The CUTGroup BookThe CUTGroup is a community of nearly 1,500 residents in Chicago and all of Cook County who get paid to test websites and apps to help create better technology. In Chicago, we have reached people from all over the city-- all 50 wards, all 77 community areas. We continue to do outreach in Cook County to grow our diverse group of testers.

The premise is simple:

  • Fill out a CUTGroup profile and sign up to be a tester, and we’ll send you a $5 VISA gift card
  • If and when you are chosen for a test, you get paid a $20 VISA gift card

This is a flagship Smart Chicago program to establish sustained, meaningful collaboration with residents around data and technology.

The CUTGroup has generated lots of interest from other people interested in civic innovation across the country. Colleagues in Oakland and Chattanooga have started CUTGroup programs there. We wanted to write down our processes so that others could learn from our experiences. Once we did that, we realized we had a book, so we put it hereDownload the book for free or pre-order a copy at Amazon.

The CUTGroup is supported by The Chicago Community Trust, the MacArthur Foundation, and now, the Knight Foundation

Recent news about the CUTGroup

CUTGroup recruitment happening in Detroit

Introducing the first CUTGroup Collective Call: CUTGroup Detroit’s Story

We are beginning a new series of community calls for those who are interested in the CUTGroup model for their ...

Connect Chicago Digital Skills Road Map Working Group #1

On September 9th, Smart Chicago hosted the first meeting of Connect Chicago’s Digital Skills Road Map Working Group. Its purpose: ...
CUTGroup HourVoice Test Session

CUTGroup’s New Proctor Program

A few weeks ago, we held our first orientation with 17 new CUTGroup Proctors. This was the first step in ...
Spirit of Detroit

Smart Chicago is helping build CUTGroup Detroit

We are excited to announce that Smart Chicago is partnering with the City of Detroit, Data Driven Detroit, and Microsoft, ...

CUTGroup Presentation at Gigabit City Summit 2016

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Gigabit City Summit, "a three-day learning and networking opportunity exclusively designed ...
NNIP 2016 4

Themes from the NNIP San Antonio Spring 2016 Meeting

From April 6th - April 8th, I attended the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. NNIP ...

Code for Miami is a Knight Cities Challenge winner for CUTGroup

Today, Code for Miami, a Code for America brigade, was announced as a Knight Cities Challenge winner for their Miami ...
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CUTGroup Collective & The Opportunity Project

Smart Chicago will be partnering with CUTGroup Collective members to help build CUTGroups in other cities and then conduct UX ...

Complete results of CUTGroup Tests to Date

"A" testers reviewed this homepage.

CUTGroup #24 – OpenGrid

Our CUTGroup Proctor, Nathalie Rayter, wrote the final analysis report for this test. The CUTGroup Proctor Program trains once highly ...
CUTGroup #21 Focus Group Session

CUTGroup #21 – Digital Skills

For our twenty-first Civic User Testing Group (CUTGroup) session, we conducted focus groups to have conversations with residents about their ...

CUTGroup #17 – Ventra Transit App

For our seventeenth Civic User Testing Group (CUTGroup) session, we tested the Ventra Chicago mobile transit app. The Ventra app ...
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CUTGroup #15 – Chicago Public Schools ( Website

For our fifteenth Civic User Testing Group session, we tested the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) website. This in-person test took ...
CUTGroup 14 Chicago Cityscape

CUTGroup #14 – Chicago Cityscape

For our fourteenth Civic User Testing Group session, we tested Chicago Cityscape, a website that helps residents understand how, where, ...
Receiving a text message from mRelief on a Samsung

CUTGroup #13 – mRelief

For our thirteenth Civic User Testing Group session, we tested mRelief, a website that helps residents check their eligibility for ...
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CUTGroup #12 – Roll with Me

For our twelfth Civic User Testing Group session, we tested the Roll with Me, a website that helps residents find ...

CUTGroup #11 –

Smart Chicago conducted our eleventh Civic User Testing Group (CUTGroup) test as part of our current work around this grant ...

CUTGroup #10 – Build it! Bronzeville

For our tenth Civic User Testing Group session, we tested the Build It! Bronzeville app, which is a mobile game ...
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CUTGroup #9 – Foodborne Chicago

We conducted our ninth Civic User Testing Group as a part of a grant from the John S. and James ...

CUTGroup #8: Waitbot

For our eighth Civic User Testing Group session, we tested the Waitbot app, which is a place where you can ...

CUTGroup #7 – EveryBlock iPhone App

For our seventh Civic User Testing Group session, we wanted to get feedback on the EveryBlock iPhone app after EveryBlock ...

Or take a look at complete results of all CUTGroup tests.


Direct media inquiries to Sonja Marziano, 


Sonja Marziano runs the CUTGroup for Smart Chicago. We owe much to all of the people listed in our Acknowledgements, for all the reasons we reference in detail there.

Press: Finding “real people” to test civic technology

Finding "real people" to test civic technology

On their way out of the library at 8 p.m., O'Neil asked Kompare what he thought of the test. "A home run," Kompare replied. "The woman I was working with. Faaantastic. She gave me at least three (improvements) that are doable." Kompare said the app suggested the woman's son take the Cermak bus to school, but she told Kompare that wasn't an option because that route crossed through unsafe gang territory.

Harris: Finding 'real people' to test civic apps

Press: Civic Hackers Want You: Group Offers Cash for App Testing

Civic Hackers Want You: Group Offers Cash for App Testing

But Daniel X. O’Neil, co-founder of EveryBlock and executive director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative, says the current relationship between government agencies and coders is incomplete.

“[D]ozens of developers looking at each other in conference rooms over pizza is never going to lead to making lives better in Chicago without the active involvement of real residents expressing real needs and advocating for software that makes sense to them,” O’Neil wrote on his blog last month.

That’s why Smart Chicago is launching a “Civic User Testing Group,” to involve citizens from all over the city in testing, and eventually conceptualizing, new apps and tools. Participants will become the beta testers for developers looking for feedback on their latest work. Testers will both submit feedback through the group’s site and be a part of “mildly scientific” focus groups through the city, O’Neil says.