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.

Launch of Array of Things

This week Array of Things project launched, installing the first of its sensors in Chicago.

Here is an excerpt from the official announcement:

Array of Things is designed as a “fitness tracker” for the city, collecting new streams of data on Chicago’s environment, infrastructure, and activity. This hyper-local, open data can help researchers, city officials, and software developers study and address critical city challenges, such as preventing urban flooding, improving traffic safety and air quality, and assessing the nature and impact of climate change.

In the first phase of the project, 50 nodes will be installed in August and September on traffic light poles in The Loop, Pilsen, Logan Square, and along Lake Michigan. These nodes will contain sensors for measuring air and surface temperature, barometric pressure, light, vibration, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, and ambient sound intensity. Two cameras will collect data on vehicle and foot traffic, standing water, sky color, and cloud cover.

Smart Chicago partnered with Array of Things operator, UrbanCCD, and the City of Chicago to manage a civic engagement process in June of 2016. This process included collected public feedback on draft governance and privacy policies and hosting public meetings in two of the areas of the city that would see nodes first: Pilsen & the Loop. See documentation from the public meeting in Pilsen in this blog post and see documentation from the public meeting in the Loop in this blog post. To read more about these civic engagement efforts, read Smart Chicago’s Array of Things Engagement Report.

Here is a video about Array of Things featuring Brenna Berman, the Chief Information Officer for the City of Chicago, and Charlie Catlett, the Director of UrbanCCD and lead investigator for Array of Things:

Below is a video describing the technology in the Array of Things sensors. It also touches on the engagement process and the privacy policy feedback collection.





Smart Chicago Congratulates Envision Chicago Student Scholarship Winners

envision_logoOn July 20th, 4 Chicago public high school students were honored with a commemorative resolution at the Chicago City Council Meeting. These students were the winners of the Envision Chicago pilot program and each was awarded a  $1,000 scholarship for proposing improvements to city laws.

Envision Chicago, a project of  the OpenGov Foundation in collaboration with the City Clerk, challenged youth in participating schools — the Marine Leadership Academy, Chicago Excel Academy of Rosalind, Taft High School, and Lake View High School — to propose ways to change laws and improve lives in Chicago.

Read more about Envision Chicago winners in this OpenGov Foundation Press Release. Here is an excerpt:

It’s clear that when government meets students on their terms, and respects their voices, great things can happen. These students learned positive engagement practices on a user ­friendly website of the Chicago Municipal Code and 86 students dove in, discovered laws covering issues they cared about and shared their ideas.

Here is a glimpse at the social media from the day:

Smart Chicago was pleased to sponsor this pilot initiative along with Microsoft Chicago, Comcast, ComEd, and Haymarket. Congratulations to all the youth who participated in this civic project. launches in Chicago in partnership with A Safe Haven as part of CivicWorks Project

asafehavenAs part of the CivicWorks Project, we’ve helped launch a partnership between and A Safe Haven to provide the Promptly text-based followup services to A Safe Haven clients.

About Safe Haven

A Safe Haven is a social enterprise that provides comprehensive and vertically integrated approach uniquely designed to address root causes of poverty and homelessness for social and economic development to achieve sustainable self-sufficiency.

A Safe Haven serves individual adults, families with children, youth and has programs for veterans and residents who are reentering society after serving prison time for nonviolent crimes. A Safe Haven helps to provide individualized case management, shelter, food, treatment, education, job training, access to employment and affordable housing. A Safe Haven has served more than 65,000 clients and provides services daily to 1,200 people.

About Promptly is a product from civic tech company The consulting company was founded by three former Code for America fellows (Andy Hull, Reed Duecy-Gibbs, and Tamara Manik-Perlman). Promptly was originally a Code for America project created for the San Francisco Human Services Agency. During the fellowship year, the team discovered that one of the most common problems with social service delivery was that recipients of CalFresh (SNAP benefits) would be disenrolled because a letter wasn’t received or responded to in time. They created the Promptly app which sends a text message to the recipient when they need to contact the office.  This means that people have time to respond to the message before they get disenrolled.

Using Promptly to support A Safe Haven

One of the challenges that face A Safe Haven is following up with their clients after they’ve left the program. Clients often move and it’s not always easy to maintain contact people once they’ve left.  If A Safe Haven was aware that somebody needs additional services – such as career counseling – then they can offer it if It’s also more difficult to track progress over the long term.

Through the CivicWorks Project, we’re providing A Safe Haven a license for A Safe Haven will use the software to text follow-up messages to their clients to see how they’re doing. This will enable A Safe Haven to both track the progress of their former clients as well as reach back out to residents who may need further assistance. We’ll be blogging about their progress as time goes on.

Special thanks to the inimitable Christopher Whitaker for running the show on this.

For more information about A Safe Haven, check out their website here.

Launch of Chicago Health Atlas 3.0

Last week we launched our third major update to our Chicago Health Atlas project.  This is the most robust version of the Atlas released since its debut in 2012. The Atlas is funded and receives significant thought leadership from the Otho S. A. Sprague Memorial Institute. Sprague, and their Executive Director Jim Alexander, has shepherded this program for years.

Chicago Health Atlas, along with all of our other health products like Foodborne Chicago and Smart Health Centers, is managed by Smart Chicago Director of Operations Kyla Williams with lots of help from Program Coordinator Sonja Marziano.

Chicago Health Atlas 1.0

Chicago Health Atlas 1.0

The first version of the Atlas was a simple lookup tool for existing data. DataMade, a local firm that builds custom visualizations, deploys civic apps, and trains people to work with open data, has been an essential tech partner all the way through to this version. The site is based on the Derek Eder’s wildly influential and immensely useful Searchable Map Template. Derek was also important in helping me move from the Weave (Web-based Analysis and Visualization Environment) platform and set up a structure that met Smart Chicago’s vision for the site.

Last year we conducted a CUTgroup test on the Atlas and found that users were a little confused with the original navigation.

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