Results of our community feedback session

Published on Sep 23, 2015 by Derek Eder

Community Feedback Session at the Chi Hack Night

Yesterday, the Chi Hack Night had our first ever community feedback session.

The Chi Hack Night has grown and changed a lot over the last 3 ½ years, and we wanted to take the time and hear from everyone on how it’s going, and how we can make it better.

To handle our large group (there were about 70 people in attendance), we broke out into four groups, led by Genevieve Nielsen, Rose Afriyie, Cathy Deng and Karl Fogel, to provide feedback on the following topics:

  • What do you like about Chi Hack Night?

  • What would you like to learn from this community?

  • What kinds of presentations should would you like to see?

  • What could we do differently or better with this community?

Each group went to a whiteboard with a topic written at the top and given sticky notes to write their ideas under each one. After 5 minutes, the groups would rotate and move on to the next topic.

Four groups providing feedback on four topics

Four groups providing feedback on four topics

Ideas that people liked were given +1’s. Some folks got creative and started categorizing the feedback into sub-sections. Is there a library scientist in our group?

At the end, we reported back out the feedback.

What would you like to learn from this community?

What would you like to learn from this community?

Here’s a video of the group reporting, courtesy of Christopher Whitaker and Smart Chicago:

The full list of feedback, along with some next steps we plan on taking are recorded in our Open Leadership Council notes. You can also see more photos of the session on flickr.

From that, here’s the ideas that got the most +1’s:

What do you like about Chi Hack Night?


  • anyone can run a breakout project / group


  • learning about variety of projects
  • focus on doing & showing over saying


  • learning python
  • skill development
  • interesting speakers on a range of initiatives


  • location
  • Derek as host (aww, shucks)


  • community of well intentioned people
  • meeting the new people
  • people are really nice
  • all are welcome
  • diverse group of people (but could still be more diverse)

What could we do better/differently with this community?


  • shorter group intro
  • separate vegetarian food from non-vegetarian food
  • name tags
  • improve sign in process
  • make sure guard gets food


  • designers UI/UX/graphic/testing


  • Skills directory (LinkedIn Group)
  • recruiting under-represented communities
  • non-tech folks as equal partners


  • more international or national projects


  • mentoring / skills development

What kinds of presentations would you like to see?

social issues

  • women+tech
  • data and discrimination
  • access to data based on income levels
  • civic liberties/surveillance


  • science data

What would you like to learn from this community?

fuzzier stuff

  • ethnographic research methods for community based UX design
  • How to scope an MVP solution


  • Funding opportunities
  • Mapping stuff (webmaps) & QGIS
  • Machine Learning Kaggle
  • How to identify needs of chicago populations
  • opportunities to work on cool projects

Reaction and next steps

This was a really fun exercise! There was a lot of buzz in the room throughout the night as people were moving around and interacting with others they hadn’t before. I’d love to do more interactive sessions like this soon!

Proccessing the feedback at the Open Leadership Council meeting

Proccessing the feedback at the Open Leadership Council meeting

The biggest takeaway from this feedback is that people really appreciate the community we’ve built here. As the leader of this group, it looks like we’re doing a lot of things right. It’s validating to hear.

But we can always improve, and we have some really compelling directions to go in over the next months and years:

  • We will continue to keep our structure as community and work-driven, meeting every week at the same time and place.

  • We have a good diversity of people and skills, but we can and will continue to reach out to new groups and communities. We will continue to nurture open and welcoming attitudes.

  • Our community seems to have a real interest in social issues. We will continue to seek out more presentations in this vein, like Social Strategies in Chicago Activism, The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and Reporting on Poverty and School Achievement.

  • We will continue to push for more learning opportunities and skill sharing. Chi Hack Night has become a place to learn as much as it is a place to work on civic tech projects.

There’s much more to process, but we’ll start there.

Thank you everyone for participating, and see you next Tuesday!

See you Tuesday!

About the author

Derek Eder

Derek Eder
Derek is an entrepreneur, developer and one of the leaders of the civic technology community in Chicago. He is a co-founder and partner at DataMade — a company that tells stories and builds tools with data — and is the lead organizer for Chi Hack Night.