The Center for Technology and Civic life was invited to present at the Chicago City Data User Group on April 1st. The group is a monthly meetup of data users, producers, and enthusiasts of all levels that focuses on promoting civic engagement and innovation through the use of Chicago’s data. This April Fool’s day, the joke was on you if you weren’t in the crowd listening to Tiana, Whitney, and Donny talk about the Center’s programs!
Though the weather outside was uncharacteristically beautiful, around 40 people were in attendance at the Microsoft Technology Center, located steps away from Millenium Park. There, the CTCL team presented on our overall mission, how we approach working with local governments, and how we use search engines and APIs to amplify the reach of local-level civic data. We showcased ELECTricity’s website template project as well as some of the tools built on top of the Ballot Information Project and Governance Project datasets. We also talked about the future of our work, specifically our plans for the Local Office Function Index and the Civic Engagement Toolkit for Local Election Officials.
The response in the room was phenomenal. The expertise of those in attendance shown through in the lively questions they asked throughout the presentation, ranging from how best practices for election websites were established to how a city or town could take the first steps toward opening up more of their civic data. The biggest laugh came when Whitney, fresh off of talking about the importance of optimizing election websites to be indexed by SEO crawlers, introduced Donny as her “favorite creepy-crawly thing on the internet.”
Special thanks go out to the Chicago City Data User Group and Microsoft for hosting us, and to Adam Hecktman for arranging for us to speak. The people, the discussion, and most importantly the pizza made us feel welcomed to the Chicago data community!