Chi Hack Night is a free, weekly event in Chicago to build, share and learn about tools to create, support, and serve the public good.

We are a group of thousands of designers, academic researchers, data journalists, activists, policy wonks, web developers and curious citizens who want to make our city more just, equitable, transparent and delightful to live in through data, design and technology.

Chi Hack Night's values

  • Diversity, equity & inclusion
  • A fun, welcoming, open-minded community empowering individuals
  • Practicing and promoting transparency and accountability
  • Commitment to supporting our community
  • Exploration and experimentation
  • Community service
  • Sharing knowledge, data, and open source code
  • Justice and positive social change

What happens at a hack night?

Chi Hack Night starts every Tuesday at 7pm. The event is free, and the invitation is open to anyone, especially folks who aren’t programmers.

Here's what happens at Chi Hack Night every week:

7:00pm – Welcome and announcements

We get started around 7:00pm with a brief welcome and introduction to the event and then kick off the announcements.

Announcements are for civic tech and open government related things. This could be plugging other events, mentioning newsworthy articles and more recently, job announcements in the government and civic tech space

7:15pm – Presentation with Q&A

Just about every week, we have a feature presentation that lasts about 25 minutes, with 20 minutes for question & answer (Q&A) after.

Presenters can be any government agency, non-profit, company or group who’ve made use of open government data or built a civic technology application. Anyone can propose a talk, and I often reach out to presenters who would be a good fit. For every speaker, we provide some clear speaker guidelines.

8:00pm – 10:00pm - Breakout into learning and prototyping groups

Once the presentation wraps up, the format of the event switches up to what I’d describe as a mini-hackathon. People are invited to break off into groups and work on projects.

Breakout groups that last more than a few weeks are listed on the ChiHackNight.org website, and are divided into two tracks: learning groups and prototyping groups.

  • Learning Groups - Learning groups are for new folks (about 30% of attendees on any given week are new), those who want to learn technology skills, and discuss or refine their civic app ideas.

  • Prototyping Groups - Topic-specific working groups led by facilitators to guide conversations, answer questions, and prototype civic apps.

Everyone is welcome!

Not a techie? That's ok! We encourage non-technical folks to pair up and learn from our community's designers and developers. We've seen time and time again, the best civic projects come from teams with a diverse background.

Remember, there's much more to making a great app than just coding.

How are you organized?

Chi Hack Night is organized by the Chi Hack Night Board of Directors. They are responsible for governing our organization, as well as running our events, managing our website, keeping the books, and doing all the other things needed to make Chi Hack Night happen.


Chi Hack Night is hosted at TeamWorking and supported by our amazing sponsors. Through May 2019, DataMade has been our fiscal sponsor and handled all of our financial transactions.

Chi Hack Night NFP is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization as of April 2020.

Chi Hack Night model

Hack nights anchor and grow volunteer civic hacking communities while avoiding 'hackathon fatigue'. To learn how to organize one in your city, see our blog post on 10 lessons from organizing Chi Hack Night.

Special thanks

Chi Hack Night would not have been possible without the generous help from many people and organizations. Very special thanks goes to:

  • DataMade, for being our fiscal sponsor from Jan 2013 - May 2019.

  • Juan-Pablo Velez, for founding Chi Hack Night, co-organizing the event, providing spiritual guidance, calling out jargon, lining up amazing speakers, fighting for independence and generally instituting an atmosphere of relentless curiosity wrapped in love and smothered with sarcasm from March 2012 - July 2014.

  • Webitects, for hosting the first 9 hack nights at their office from March 2012 - May 2012.

  • 1871 for hosting Chi Hack Night (back when we were known as Open Gov Hack Night) for 2 ½ years from May 2012 - January 2015.

  • Smart Chicago Collaborative, for recording, documenting and writing over 100 Chi Hack Night blog posts and sponsoring the work of Chi Hack Night Organizer Christopher Whitaker for more than two years. Smart Chicago was also responsible for hosting Chi Hack Night at 1871 for our first nine months there and sponsored several events. They continue to provide tech support for civic tech projects via their hosted web space, documenter, and CUTGroup programs.

  • Aya O'Connor for her help in brand strategy and creating the Chi Hack Night logo.

  • ThoughtWorks for sponsoring food from May 2013 - March 2015.

  • GitHub for sponsoring food from May 2014 - February 2016.


Our group has been covered in both local and national media. Here are some highlights:

How Chicago ‘Hacktivist’ Derek Eder Uses Public Data for Good (video)
September 18, 2017
Evan Garcia, WTTW Chicago Tonight

Hacktivists working to make sense of Chicago police data dump
June 8, 2016
Ben Bradley, ABC 7 Chicago

Hacking for the planet
March 1, 2015
Eric T. Halvorson, Contributoria

Lessons from Chicago: What Can Be Built
Aug 30, 2014
Bill Bushey, Open Twin Cities

Open Government Hack Night (video)
May 27, 2014
City of Chicago TV

Open Gov Hack Night (video)
Apr 1, 2014
The Grid, Gapers Block

Can you hack it?
Sep 20, 2013
Tracy Swartz, RedEye Chicago

Open Government Hack Night
Jan 16 2013
Jake Malooley, TimeOut Chicago