Saturday, October 14

10am - 7pm

DePaul University College of Communication


Public meetings are important spaces for democracy... 

...where any resident can participate and hold public figures accountable. City Bureau's Documenters program pays community members an hourly wage to inform and engage their communities by attending and documenting public meetings.

How does the Documenters program know when meetings are happening? It isn’t easy! These events are spread across dozens of websites, rarely in useful data formats.

That’s why City Bureau and ProPublica Illinois worked together with a team of civic coders to develop and coordinate a community open source project to scrape and store these meetings in a central Documenters calendar. But the project isn't complete without useful public tools. That’s where you come in.

City Bureau and ProPublica Illinois brought together a crew of civic coders to create scrapers that collect Chicago's public meetings onto a single calendar.

City Bureau and ProPublica Illinois brought together a crew of civic coders to create scrapers that collect Chicago's public meetings onto a single calendar.


Our goal:

Similar to a hack-a-thon where people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming, City Bureau's first-ever design-a-thon is a FREE day-long event and training where designers, coders, journalists and community members will work together in teams to propose solutions to a single design challenge from a variety of perspectives and approaches.

Teams will work in groups to design a public-facing version of our "Public Meetings Aggregator," built with a range of scrapers by volunteer civic coders in collaboration with City Bureau and ProPublica. A model for internal use is nearly complete but we want to take this useful tool one step further: We want to make a unique open-source tool that can be used by other journalism outlets, community organizations and civic groups to facilitate public oversight, civic discourse and independent watchdog projects in Chicago and Illinois.

In addition to producing a prototype of a public-facing model, design-a-thon participants can work on the Public Meetings Aggregator project and find any public meetings not already included on the list in their effort to create the best design that incorporates scrapers, calendar views, mapping/GIS, visual design, alerts, SMS, Slack, apps, and data analysis, etc, into their final project.


What we'll do:

Designers, coders, journalists and organizers of all skill levels are invited to:

1) Propose a design concept
2) Pitch their idea to those gathered at the design-a-thon  
3) Create a public tool based on City Bureau's Public Meetings Aggregator data.

Over the course of a single day, we will...

Define the challenge: Attendees will familiarize themselves with the goals and data in the Public Meetings Aggregator, i.e. why it was created, who it was built to serve, what information is contained in it and what it can do for Chicago.

Design solutions: Once our group understands the problem at hand, lead designers will propose their design ideas and ask those in attendance to join their team.

Build prototypes: As teams are developed, we'll begin to design solutions in teams of 3-5 people, ideally including a mix of designers, coders, journalists and community members. Drawings, low-fidelity digital mock-ups, web designs and functioning prototypes are all fair game in this challenge.

Present new tools: A rubric will be used to score the prototype and the presentation. Efforts from the day will be presented by teams and judged by a panel of local Chicagoans for a chance at bragging rights, glory and awards. Start thinking of a cool name for your project!


Throughout the day we'll host free trainings...

Workshops will be held by local journalists, designers and coders in alignment with City Bureau's mission to provide a civic service while democratizing skills, creating shared learning environments and encouraging dialogue across communities.

Our expert Trainers include:

David Eads, ProPublica Illinois

Geoff Hing, NPR


We're looking for:

  • Designers 

  • Community members and organizers interested in civic engagement and political/governance processes

  • Journalists 

  • People with an understanding of programming and development workflow (UX/UI visual designers, desktop application developers, mobile application developers, backend and front end gurus, realtime application experts)

  • Anyone with energy and enthusiasm for City Bureau’s mission to bridge the ideals of civic journalism with the political and economic realities in which it exists.


The Details:

When: October 14, 2017

Schedule of events:

9:00a: Doors open, check-in begins, breakfast is served
9:30a: Event kickoff 
10:00a: Define the problem
11:00a: Pitches and group formation
12:00p: Hacking begins!
1:00p: Lunch is served, Team registration closes
5:30p: 30 minute warning! Demos begin at 6:00p
6:00p: Project demos
6:30p: Judges confer on their top picks
6:30p: Prizes awarded, closing statements

Speaking of prizes:

Engraved medals for each member of the winning team—for posterity and the ultimate bragging rights
City Bureau swag!
Full credit on the public tool
More prizes TBA

Where: DePaul University College of Communication, 247 S. State St., 11th floor