Civic Tech + The Urban Sustainability Tech Challenge

We connect entrepreneurs, designers, and developers with the data and resources they need to create innovative solutions to neighborhood problems.

The annual CNT Urban Sustainability Challenge sparks the fertile minds of individuals from Chicago’s neighborhoods to create digital solutions to real community problems facing residents every day. Over the course of the event, community activists and app developers will work together to create workable prototypes of apps that make our neighborhoods more sustainable, both environmentally and economically. We welcome participants from all corners of the city, whether you’re a local activist working to improve your neighborhood or a coding whiz looking to make a difference in the community.

The 2016 Urban Sustainability Challenge culminated at the Sustain-a-City Celebration on June 16.  Stay tuned for 2017 Challenge information!



Congratulations to our winners:

First Place: Stop Crime App                                                          
Idea Leader: Maurice Gunn 

Stop Crime App facilitates the anonymous reporting of crimes. The app allows for anonymous video, photo, or audio submissions directly from users’ phones to a trusted intermediary organization, providing real-time evidence that is GPS coded and time-stamped, which will make it easier for law enforcement to address crime and minimize the risk to residents. End users will be incentivized by consumer discounts, giveaways, and other value-adds.

Second Place: Chi Safe Path                                                                   
Idea Leader: Steve Luker

Chi Safe Path allows users to submit geo-tagged images of sidewalk problems that hurt accessibility to Chicago’s 311 system. This will help wheelchair users and others with limited mobility access public spaces, buildings, and more. The app allows users to locate accessible directions to sites of their choosing based on the crowdsourced data modeled in a map interface.

Third Place: Neighbors Creating Neighborhoods              
Idea Leader: Sheenita Robinson

Neighbors Creating Neighborhoods works like an advocacy group for tenants to address issues with landlords. Tenants encountering slumlords can use NCN as an easy way to report and document complaints to spur landlord action. Information is shared with community leaders – including the alderman, local organizations, and more – to pressure landlords to fix Chicago’s rental stock. On the flip side, it also publicly recognizes responsive landlords. Anyone who rents can share in the NCN community to help advocate for better housing.

People's Choice: Schedule Scout                                                             
Idea Leader: Corliss King

Schedule Scout allows co-parents to coordinate the care and nurturing of their children, whatever the state of their relationship. Parents who may no longer have a functional relationship but continue to raise children together can use the app to track pickups, payments, connections, calendars, care givers, and more. Details that often go uncommunicated when a relationship goes sour can be tracked in the app, helping parents know where their kids are and what they are doing on a platform that the child can also access.

A big thank you to our judges:

  1. Dr. Janice Jackson | Chief Education Officer, Chicago Board of Education
  2. Shelley Stern Grach | Director – Civic Engagement for the Technology and Civic Engagement (TCE) group, Microsoft Corporation
  3. Brenna Berman | Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) Commissioner and CIO
  4. Devin Mathews | Partner at ParkerGale Capital
  5. Scott Bernstein | President + Co-Founder, CNT
  6. Peter Laundy | Peter Laundy Projects; formerly Doblin: A Member of Deloitte LLC
  7. Elizabeth K. Lukehart | Associate Director, Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Northwestern University
  8. Uzma Noormohamed | Program Analyst, Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation

And thank you to our 11 other participating teams:

Beauty on Demand                                                             
Idea Leader: Christina Ptak

Beauty on Demand is a salon on wheels that comes to any location requested through an app. Beauty on Demand saves customer time and money, and it is a convenient way to find trusted professionals who can come to your location. Those who have difficulty leaving the home can still enjoy beauty treatments by having the salon delivered to them. Beauty on Demand handles all the transactions and interactions between the customer and the beauty provider.

City Services                                                             
Idea Leader: Nathan Williams 

City Services is a transparent portal that shows taxes paid for a residence and allows residents to understand what services are being provided to their community for the money they are spending.

Community Points                                                             
Idea Leader: Sondra Morris

Community Points is a community-centered customer loyalty program that connects community businesses with local organizations and residents. Community Points seeks to increase the efficacy of nonprofit community organizations through increased local business involvement. In an era of chain stores, Community Points seeks to increase the patronage of locally owned stores through a point and coupon system for users that gamifies patronizing local stores.

Compost Crossing                                                             
Idea Leader: Harini Aiyer 

Compost Crossing is an app that enables residents, composters, and urban farmers to access information about compost solutions within a neighborhood. It allows users to view profiles, join networks of composters, and collect and distribute locally made compost to reduce the waste residents create. Compost Crossing promotes closedloop food waste systems in urban settings, creates closer communities anchored around a central cause, and allows data collection on composting to help inform policy.

Culture Solutions                                                             
Idea Leader: Nakia Green 

Culture Solutions connects students, companies, and universities in a single space to prepare and develop employment opportunities for disadvantaged populations. The app addresses unemployment and underemployment of minorities by connecting college graduates to the local and overall corporate workforce, and by offering minority students at smaller schools and universities the same opportunities for job placement assistance those at higherprestige universities have. The app gives students access to mentors, coaches, information and, ultimately, a fair chance to compete.

Idea Leader: LarryAnn Aaron 

EventBidz is an online marketplace to connect independent vendors to special events, fairs, and other markets, thereby expanding the market for their goods and services easily and cost effectively. EventBidz provides data on events that vendors and marketers can use to leverage sales and more. “Bidz” are made by individual vendors through the app to participate in an event, allowing the event planner to increase income and the diversity of vendors onsite.

Farmers Gone Local                                                             
Idea Leader: Harold Chapman 

Farmers Gone Local promotes “food sovereignty” through strong, effective connections between local farmers markets, wholesalers, and consumers. The app lowers operating costs and consumer costs by assisting farmers markets with outreach and connections to wholesalers. It also provides mapping functionality for consumers seeking a unified place to secure local produce.

Flood Aware                                                             
Idea Leader: Sree Palepu 

By providing flood mapping and zoning information, Flood Aware helps to identify areas at risk of urban flooding and provides flood insurance recommendations for homeowners. Flood Aware also connects to a series of sensors that provide real-time flooding alerts.

Project Citizen                                                             
Idea Leader: Edwin Pinto 

Project Citizen is a gateway for those with limited English proficiency to access public resources through targeted video-based ESL training that is part confidence building, part civic engagement, and part access to resources. The videos will model English language training in a “scaffolding” model, which shows the progress within each step toward language proficiency. Community ESL resources and “meetups” will be included in the app, helping to build a peer network and confidence within its users to be active, confident citizens.

Werk Now                                                             
Idea Leader: Jessica Fallen

Werk Now is an app that places client and career development in the health and wellness field in the hands of consumers and users through an open-market workplace. Independent contractors offering coaching, yoga, and myriad other fitness and wellness services can use the app to monetize their skills in a variety of service categories and access clients directly, allowing them to “Werk Out” on their own schedule and be their own boss.

Zecure Me                                                             
Idea Leader: Subakar Sundarababu Elango 

Utilizing wearable technology, ZecureMe provides realtime crisis information automatically when the victim is too distressed to call 911. A wearable bracelet or pen connects to your cellular provider, notifying a customized user network automatically through discrete recordings, texts, and more through a multilevel cascade mechanism. Information includes livestream audio, crisis modes, and customizable data transfer.

The Apps Competition partners with 14 community-based organizations to spark robust conversations about strategies to improve neighborhoods:

Bethel New Life, Inc.
Blue 1647
Chatham Business Association
Chicago Commons
Chicago Public Library
Englewood Blue
Far South Community Development Corporation
Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation
Greater Southwest Development Corporation
Instituto del Progreso Latino
LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Residents Association of Greater Englewood Teamwork Englewood
Southwest Organizing Project Urban Innovation Center
University of Chicago Innovation Exchange




Learn more about all of our 2016 participants


Learn more about our 2015 competition

“The CNT Urban Sustainability Apps Competition is an excellent opportunity for residents to connect with the broader tech community in developing innovations that tackle what were once insurmountable challenges.”

Brenna Berman
Commissioner and Chief Information Officer, City of Chicago