Recap of CUTGroup Collective Call with CUTGroup Detroit

On November 7, we conducted our first CUTGroup Collective Call with about 20 individuals who are either interested in or working towards a CUTGroup model for their own city or wanted to hear about recent developments in the CUTGroup program. In this first call, we highlighted CUTGroup Detroit who, in the last seven months, built a CUTGroup tester base and conducted their first test on a city tool that displays commercial property information. The CUTGroup Detroit team– Noah Urban, Meghin Mather, Ayana Rubio from Data Driven Detroit (D3) and Ivoire Morrell, Civic Tech Fellow with Microsoft – provided great insight about tester recruitment, test process and results from their first test.

Here is their presentation:

Here are the full notes from the call, which includes a link to the audio:

Some takeaways

As someone who leads CUTGroup efforts in Chicago, and has been assisting cities like Detroit and Miami with their own CUTGroups, I still learn a lot from hearing CUTGroup Detroit’s perspective on their work.

Gift cards create program legitimacy

“He wasn’t sure if it was a legitimate enterprise until he received his $5 gift card in the mail… that $5 was confirmation that it was a legitimate organization.” -Ayana, D3, shares the benefit of sending a $5 gift card to testers upon sign-up.

This quote really stood out to me when listening to the CUTGroup Detroit team answer a question about the benefits of sending a $5 gift card. I am often asked why we send $5 gift cards for people to sign-up for CUTGroup and I respond with multiple answers ranging from people like money to confirming address eligibility to the value we see in getting device information during sign-up. To hear how the gift card helps create program legitimacy in Detroit gives me additional insight of the importance of using gift cards.

Tell your story during recruitment

At Smart Chicago, we are very good at documenting what we do and how we do it, but I was impressed with how CUTGroup Detroit told a story about their recruitment process. Their recruitment strategy was to have a street team and a social media campaign and to write about their experiences each week. The street team, led by Ivoire, walked through communities to hand out flyers and encouraged the people they met to sign up and follow CUTGroup Detroit on social media. They also connected with community organizations to do additional outreach with those networks.

CUTGroup Detroit invited a photographer to document, and they wrote (fun) blog posts about their experiences through this on the ground, recruitment effort over four weeks. Here’s just one snippet with lessons learned after the CUTGroup Detroit street team walked through Midtown neighborhood in the scorching heat of summer to recruit:

What were the lessons learned this week? Well, one the big things is that we need to memorize our license plate numbers so we can park without worrying about tickets because the city is handing them out like fliers. We got a ticket for being a few minutes over the time and we couldn’t pay over the app because no one knew the license plate number of the car we were using. So memorize your license plates people. Secondly, we are not as hardcore as we thought we were. Walking around midtown is no joke. As I write this blog my heels are still recovering from all that walking. We also decided that we need to be proactive in reaching out to organizations well ahead of time so they are more receptive to us when we show up and talk to them about CUTGroup Detroit. Our street team was also pivotal in making week two of recruiting successful. We thank them for all the effort they put in.

It was great to follow CUTGroup Detroit on their journey and feel like I was a part of it even from Chicago.

Cross-collaboration model across institutions can help build a CUTGroup

Detroit was unique when they approached me about building a CUTGroup because it involved so many different people and partners, whereas previously CUTGroups were built and maintained by one group or organization. Shelley Stern Grach, Director of Civic Engagement for Microsoft Chicago, described CUTGroup Detroit as a “perfect storm” of partners coming together. The collaboration happened very naturally and through the training we did together, individuals defined their roles.

“It’s actually has been really helpful to have the City [of Detroit] involved from the beginning. The City has provided insight about the strategic goals of the civic tech ecosystem and the CUTGroup Detroit team has been able to shape the program to complement the bigger strategy.” -Noah, D3, describing learnings from working with city partners/institutions.

Next steps

We look forward to continuing the CUTGroup Collective calls on other topics and to highlight experiences faced by cities building CUTGroup in their own city. If you have any questions about CUTGroup or CUTGroup Collective, please contact Sonja Marziano at