Chi Hack Night in 2019: Our first year as a non-profit

Published on Feb 4, 2020 by Derek Eder

Chi Hack Night

Ahead of our first ever non-profit board election, now is a good time to look back on 2019 and review all that we have accomplished at Chi Hack Night.

In many ways, 2019 was the most introspective and transformative year for Chi Hack Night since we were founded in 2012. The last twelve months have seen us transition completely to an independently run non-profit organization with an 11-person Board of Directors and a 41-person Membership. And we were able to make this transition while continuing to put on weekly Chi Hack Night events (48 in total) and continue to build and support the civic tech community in Chicago.

For those newer to Chi Hack Night, this is the fifth year in review that we have done. Take a look at our year-in-review posts from 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 (sorry - didn’t write one for 2018!) to follow along how we got here.

In that tradition, here are the high-level statistics for Chi Hack Night in 2019:

  • We put on 48 Chi Hack Night events. If it’s Tuesday, it’s hack night!
  • We heard 34 presentations ranging from topics like data ethics and equity to journalism to education and science
  • We continued our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion with our tradition of putting on speaker series for Black History and Women’s History months
  • We formed ourselves as an independently run nonprofit formation
  • We recruited and formed an 11-person Board Members and structured our leadership and work into defined working committees
  • We established a base of 41 Chi Hack Night Members with full voting rights and the power to shape our organization
  • We became financially independent, and oversaw an annual budget totaling over $45,000

With that, let’s dive into the details!

2019 Presentations

Chi Hack Night has been established as the go-to place for presentations related to data, technology and civics.

Of the 60 presenters we had across 34 presentations, 31 were women and 19 were persons of color. Racial and gender diversity in our presenters is something we have made a priority for the past several years, and that trend has continued.

Chi Hack Night 2019 Presenters

Our most popular and well-attended presentation was Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, who announced at Chi Hack Night the first ever release of their residential property assessment algorithms. This was a huge milestone for their office, and a major transparency win for Cook County.

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi and Chief Data Officer Robert Ross at Chi Hack Night
Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi and Chief Data Officer Robert Ross at Chi Hack Night

While we heard from many government, journalism and non-profit presenters this year as we have in the past, one new category of presentation also emerged: Data Ethics and Equity. Considering the global trend of skepticism towards data and technology, this is not entirely surprising. We will likely see more presentations like these in the future, as this topic is a natural fit for a community centered around technology and its impact on society.

Below is every presentation from 2019, organized by topic. You can also watch all 34 of them in one YouTube playlist.

Data Ethics and Equity


Data Accessibility


Education and Science

Nonprofit tech

Chi Hack Night

In total, 7 local government agencies were represented:

  • 18F (Federal GSA)
  • Chicago Board Ethics
  • Chicago Department of Public Health
  • Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
  • City of Austin’s Office of Design and Delivery
  • Cook County Assessor
  • Technology Transformation Services (Federal GSA)

Additionally, 19 nonprofits, universities and cultural institutions were also represented:

  • Adler Planetarium
  • Block Club Chicago
  • Chi Hack Night
  • Chicago United for Equity (CUE)
  • Citizens Utility Board (CUB)
  • City Bureau
  • City Tech Collaborative
  • Forefront
  • Illinois Legal Aid Online
  • Juvenile Protective Association
  • MAPSCorps
  • ProPublica
  • Python Software Foundation
  • TechGirlz Chicago
  • The Morton Arboretum
  • Thrive Chicago
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • World Chicago

As were 11 tech and small businesses:

  • AskWhai
  • Clarity Partners
  • Colony 5
  • CommunityConnective
  • Creating IT Futures
  • Envisioning Equity
  • GitHub
  • IDEO
  • Intel
  • Moxie Consultancy Collective
  • NextUp

Black History and Women’s History Month Speaker Series

Black History Month Speaker Series

This year we were also proud to continue our second annual Black History Month Speaker Series in February. This year’s speaker series consisted of 3 Chi Hack Night presentations including Darryl Holliday from Bureau, Maudlyne Ihejirika from the Chicago Sun-Times, and Steven C. Philpott, Sr. from Colony5. We also partnered with the Chicago Chapter of The National Association of Black Journalists on their event with Timuel Black.

You can view the Chi Hack Night 2019 Black History Month Speaker Series presentations on YouTube.

We also continued our third annual Women’s History Month Speaker Series in March with presentations from Leslie Durr, Kingsley Weaver and Katy Franzen from the Chicago Health Atlas Project, Lorena Mesa from GitHub and PyLadies and Janaya Crevier from MAPSCorps.

View the Chi Hack Night 2019 Women’s History Month Speaker Series on YouTube.

Non-profit formation

In November of 2018, we announced that Chi Hack Night would incorporate as a Membership-based nonprofit. 2019 was the year that the rubber hit the road and we followed through on that vision.

This work included recruiting our initial Board of Directors, drafting and adopting our Bylaws, incorporating as a new Nonprofit Organization, setting up our bank account, and filing our paperwork to the IRS for our 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

This work largely happened behind the scenes from the weekly Chi Hack Night event, and was led by the Chi Hack Night Board of Directors with pro-bono assistance from Attorneys Jeremy Mandell and Kevin Mausert from Kirkland & Ellis LLP. You can review the work that the Board has done to date from our meeting minutes archive.

Now that the work of forming has largely been complete, we are excited to turn our attention outward to our newly established Membership and the broader Chicago-land area.

Board of Directors

Chi Hack Night's Board of Directors

In January 2019, we established our first Board of Directors, comprised of 11 members:

  • Cameron Sow
  • Derek Eder, President
  • Emily Drevets
  • Eric Sherman
  • Josh Kalov
  • Katie O’Shea, Secretary
  • Kulsum Ameji
  • Mieko Furuhashi
  • Monique Wingard
  • Steve Ediger, Treasurer
  • Steve Luker

The Board is 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. This work was divided up into smaller committees, each responsible for a major function at Chi Hack Night:

  • Breakout Group Support (Chair: Cameron Sow)
  • Community Engagement (Chair: Steve Ediger)
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (Chair: Monique Wingard)
  • Event Operations (Chair: Emily Drevets)
  • Fundraising and Finances (Chair: Derek Eder)
  • Membership Management (Chair: Mieko Furuhashi)
  • Onboarding (Chair: Emily Drevets)
  • Presenter Booking (Chair: Derek Eder)
  • Social Media (Chair: Katie O’Shea)
  • Website (Chair: Josh Kalov)
  • Elections (Chair: Josh Kalov)

In order to stagger membership and prevent a major loss of institutional knowledge, for this first year, 5 of the 11 members, were given 1 year terms, and the other 6 were given 2 year terms.

As the founder of Chi Hack Night, I (Derek Eder) have assumed the role of President. This role, however, along with all board positions, has been structured so that new members can be voted in or appointed.

We’re also a fun bunch! Over the summer we all got together for a picnic and a visit to the Shedd Aquarium with a personalized tour led by Cameron (he works there).

The 2019 Chi Hack Night Board of Directors having a day out at the Shedd Aquarium
The 2019 Chi Hack Night Board of Directors having a day out at the Shedd Aquarium

We have 41 voting Chi Hack Night Members

One of the main reasons we formed Chi Hack Night as a membership-based organization was to create a pathway for people to grow and build their networks and careers in civic tech.

As a relatively new and nascent field, there are very few official pathways to advance in civic tech. This was well documented and captured in the More than Code report released in 2018, specifically their practitioner experiences.

This was something we wanted to change. By establishing a clear set of rules to follow, we are giving the civic tech community in Chicago a pathway to becoming more engaged, to earn and exercise their power, and to eventually become new leaders in our space.

If you’re interested in learning more about our Membership setup, we gave a presentation on it in May:

Chi Hack Night Board Members Steve Ediger, Derek Eder and Mieko Furuhashi
Chi Hack Night Board Members Steve Ediger, Derek Eder and Mieko Furuhashi

The Chi Hack Night Membership team, led by Mieko Furuhashi and Steve Ediger, established our process for vetting and organizing our initial cohort of Members.

As of this writing, Chi Hack Night has 41 official voting Members. These members will gather on Feb 4th, 2020 for our first ever General Meeting, where we will vote on new Directors for our Board and changes in our Bylaws.

If you’re interested in becoming a Member, head over to our Membership page and see if you meet the requirements!

Chi Hack Night Membership Requirements
Chi Hack Night Membership Requirements

Here are our financial numbers (unaudited) for 2019

Income $ 47,918
Food $ (23,999)
Video $ (10,640)
ASL Interpretation $ (3,600)
Operations $ (5,149)
Total Expenses $ (43,388)
Surplus(Deficit) $ 4,530

Also, as part of setting up our nonprofit organization, we set up our own bank account and became financially independent from DataMade, my civic tech consulting company, on July 1, 2019.

Here’s to 2020!

Thanks for reading this overly-long blog post! It’s easy to get carried away with writing these year in review posts because Chi Hack Night does so much.

Here’s to a great 2020 for Chicago’s civic tech community! See you Tuesday!

See you Tuesday at Chi Hack Night!

See you Tuesday at Chi Hack Night!

About the author

Derek Eder

Derek Eder
President, Chi Hack Night