploration. Contains a clear call to action for others to continuing the work; connecting the dots.

Illinois in the ICE Age

Immigration Recalibration of Suburban America
By Dandelion Project (Lauren Pabst, Adriana Diaz, Antonio Oliva, Forrest Blount, Ravishankar Sivasubramaniam, Michael Drouet)

Immigration Recalibration of Suburban America focuses on  the demographic changes in Niles and Lisle Townships. Nile, for instance, is attractive to a growing number of immigrants from Asia and the Middle East. Lisle  has become increasingly Indian, Chinese and Mexican. The site offers maps, charts, and analyis of these trends.

Dandelion Diaspora

Team Hello World
Kevin, Vivek, Gaurav, Ankush, Manju Rupani

Team Hello World created a website that looked for statistical correlations between remittance and immigration. They show a map of remittances and allow the user to explore. They also show some findings.

Hello World (Exploring Remittances)


Hello World (Exploring Remittances)

Edie Rubinowitz, Adriana Gallardo, Brandon Huntz, Christopher Rudd & Fanny Sampson

This is an infographic story told on that tells the story of children detained at the border.

Infographic  Ana Just Wants To Be Safe  Children Behind Bars   infogr.

Undocumented Immigrant Help Tool
This is a tool for people who are at high risk for deportation.

Final Presentations at Migrahack

Gentrification Study

Seeks to compare gentrification patterns in Pilsen and Bucktown.

Final Presentations at Migrahack

National Civic Day of Hacking at 1871

Chicago will be hosting three different events during National Day of Civic Hacking.

Here are a couple of the projects that will be going on during the Hack for Chicago event.

Civic Needs App: (9:30 IMSA Room)

Safer Communities Hackathon at Google Chicago

One of the challenges of civic innovation is matching the resources provided by open government data, and talent of the civic hacking community with the needs of the community. This app is led by a team of Ryan Briones, Scott Robin, and Chris Gansen. The idea behind this app is to help provide an easy interface for community members to recruit web developers for civic projects.


A branch of the civic needs app will be focused on creating a database of all civic app projects in Chicago using a new template. This will enable people to search for civic projects already in existence in order to either find a solution to a problem or to help improve an existing app.

App Design Workshop with Knight Lab: (9:30am Auditorium)

.@jmm teaching app design at Chicago #OpenGov Hack Night

Miranda Mulligan will be giving an app design workshop at 9:30. This design process doesn’t start with the latest data set, but instead focuses on user needs.

Everyone partners up for the workshop and takes turns interviewing their partners about a particular problem they face. The workshop encourages participants to dig deeper by determining the user’s needs, insights on how they feel about the issue, and then designing an app that fits those needs.

Chicago-Area Red Cross Tech Recruitment: (11:30 Auditorium)

Red Cross Digital Operations Center - Powered by Dell

Red Cross Digital Operations Center, Dell/Creative Commons

Jim McGowan from the Chicago Area Red Cross will be at the event to recruit tech volunteers for the Red Cross. Jim is the manager of the Red Cross Operations Analysis and Disaster Dispatch for the region.

He’ll also be on hand to talk about the Urban Disaster Planning hackathon with Geeks without Bounds occurring June 21st – June 23rd.

Edit-a-thon with OpenStreetMap

12 bike and ped crashes at the highway

Steven Vance/Creative Commons

Ian Dees will be leading an Edit-a-thon for Chicago’s OpenStreetMap. OpenStreetMap is an open source map that anyone can edit. Users can add data to the map including information about their favorite restaurants, cultural venues, and more. We’ll be adding more data to the map as part of the OpenStreetMap Meetup Group. You can register for the event at the Chicago OpenStreetMap Meetup Page here.


Chicago Councilmatic Launch: (12:00pm Auditorium)

OpenCity Apps will be launching the Chicago Councilmatic for National Day of Civic Hacking. Councilmatic was originally a Code for America project built for the City of Philadelphia that makes it easy to track city legislation.


Whatever you want:

Hacking on Edifice

Steven Vance, Creative Commons

The Hack for Chicago event as 1871 is not limited to any specific project and so people are more than welcome to come in and work on any civic app they like. Civic problems are tough and there is plenty of work to be done on a variety of issues.

To register for the Hack for Chicago event, simply RSVP on the OpenGov Chicago Meetup page and tell us what you’re interested in working on.

Breakfast will be provided by Azavea at 8:45am. Lunch will be provided by the Smart Chicago Collaborative and will be served at 11:30am.

Join us for the National Day of Civic Hacking in Chicago

On May 31st – June 3rd, Chicago will have three separate events in coordination with the National Day of Civic Hacking.

National Day of Civic Hacking is a nationwide effort being coordinated by Random Hacks of Kindness, Code for America and the White House to help organize civic minded developers, designers, writers, and data scientists help create innovative solutions to civic problems.

This day— the first of its kind in the nation— has been a long time in coming. Back in January, I wrote about what it takes to turn civic hacking into civic innovation. Here’s a snip:

The civic hacking community in Chicago has produced a variety of civic web applications based on open data provided by local government here in Chicago. These apps do things like show economic indicators in fun ways, let you know if your car was towed, and how & where to get a flu shot.

There are lots of reasons why civic hacking works here in Chicago— a rich baseline of data and technology, an engaged developer community, real discussions with government about policy and data, and the support of institutions are all important factors.

But what we’re missing most is sustained engagement with the residents of the city of Chicago. That’s how we can turn mere hacking into real innovation. The magic combination of government, developers, and community members is what we’re after.

So that’s our focus here in Chicago. While cities across the nation participate in the essential baseline tasks of civic hacking, we’ll be tackling this broader work, seeking to expand the movement we’ve built.

It’s time for all Chicagoans to “meet the movement”– to work hand-in-hand with hackers in order to make our communities better. We hope you’ll join us. Here’s a list of events:

ChicagoMigrahack at Cibola (May 31st – June 2nd)

The purpose of Chicago Migrahack is to foster the use of technology and open data to innovate information around immigration. In Spanish, the word “migra” refers to immigration.

We want to bring together our communities to create innovative platforms around one of the most debated topics today: Immigration

This event will kick off Friday, May 31st with a day of training around civic hacking and data. There will be $7,000 in cash prizes given away for the best projects.

Civic Hack Day for Youth at Adler Planetarium

Image courtesy of Greg Briggs – Creative Commons License

The Adler Planetarium is holding a youth-focussed Civic Hack Day on June 1/2 where Chicago youth, mentors, and highly skilled STEM professionals will work together in teams towards solutions to Chicago Issues. Youth team members will bring problems with them that they, or members of their communities, face on a daily basis, as well as a vision for a technological solution. This unique, youth-focused event is being run in collaboration with the Hive Chicago, Mikva Challenge, the Chicago Architecture Foundation and Free Spirit Media Working. Young people, their mentors and STEM professionals will shape and build working prototypes of their solutions over an awe-inspiring 28-hour period.

Hack for Chicago at 1871 (June 1st)

We’ll be having several different events at 1871 during the weekend. You can register for these events here.

App Design Workshop with the Knight Lab

Miranda Mulligan from the Knight Lab will give a workshop on designing apps that meet the needs of users.

National Civic Hacking 101 Workshop with Code for America

Christopher Whitaker will give a short primer on civic hacking to help orient people who are new to hackathons and civic innovation. This class will be broadcast nationwide in cooperation with other cities.

OpenStreetMap Edit-a-thon with Ian Dees

OpenStreetMap is an open source map that anyone can edit. Users can add data to the map including information about their favorite restaurants, cultural venues, and more. We’ll be adding more data to the map all weekend long. You can register for the event at the Chicago OpenStreetMap Meetup Page here.

General Hack Session with OpenCity Apps

We’ll also be having a general hack session if you’re already working on a civic app.

We’ll be sending more information about the event as time gets closer. Look forward to seeing you at one of the events!


Here’s some coverage of the event.

Chicagoan’s prep for massive civic hacakthon
WBEZ Datum blog

Chicago: City of Big Data and National Day of Civic Hacking
Code for America Blog