Civic Tech + Grassroots Entrepreneurship Solves Real-World Problems

Center for Neighborhood Technology Holds Fifth Annual Urban Sustainability Apps Competition

High-profile incubators like 1871 may be the heart of Chicago’s tech scene, but the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) thinks that tech entrepreneurship can play a big role in revitalizing Chicago neighborhoods that sorely need new investment. This month, CNT held its fifth annual Urban Sustainability Apps Competition to connect coders and developers with idea leaders from a diverse array of Chicago neighborhoods.

This year’s competition, presented by Microsoft, began in January with a series of workshops held across the city – from West Humboldt Park to Pilsen to Washington Heights – aimed at engaging community residents to identify and develop tech solutions to neighborhood problems. In 20 community-based workshops and presentations, residents were challenged to identify information that could make a difference in solving local problems, and then to build an app and an app-enabled business to make that information available.

“The 2016 CNT competition bridges communities and technology by helping neighborhood residents and community leaders solve local issues by creating mobile applications,” CNT Apps Competition Program Director Steven C. Philpott, Sr. said. “The competition has connected the potential of technology to the talented visionaries in our communities. Our goal is to bring the community closer to developers to create apps that can be deployed to quicken the pace of sustainable development in Chicago.”

The CNT Apps Competition focuses on:
 Community Engagement – Using technology to bring diverse groups of people together to solve pressing problems.
 Sustainability – Working at the intersection of economics and environment, with a particular focus on challenges and opportunities in Chicago neighborhoods.
 Innovation – A solution development process that allows community residents to collaborate with technical experts to partner for app development.

At CNT’s Sustain-a-City Celebration on June 16, the winners will be selected by a panel of judges, including:
-Dr. Janice Jackson, Chief Education Officer, Chicago Board of Education 
-Shelley Stern Grach, Director – Civic Engagement for the Technology and Civic Engagement (TCE) group, Microsoft Corporation
-Brenna Berman, Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) Commissioner and Chief Information Office
-Devin Matthews, ParkerGale
-Scott Bernstein, Founder and President, CNT

"I could not be more thrilled for Microsoft to be partnered with the Center for Neighborhood Technology on the Apps Competition,” said Adam J. Hecktman, Microsoft’s Director of Technology and Civic Innovation. “Microsoft was founded on the optimistic belief in the empowering potential of technology, and we are committed to building long-term partnerships in Chicago's neighborhoods to help civic leaders like CNT use technology to build environmental and economic sustainability at the neighborhood level."

This year’s Urban Sustainability Apps Competition winners are:

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.

Press contact
Steve Perkins, 773.269.4055

CNT is an award-winning innovations laboratory for urban sustainability. Headquartered in Chicago but working nationwide, CNT has spent nearly four decades helping transform thinking about urban environments. CNN Money cited CNT as a key reason for naming Chicago one of the Most Innovative Cities in America. CNT uses research initiatives, development strategies, and local outreach to advocate for policy change and create sustainable businesses, including Chicago’s Elevate Energy and IGO CarSharing (acquired in 2013 by Enterprise CarShare).

Share this page