Stoked About the New “Squared Away” App from the Metropolitan Tenants Ogranization

This Wednesday the Metropolitan Tenants Organization (MTO) is launching a new web-based app that helps build better relationships between tenants and  landlords. I served as sort of an informal advisor to this project, and I’m excited about it for a number of reasons:

  • It is a native web application using responsive design. This makes it easy to update & maintain and allows for easy access for people in the flow of the moment of need. No downloading, no updating, just starting the process from a web browser
  • This is not just a public-facing website– it’s the new database used by MTO staff when you call the free Tenants’ Rights Hotline at (773) 292-4988. The same interface is used by all parties– tenants, landlords, staff, everyone. That is an efficient use of software and ensures that everyone is on the same page, so to speak
  • It’s lightweight, friendly, and focused on resolution. Squared Away asks for the minimum amount of information necessary to kick off an email to the landlord and get you an account with MTO

Coupled with all of the great information on the Metropolitan Tenants Organization website at, the app is a great resource for people trying to get squared away with their abode in Chicago. Squared Away Chicago

Here’s the complete text of the invite:

Please Join The John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation The Chicago Community Trust Metropolitan Tenants Organization (MTO) In presenting SQUARED AWAY CHICAGO An Innovative Web-based App For Building Tenant / Landlord Relations Reception | Presentation | 5:00 pm–7:00 pm Wednesday, November 20, 2013 The Chicago Community Trust 225 N. Michigan Avenue | Suite 2200 (Photo I.D. Required) Wheel chair accessible At the touch of a finger, tenants and landlords will have access to resources, rights, and the ability to document and communicate about issues in real time. Squared Away Chicago will revolutionize the tenant/landlord relationship through faster issue resolution, increased accountability and fewer misunderstandings. Space is limited & Invitation non-transferable. An RSVP is required to or call 773.292.4980 ext. 230


Here’s text of the remarks I made at the launch. Great event!

In technology, there seems to be endless money for seemingly silly things. Snapchat, an image and video sharing service wherein the messages self-destruct after 15 seconds, is supposedly worth $3 billion. Twitter first sold stock to the public at a valuation of $25 billion. Facebook can buy anything they want. In the housing market, spending money is no big deal, either. There are thousands of websites focused on the matter. The MLS, the multi listing service, is a restrictive system based on making money off of comparatively rich people buying things from other comparatively rich people. I run the Smart Chicago Collaborative, a civic organization devoted to improving lives in Chicago through technology. Our founding partners are the City of Chicago, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and The Chicago Community Trust. We focus on access to the Internet, skills for those who use the Internet, and data, so that there is something to meaningful to look at once you have access and skills. We believe that this strategy of access, skills, and data can make living together better. In my capacity here, I helped out as an informal advisor to this project, and though I really had very, very little to do with it— John, Phil, Sarah, George, DevMynd, and all the great thinkers at MacArthur did all that— I think that Squared Away is a great example of all that. This is software that directly addresses the needs of the people. It does it in a way that’s easy to use, facilitates communication, and leads to the fastest resolution of issues. This pilot, here in Chicago, is a true model. A simple, powerful system that works for everybody. So now the website is launched. And now the real work begins. We need to use this thing. We need to give feedback to these developers about this tool. What works, what doesn’t, how it can be improved. Share our great successes, our resolutions, our new understandings among us. Then they can improve it to help run their organization and to spread this innovation everywhere. There’s always more work. Because, you know what? Snapchat probably is actually worth three billion dollars. Why? Because people use it. And as Squared Away helps people all over Chicago— and hopefully all over the country– get right with their homes, living in the cities that are driving growth and creativity, it will find its own great worth. That is something to celebrate.