design-a-thon calendar.jpg


October 14, 2017



Depaul University College of Communication, 247 S. State St, 11th Floor


What We Have:

Public Aggregator Airtable spreadsheet: Contains information on all public meetings currently being scraped by Scrapy:

Aggregator calendar view: Displays calendar version of all meetings currently being scraped by Scrapy:

Public Meetings Aggregator Github: Contains project pull requests, issues, code and group communications for project term, August-September 2017:

Public Meetings Aggregator department list: Contains the full list of departments and meeting source URLs, in addition to the in-progress status of each scraper:


Challenge Statement: 

The tool should feature a list and/or calendar of public meetings, including date, time, locations, etc (based on data from City Bureau’s Airtable spreadsheet)

→the tool should allow for communicating meeting information to users in some form (i.e. via email, text, social media, etc)

→the tool should be able to display additional information added after each meeting (i.e. number of attendees, speaker names, meeting notes from Documenters, etc)


→The tool can take the form of an app, map, website, SMS, Slack, bot, etc (think big, be utilitarian)

→The tool should take expansion into other cities into account, i.e. can the same tool feature multiple views for Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, etc?


Beyond these general guidelines, have fun and be creative!


What you'll make:

At the end of the day, we're looking for a short (~5 minute) presentation that presents your design with pictures, web designs, hand-drawn sketches or any other method at your disposal in a way that describes the what, why and how of your concept. Judges will decide a winner based on this presentation.

Please use this folder to store materials created throughout the day. Judges will have access to the files while making their decision but, more importantly, City Bureau staff will be able to refer to the collected materials in the final build-out (more details on that to come!)


What else do I need to know?

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.


Suggested Roles:

Designer: It it comprehensible? Is it visually cohesive?

Coder: Is it feasible? What are next steps beyond design?

Journalist: Is it realistic? Is anything missing?

Community member: How can it be used? What does the public need it to do?

What do I bring?

Bring your laptop, phone, chargers, and ideas on how to create 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! Guest wifi codes will be provided.



9:00a: Doors open, check-in begins, breakfast is served

10:00a: Event kickoff

10:30a: City Bureau defines the challenge

11:00a: Pitches and group formation

11:30p: Hacking begins!

1:00p: Lunch is served, Team registration closes

1:15p: Training #1: David Eads (ProPublica Illinois): scrapy 101 and the technical architecture of our Public Meetings Aggregator

2:15p: Training #2: Geoff Hing (NPR): using APIs and Python to make isochrones

3:15p: Training #3: TBA

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



One-of-a-kind medals for 1st place team members

City Bureau, ProPublica and Depaul University swag!

Tickets to Chicago's People Powered Publishing Conference 

Chicago Architecture Foundation walking tour tickets


Additional Links and Documentation: