On Saturday, I went to the Chicago Civic IdeaHack with the Code for America crew. Code for America is a nonprofit that finds passionate people across the country who want to use technology to help cities. Think ultra-geeky, open source, AmeriCorps-style projects that make governments work better.
Sound awesome? Well, it is. It’s also the type of thing that makes me wish I had 80 hours in each day so that I could work on every cool open source community project in the universe. (Will someone please make an app for that?)
Later, we were asked a question: What would make Chicago more awesome?
We threw our ideas onto post-it notes, picked out our favorites, and then organized them into groups—transit, community, and infrastructure, to name a few. I facilitated the transit group, where we spent some time talking about bicycles, pedestrians, buses, trains, cars, and how they all fit together. Steve Vance demoed a bike/ped crash data mapping tool that he’s developing, we talked about Boston’s mobile-chic approach to dealing with potholes, we discussed real-time tracking of human congestion on buses and trains, and we all thought that it would be pretty cool to have an adopt-a-train-station style program that promotes community stewardship of public transit locations.
After some great discussion, we came back to the larger group and narrowed the focus down to a few specific ideas. The themes seemed to revolve around connecting the social change and tech communities, building tangible applications to address city problems, and using open government data to provide useful information to Chicagoans.
I had a fantastic time and I can’t wait for the next IdeaHack.