Our 2021 Year in Review

Published on Feb 22, 2022 by Katie O'Shea, Derek Eder, Eric Sherman, Joel Inwood and Michael Chladek

Chi Hack Night

Ahead of our annual Member Meeting and Board Elections, the Chi Hack Night Board of Directors has compiled the list of our organization’s notable achievements for 2021 to share with our Members and our community (that’s you!).

For starters, we’ll note that through the second year of the global pandemic, our civic tech event has persisted and continued to meet every week. That fact alone is a testament to the resilience of our board members, volunteers, and attendees. Thank you all for continuing to be part of our community.

As we look ahead to 2022 and a hopeful return to more in-person gatherings, we also look back at what we did in 2021. Here we go …

About this Year in Review

For those newer to Chi Hack Night, this is the seventh “year in review” that we have done. Take a look at our year-in-review posts from 2020, 2019, 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014 to follow along how we got here.

In that tradition, here are the high-level statistics for Chi Hack Night in 2021:

And with that, let’s dive in.

We had 31 presentations, 2 in-person!

2021 continued our practice of livestreaming presentations as the COVID pandemic persisted. However, in November and December, we were able to meet again in person in downtown Chicago. We were able to bring in many great presenters from across Chicagoland and beyond.

Below is every presentation from 2021, organized by topic. You can also watch all 31 of them in one YouTube playlist.

All 31 Chi Hack Night presentations from 2021
All 31 Chi Hack Night presentations from 2021

Presentations by category

Government technology and data

Data journalism and accountability


Nonprofit tech



List of organizations represented

In these presentations, we heard from individuals from an array of organization types, including local government, journalism, academia, nonprofits, and business:


  • 36th Ward Ald. Gilbert Villegas
  • 40th Ward Ald Andre Vasquez
  • City of Chicago Chief Equity Officer
  • City of Chicago Department of Housing
  • Cook County Assessor’s Office
  • Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office
  • MWRD Commissioner Mariyana Spyropoulos
  • Illinois Office of Broadband


  • Harvard Technology and Public Purpose
  • SUNY Polytechnic Institute
  • University of Illinois Chicago
  • University of Michigan


  • Celebrate Argyle
  • CHANGE Illinois
  • Chi Hack Night
  • ChiCommons
  • Chicago Advisory Redistricting Commission
  • Chicago Justice Project
  • Code Your Dreams
  • Fight for the Future
  • Heartland Alliance
  • Invisible Institute
  • mRelief
  • Open Collective Foundation
  • P33 Chicago


  • Chicago Cityscape
  • Microsoft Research
  • Omelas


  • WBEZ

We held our second board elections

From top left, 2021 elected and appointed Board Members Katie O'Shea, Derek Eder, Sam Evans, Steve Luker, Josh Kalov, and Michael Chladek
From top left, 2021 elected and appointed Board Members Katie O'Shea, Derek Eder, Sam Evans, Steve Luker, Josh Kalov, and Michael Chladek

Building upon the elections framework we created for our first board elections in 2020, we conducted our second round of elections for our Board of Directors in February 2021. The main difference, however, was that this time we had to make the process entirely virtual.

In 2019, we were so proud of ourselves for having auditable paper ballots to refer to. This time around, we had to conduct everything through Zoom and Google Forms. In the end, our process translated well to a virtual event, and we had a great turnout of our membership: Of our 41 official Members, 28 attended virtually to cast their votes.

In advance of our upcoming third election on February 22, 2022, we would like to acknowledge the contributions of the board members who will not be running for reelection. Thank you, Joel Inwood, Alexis Shoemaker, and Ryan Spencer, for your service to Chi Hack Night. All three will continue to be an important part of our community!

We held 3 in-person events

Emily Drevets and Derek Eder co-hosting our first in-person hack night on Nov 16, 2021
Emily Drevets and Derek Eder co-hosting our first in-person hack night on Nov 16, 2021

In some ways, 2021 felt a lot like 2020 - we continued wearing masks, attending virtual events, and, for those of us who were able to work from home, wearing sweatpants most days. But, as the vaccines rolled out to more and more people, things did start feeling a little different.

On September 25th, we were able to have our first in-person gathering of the year in Horner Park. This was a fun, casual get-together for some much needed in person time to reconnect with each other!

Some of the smiling faces that were able join us on the hill in Horner Park in September
Some of the smiling faces that were able join us on the hill in Horner Park in September

For Chi Hack Night, the increases in vaccination and decreases in COVID positivity rates enabled us to also begin hosting some COVID-safe in-person events. On November 16th, for our 470th episode, about 40 people gathered for Chi Hack Night for the first time in over a year and a half. After such a long time apart, there were definitely a lot of smiles under the masks of people in the room.

Chi Hack Night Attendees on Nov 16, 2021
Chi Hack Night Attendees on Nov 16, 2021

Some things had changed, of course - we were at a new location - TeamWorking at TechNexus, - but the spirit of Chi Hack Night as a community persisted. You can check out the video of that night’s presentation from Mike Strode, a program manager from Open Collective, at this link. The video was filmed and edited by Brian Ashby, a documentary filmmaker and editor who has filmed many a Chi Hack Night over the years.

We kept a good thing going by hosting our second in-person event a month later on December 14th. Once again, we had a great turnout and another great presentation by Aleena Agrawal, Director of Talent Solutions at P33 Chicago.

With the number of cases declining once more in the wake of the Omicron surge, we’re planning to safely continue to host in-person events at TeamWorking at TechNexus once a month.

We continued to examine actions we could take to promote racial justice

In 2020, we committed to host diverse speakers (more on that in our OKRs section below), encourage attendees and members to support racial equity, spotlight civic tech’s role in and potential for harm, and deepen our own diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. In 2021, we continued to make progress on that commitment through a few different actions.

In March, board members Ryan Spencer, Derek Eder, and Samantha Evans published a blog post to provide an overview of what it means to be anti-racist, how white supremacy culture manifests, and steps that we as individuals can take to start learning about and taking actions to promote racial justice. In April, Ryan, Derek, and Samantha gave a presentation to the Chi Hack Night community that built upon the blog post.

Intro to being anti-racist in civic tech
Intro to being anti-racist in civic tech

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) discussion group continued to meet through the majority of 2021. In May, the group created and distributed to the Chi Hack Night community a demographic survey to help us assess, as an organization, whether we are effectively creating an environment where all feel welcome. We began asking all attendees, members, and presenters to fill out the survey. The survey continues to be open to all who attend or present at Chi Hack Night - if you haven’t filled it out before, please consider doing so at https://bit.ly/chn-demographics.

We began offering $100 presenter honorariums

In July, as part of our commitment to diversity, we began offering $100 honorariums to Chi Hack Night presenters. We recognize that speaking at Chi Hack Night is a time commitment and that not everyone has the ability or privilege to give their time up for free.

To date, 21 presenters have been given an honorarium. You can read more about our honorariums and the rules around them, please check out this blog post.

We remained financially stable

The continuation of Chi Hack Night being primarily remote has meant costs have stayed lower than they would normally if we were having weekly in-person events. In 2021, we also saw a year-over-year uptick in individuals donating to Chi Hack Night while our expenses remained low. The main expenses for 2021 included promoting and capturing events through recording the in-person Chi Hack Night events and our regular newsletter as well as keeping our professional Zoom account to continue remote events.

With the addition of the standard presenter honorarium for all speakers, we saw a number of speakers request this in 2021. Such an honorarium helps ensure potential presenters are not deterred from presenting because they are unable to give their time or expertise for free.

Cash on Hand Beginning of 2021 $ 31,293.37
Donations 3,999.25
Total Income $ 3,999.25
Advertising & Marketing 2,001.86
Event Supplies 95.62
Food for In-Person Chi Hack Night 130.33
Legal & Professional Services 17.50
Office Supplies & Software 1,007.58
PayPal Fees 51.61
Speaker Honorarium 1,500.00
Taxes & Licenses 29.00
Total Expenses $ 4,833.50
Net Operating Income -$ 834.25
Cash on Hand End of 2021 $ 30,459.12

We set and tracked our first-ever objectives and key results (OKRs)

In 2020, the Chi Hack Night board set out to create and measure Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) for our organization. After establishing our OKRs, we assigned each of them to the relevant committee and tracked and measured the progress at our regular board meetings.

We did not achieve all of our goals for 2021. In retrospect, we likely tried to take on more than what our volunteer board could do, in addition to running a weekly event during a global pandemic. Still, we are proud of what we did achieve and will use this as a baseline for our goals in 2022.

Below are each of our OKRs and our results in meeting them (Achieved, Partially achieved, and Not achieved).

Objective A: Produce a live, weekly civic engagement event that meaningfully includes diverse speakers and attendees

Key Result A-1: Measure and track the diversity of the Chi Hack Night membership, presenters, and co-hosts
Achieved In May we rolled out an anonymous demographic survey, which we continue to use: https://bit.ly/chn-demographics

Key Result A-2: Ensure that at least 30% of presenters are persons of color
Achieved Based on the results of the above survey, of the 23 presenters that responded, 39.9% were persons of color. Additionally, 48% identified as men, 43% as women, and 9% as nonbinary.

Key Result A-3: Recruit and onboard 2-3 new volunteers for operational functions at Chi Hack Night
Achieved We were able to recruit three new regularly recurring co-hosts.

Key Result A-4: Ensure that at least 50% of co-hosts are from underrepresented groups in tech
Partially achieved Of the co-hosts we had for our 31 livestreams, 2 in-person events, and 2 community feedback sessions, 31 of the 64 hosting slots were held by women or persons of color. This comes out to 48% of co-hosts from underrepresented groups in tech. So close!

Key Result A-5: Host Civic Tech 101 each week to engage new attendees
Achieved Chi Hack Night held a Civic Tech 101 for every event this year.

Objective B: Offer valuable opportunities for community members to learn about and contribute to civic technology projects

Key Result B-1: Collect and parse feedback from attendees on a quarterly basis
Partially achieved Through the course of 2021, we held two community feedback sessions, one in February and one in May. Unfortunately we did not hold any in the latter half of the year.

Key Result B-2: Deploy a member journey and nurture campaign to grow our membership
Not achieved We did not have enough capacity as a volunteer board to achieve this goal.

Key Result B-3: Involve members in at least 1 leadership decision every quarter
Partially achieved We asked for input from members on two specific items, on offering speaker honorariums and for input on our reopening plans.

Key Result B-4: Share board meeting minutes with the members or otherwise engage them for feedback after every board meeting
Not achieved We did not do this. A good next step here would be to engage with our membership to learn what information they’re interested in getting from the board.

Key Result B-5: Establish skills database of membership by the end of Q2 2021
Not achieved We did not have enough capacity as a volunteer board to achieve this goal.

Objective C: Nurture civic engagement in Chicagoland through membership activities and community partnerships to promote equity, justice, and community service

Key Result C-1: Fulfill 5-10 Help Desk tickets per quarter
Partially achieved In 2021, we received and responded to 8 help desk tickets. The biggest challenge for achieving this was in marketing the Tech & Data Help Desk.

Key Result C-2: Explore forming 1-2 meaningful outside partner collaborations
Partially achieved We successfully partnered with TeamWorking at TechNexus as our new hosts for our in-person events. Unfortunately there were few other outside partnerships in 2021.

Key Result C-3: Explore partnering with a local journalism school/organization to publish a monthly digest summarizing presentations for the month as a blog post
Not achieved We did not have enough capacity as a volunteer board to achieve this goal.

Key Result C-4: Conduct and report out quarterly anti-racist affinity discussion groups
Not achieved We did not have enough capacity as a volunteer board to achieve this goal.

Thus concludes our 2021 recap. Thanks for reading it. Here’s to a great 2022 for Chicago’s civic tech community! See you Tuesday!

About the author

Katie O

Katie O'Shea, Derek Eder, Eric Sherman, Joel Inwood and Michael Chladek