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
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.
Now, let’s start with some high-level stats about Chi Hack Night in 2017:
- We hosted 48 events, selling out 29 of them. If it’s Tuesday, it’s hack night, and it’s the place to be.
- We had 35 presentations hearing from 3 candidates for Illinois governor, 5 elected officials, 15 local government agencies, 25 nonprofits, businesses and universities, and members from our own community.
- We partnered with the Smart Chicago Collaborative to host a month-long Women in Tech Speaker Series and held our first ever satellite hack nights in Homan Square and Washington Park.
- We also started our first official satellite hack night series in Logan Square.
- We held our 5 year celebration and received honorific resolutions recognizing our community from the Cook County Board of Commissioners and Chicago City Council.
- We radically expanded and diversified our event leadership, including a new co-organizer, 15 new co-hosts, booking and web teams.
- We started and continued 72 breakout groups.
- We spent $56,344.24 on food, video production and miscellaneous expenses to run our events for 2017.
Want to know more? Here we go.
We heard 35 presentations
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.
- #236 Civic Tech in Ukraine & Georgia
- #237 Data & Tech at the Cook County Clerk’s Office
- #247 Robin Robinson: Fostering Stronger Community & Police Relationships
- #255 Using Data to Close the Safety Net Participation Gap in NYC
- #259 Brenna Berman
- #263 Code for America’s Summer Tour
- #270 Human Centered Design for the City Clerk
- #273 Data Practice at the Chicago Transit Authority
- #278 Assessing Chicago’s Large Lot Program
- #279 Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA)
- #280 Cook Central: Cook County’s Spatial Data Portal
- #281 Danielle DuMerer, Chicago CIO
Advocacy and equity
- #238 Hacking Housing at the Latin@ Techies Hackathon
- #243 Mr. Robot Goes to Washington
- #254 Open Source Software: The Ownership Society Reimagined
- #260 Building Chano4Mayor.com
- #266 Biased Election Maps: Fighting Gerrymandering in 2020
- #267 Chicago Foundation for Women
- #272 Disaster Mapping
Candidates for Governor
From the left: Candidates for Illinois Governor: Sen Daniel Biss, JB Pritzker and Ald Ameya Pawar
Health and environment
- #240 Chicago Energy Benchmarking
- #248 Smart Green Infrastructure Monitoring
- #265 Summertime Analytics: Predicting E. coli and West Nile Virus
- #242 If You Build It, Will They Come?
- #249 Redesigning Access to Michigan’s Health and Human Services
- #244 Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle
- #257 Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart
- #275 Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza
Education and journalism
- #245 Sandee Kastrul, President of i.c.stars
- #246 Grace Hopper: Legends and Lies
- #253 Accessing the Chicago Police Department’s secret data
- #262 Oral Histories from the West Side
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:
- 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
- Civis Analytics
- Code for America
- Edelson PC
- Innovation and Development Foundation
- Latin@ Techies
- 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
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:
- Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle
- Melissa Pierce on Grace Hopper: Legends and Lies
- Sandee Kastrul, President of i.c.stars
- Robin Robinson: Fostering Stronger Community & Police Relationships
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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.
The final budget numbers for Chi Hack Night 2017 are in:
|Total sponsor income||+$61,050.00|
|Video production expenses||-$19,510.00|
|ASL interpreter expenses||-$6,750.00|
|General operating expenses||-$1,391.63|
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!
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.