The Smart Chicago Collaborative: A Fresh Model for Civic Innovation
2 years ago

The blooming nature of civic innovation is helping people strengthen their bonds with governments for the betterment of their lives in extraordinary ways.  It is interesting to know that, individuals and groups at the ground level are harnessing data and technology to redefine how one interacts with where he/she lives. 

However, even in democracy, the development of the modern civic innovation sector has been a messy process. Moreover, the internet isn’t enough to stimulate civic innovation in cities, since it is the heap of people, leaders, policies and networks which need to unite to make things work out in a systematic form. One such movement has been initiated in Chicago which has surely gained a lot of attention.

The Smart Chicago Collaborative was officially founded in 2010 as a joint venture between the Trust, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


Brilliance in Chicago

In Chicago, the cluster is coming together to build the nation’s strongest civic innovation centers. The Smart Chicago Collaborative (Smart Chicago), known to be a small civic organization which is dedicated to enhance the lives of people with the active utilization of technology, has been managing the prime role at Chicago’s civic innovation scene. This initiative is managed under a unique leadership as well as structure, which is further wrapped under sensible strategies for effective results. With this, Smart Chicago has been able to create and align key networks of people with programs and policies for helping the society.  This organization is indeed a model for cities to seize civic innovation’s energy and utilize it in smart ways to improve urban life.       

Functions of the Collaborative

The work of the Collaborative revolves primarily around three goals: improving technology skills, increasing internet access and escalating the innovative use of data to develop lives. The function of the Smart Chicago is aimed at these goals through managing programs and funds supported by its public and charitable parent organizations.  Moreover, one standout initiative called as the Connect Chicago, has expanded a network to more than 250 places that offer free computer use.

Center of Civil Innovation

It is important to know that, Smart Chicago’s most groundbreaking work is in the territory of civic innovation.  The organizations prime work in this area includes providing resources and support for developers, hosting and facilitating meetups and support for developers, along with ensuring full citywide contribution in the civic innovation process. The Collaborative is a renowned name at major local meetups such Open Gov Hack Night and OpenGovChicago. Also, the latter is managed by a local group, Open City, since two years.

Moreover, Smart Chicago is not only a convener, however, it also offers resources as well as support for ambitious civic hackers with capable game-changing applications. As an example, the Collaborative was a prime supporter for the rising civic tech startup DataMade, which was hired to project Connect Chicago’s location finder app. 

Future Goals

 The Collaborative’s future basically lies in the hands of the people in Chicago.  The key strategies are outlined for the city in order to utilize technology as an efficient vehicle for engagement, innovation and opportunity.  The aim is also to access additional civic participation, and provide opportunity for a greater share of people.

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