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Show Chicago You Care at CNT's Urban Sustainability Apps Competition in October

Updated: Jun 4, 2019

Over 2.7 million people call the City of Chicago their home. Living in such a large, diverse city inevitably includes challenges as well as benefits that local government cannot always manage. For those residents who wish to volunteer their time, improve their neighborhood or city environmentally and economically but don’t know how to contribute: enter civic hacking.

Civic hacking involves collaborating to build solutions that address challenges relevant to our neighborhoods, cities, states and country, most often by using technology. Despite what the name suggests, this activity is not just for developers. In fact, it presents unlimited possibilities for government do-gooders of all backgrounds to facilitate positive change for themselves, other residents and future generations.

A growing number of city governments are making open data sets available to the public to encourage civic hacking. Getting immersed in the open government data hackathon / hack night culture in cities with healthy tech communities has never been easier. While attending my first Open City Open Gov Hack Night at the digital startup incubator, 1871, I was introduced to another upcoming hackathon organized by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT). As a creative think-and-do tank that combines rigorous research with effective solutions CNT works across disciplines and issues, including transportation and community development, energy, water, and climate change.

CNT’s upcoming Urban Sustainability Apps Competition is more than just a hackathon. “We’re sort of hacking the idea of a hackathon—solving some of the problems of the model,” says Edward Oser, Economic Development Specialist at CNT. Within a traditional hackathon format projects undergo a quick sprint of progress before being abandoned in an unfinished and unproductive state.

Instead of limiting the event to one weekend of intense hacking participants are encouraged to form teams and flesh out ideas during meetups prior to the main event. For the first three Tuesdays in October enthusiastic civic hackers are invited to 1871 at the Merchandise Mart to do just that – with free food and drinks to fuel creativity. CNT staff will be available to help participants refine their products from October 18 – 20 at TechNexus before the official judging. Winners chosen on the last day will be invited to pitch their new tool at CNT’s 35th anniversary Reinventing Chicago event on October 24th. Finalists also take home prizes and have the opportunity to compete in the City of Chicago's Championship Apps competition in November.

All teams get access to over 60 sustainability data sets from the City of Chicago as well as CNT's data. Participants from all corners of the city are welcome to join, whether you’re a local activist working to improve your neighborhood or a coding whiz looking to make a difference in the community. 

Through the Apps Competition community activists, programmers, designers and curious citizens get together and imagine how to make low-to-moderate-income neighborhoods more affordable, healthier, greener and more livable places where residents can live and thrive. By spreading the event over an entire month and offering a startup-like pitch to finalists CNT dramatically improves the chances of longevity for the solutions created during the hackathon.

If you’re pumped about making Chicago an even better place to live reserve your place by September 30th.

For more information contact: Edward Oser –

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