Chi Hack Night: 2017 Year in Review

Published on Jan 4, 2018 by Derek Eder

Chi Hack Night mugs, waiting to be gifted to our presenters. Photo by Ryan Koch
Chi Hack Night mugs, waiting to be gifted to our presenters. Photo by Ryan Koch

2018 is here! And it’s time to look back on all that we did at Chi Hack Night in 2017.

In the last year, Chi Hack Night focused more than ever on hearing from and engaging with a diverse range of Chicagoans through our presentations, breakout group projects and leadership team.

In many ways, it feels like Chi Hack Night really came into its own in the last year, from becoming a campaign stop for candidates for Governor, to exerting our influence to promote open data policies, to being officially recognized and honored by Chicago City Council and the Cook County Board, to launching a new series of community hack nights.

For those newer to Chi Hack Night, this is the fourth year in review that we have done. Take a look at our year-in-review posts from 2016, 2015 and 2014 to follow along how we got here.

Now, let’s start with some high-level stats about Chi Hack Night in 2017:

Want to know more? Here we go.

We heard 35 presentations

Screenshots from 35 Chi Hack Night presentations in 2017
Screenshots from 35 Chi Hack Night presentations in 2017

This year, we heard from 3 candidates for Illinois governor, 6 elected officials, 15 local government agencies, 25 nonprofits, businesses and universities, members from our own community and more.

Our events were the best attended they’ve ever been. 29 of our 48 events were sold out (each event has 120 tickets).

In addition to landing some of the most high profile speakers we’ve ever had, including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, JB Pritzker, Robin Robinson, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and Ald Ameya Pawar, we also had the most diverse collection of speakers in any year of Chi Hack Night. Of the 72 presenters, 31 of them were women and 26 of them were persons of color. This is a trend we plan on continuing for years to come.

The topics and presenters spanned a broad range of issues related to civic tech including government technology (gov tech), issue advocacy, health, environment, design, education, data journalism, candidates for governor and elected officials.

Below is every presentation from 2017, organized by topic. You can also watch all 35 of them in one YouTube playlist.

Gov Tech

Advocacy and equity

Candidates for Governor

From the left: Candidates for Illinois Governor: Sen Daniel Biss, JB Pritzker and Ald Ameya Pawar
From the left: Candidates for Illinois Governor: Sen Daniel Biss, JB Pritzker and Ald Ameya Pawar

Health and environment

Design

Elected officials

Education and journalism

In total, 15 local government agencies were represented:

  • Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT)
  • Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD)
  • Chicago City Council
  • Chicago City Clerk
  • Chicago Transit Authority
  • Chicago Public Schools
  • Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability
  • Cook County Board
  • Cook County Board President’s Office
  • Cook County BOT
  • Cook County Sheriff
  • Cook County Clerk
  • Illinois Comptroller
  • Illinois State Senate
  • USDA Forest Service

Additionally, 25 nonprofits, businesses and organizations were also represented:

  • AECOM
  • Ballot Ready
  • Center for Tech and Civic Life
  • Chicago Cityscape
  • Chicago Foundation for Women
  • Chicago History Museum
  • Chicago Sun-Times
  • City Bureau
  • City Energy Project
  • Civilla
  • Civis Analytics
  • Code for America
  • CoderDojoChi
  • CoderSpace
  • DataMade
  • DevMynd
  • Edelson PC
  • i.c.stars
  • Innovation and Development Foundation
  • Latin@ Techies
  • Microsoft
  • Mohop
  • University of Illinois Chicago
  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • VisMed 3-D

Pro tip: You can browse all of our past events on our website. We have started tagging all of our presentations by topic so you can filter and search through all 286 of our past events.

The Women in Tech Speaker Series

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle at Chi Hack Night
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle at Chi Hack Night

In March, Smart Chicago Collaborative and Chi Hack Night teamed up to create a speaking series in celebration of Women’s History Month in an effort to elevate the talented, diverse women in civic-driven technology across Chicago.

The Women in Tech Speakers Series consisted of four Chi Hack Night events with presentations from:

From the left: Sonja Marziano, Tiana Epps-Johnson, Aviva Rosman and Andrea Hart
From the left: Sonja Marziano, Tiana Epps-Johnson, Aviva Rosman and Andrea Hart. Photo by Smart Chicago

We also hosted our first ever community-focused satellite events: Amplifiers of Community Voice in at the DuSable Museum in Washington Park and Creators & Founders at the Homan Square Community Center.

Logan Square Hack Night

Derek Eder presenting a the first Logan Square Hack Night on November 8, 2017. Photo by Levi Baer
Derek Eder presenting a the first Logan Square Hack Night on November 8, 2017. Photo by Levi Baer

In response to community feedback we got in November of 2016, Eric Sherman and Andra Stanciu launched our first ever community-focused satellite hack night event at Second Shift in Logan Square. With two events under their belt, they are well on their way to bringing the Chi Hack Night event format and ethos into the communities that make Chicago great.

5 year celebration

From the top left: Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey, Nina Sandlin, Andy Rasmussen and Vinesh Kannan and Scott Beslow at the Chi Hack Night 5 year anniversary.
From the top left: Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey, Nina Sandlin, Andy Rasmussen and Vinesh Kannan and Scott Beslow at the Chi Hack Night 5 year anniversary

April 18th, 2017 marked Chi Hack Night’s 250th event and five-year anniversary. For this special hack night, we asked for presentations along the theme of 5 years forward / 5 years back. We also opened up the format a bit and encourage other kinds of performances, and got a poem, a skit and an honorific resolution! You can watch all 7 lightning performances all on our YouTube playlist.

Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey presented an honorific resolution commemorating the event. You can download a copy of resolution 17-2735 here.

Cook County Board of Commissioners Resolution 17-2735 in honor of Chi Hack Night’s 5 Year Anniversary
Cook County Board of Commissioners Resolution 17-2735 in honor of Chi Hack Night’s 5 Year Anniversary

Alderman Ameya Pawar also introduced a similar honorific resolution to Chicago City Council: R2017-336.

We invited our members, alumni and past presenters to share how Chi Hack Night and its community has affected or benefited them. We were floored by your responses. It turns out you like us — you really like us!

The Chi Hack Night Open Data Pledge for Illinois Governor

With the initial success of our open data pledges for Cook County State’s Attorney and Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court in 2016, Chi Hack Night turned our attention in 2017 to Illinois’ most important statewide race: Governor.

Chi Hack Night, representing Chicago’s civic technology community, invited every candidate for Governor of Illinois to sign a pledge to, if elected, commit their office to an open data policy and practice. You can read the whole 9-point open data pledge here.

To date, we have collected 4 signatures: Ameya Pawar (D), Daniel Biss (D), Chris Kennedy (D), J.B. Pritzker (D). Senator Biss even issued a signing statement.

Tweet by Daniel Biss on signing the Chi Hack Night Open Data Pledge
Tweet by Daniel Biss on signing the Chi Hack Night Open Data Pledge

We’ll continue to follow up with the candidates as the race progresses. If one of the signers becomes our next Governor, we’ll be holding them to account on the pledge they signed.

Expanded and diversified our event leadership

2017 saw a significant expansion of the people involved in running Chi Hack Night.

Christopher and I have been operating and hosting Chi Hack Night with the help of other volunteers in the Leadership Council, for over 4 years. But with my second kid (born in June of 2017) and Christopher’s extensive travel schedule, our involvement became limited.

Our limited availability and bandwidth, however, led to new opportunities for others to step in and take a greater leadership role, and many did.

In January, we started rotating in new event co-hosts. In April, we set up dedicated website management and presentation booking teams. And in September we added a third lead organizer at the top: Emily Drevets.

The expanded Chi Hack Night leadership team
The expanded Chi Hack Night leadership team

We set out to not just increase the number of people participating, but the diversity of those involved as well.

In January, we set a goal to achieve gender parity for our co-hosts. I am happy to announce that we were successful in this! For all 48 of our events, we had as many female as we had male co-hosts. This is something we plan to continue and expand into other measures of diversity in 2018.

Here’s a shout-out to everyone who co-hosted Chi Hack Night in 2017!

  • Emily Drevets
  • Nina Sandlin
  • Soren Spicknall
  • Eric Sherman
  • Eileen McFarland
  • Eve Tulbert
  • Kristi Leach
  • Vinesh Kannan
  • Alison Stanton
  • Rose Afriyie
  • Natalie LeRoy
  • Sana Razvi
  • Katie O’Shea
  • Jilliane Baumert
  • Kelsey Fiegle

72 breakout groups

The breakout groups board at Chi Hack Night
The breakout groups board at Chi Hack Night

Breakout groups are how we organize the civic hacking part of our events. The organization and management of these groups has evolved over time, but the premise has remained the same: anyone is free to start a breakout group and every group is self-organized.

Here’s a shout out to some of our longstanding breakout groups! Keep up the awesome work!

  • Access to Justice
  • Quantifying Justice News
  • Deportation/Immigration/Refugee Task Force
  • Fantasy Civics
  • Illinois Legislative Working Group / Witness Slips
  • Chicago Deaf and DeafBlind in Tech
  • Hack Night Labs
  • Caravan

We spent $56,344.24 on civic tech in 2017

As open gov and transparency advocates, it’s important that we hold ourselves to the same standards we expect of our government institutions. It is with that in mind that we have continue to to publish our full budget including itemized sponsor income and event expenses.

Here’s our 2017 budget and our 2016 budget for reference.

The final budget numbers for Chi Hack Night 2017 are in:

Total sponsor income +$61,050.00
Food expenses -$28,692.61
Video production expenses -$19,510.00
ASL interpreter expenses -$6,750.00
General operating expenses -$1,391.63
Total expenses $56,344.24

We ended with a net difference of $4,705.76, which we will apply towards our events in 2017.

Here’s to 2018!

Chi Hack Night will return in 2018!
Chi Hack Night will return in 2018!

Since starting Chi Hack Night in 2012, we’ve learned that technology alone can’t solve Chicago’s, or the world’s, problems. With the growing disillusionment with the Silicon Valley tech sector, it’s clear we need to find a way to balance the awesome power of technology with society’s best interests.

Who is in the room when decisions are made and who is at the table when projects are built matters. A tech sector that is dominated by straight white men does not serve all of society equally.

That is why it has become Chi Hack Night’s goal to have our community reflect the diverse population of Chicago. And we won’t stop until we get there.

We have some great things planned for 2018, many of them driven by feedback we’ve gotten directly from our community.

To all of our sponsors: Braintree, Microsoft, Google, DataMade, Dev Bootcamp, Twilio, Metis, City Base, Open Tech Strategies, Civis Analytics, mRelief, Chicago Cityscape and eSpark Learning thank you for supporting us.

To everyone, thank you for being a part of our community.

See you at our next Chi Hack Night: Tuesday, January 9th, 2018 with Chris Kennedy, Candidate for Illinois Governor!


About the author


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.