Tech Entrepreneurship Can Do Big Things for Disadvantaged Neighborhoods

Update 6/17/16: Last night at the Sustain-a-City Celebration, our panel of judges chose the winners of the 2016 Apps Competition. Congratulations to all of our finalists! The winning teams are:

1st place: Stop Crime App
2nd place: Chi Safe Path
3rd place: Neighbors Creating Neighborhoods
People's Choice: Schedule Scout

The Stop Crime team with our panel of judges

A big thank you as well to our judges:

Shelley Stern Grach | Director – Civic Engagement for the Technology and Civic Engagement (TCE) group at Microsoft Corporation
Brenna Berman | Chief Information Officer, City of Chicago—Department of Innovation and Technology
Dr. Janice K. Jackson | Chief Education Officer, Chicago Public Schools (CPS)
Devin Mathews | Partner, ParkerGale Capital
Scott Bernstein | President and Co-Founder, Center for Neighborhood Technology 


Chicago’s disadvantaged neighborhoods face some big challenges, like crime, poverty, and environmental injustice. Our Urban Sustainability Apps Competition fosters solutions from powerful sources that are often overlooked: the residents themselves.

Over the past five months, CNT Social Ventures Fellow Steven Philpott hosted 20 workshops and presentations on mobile app development to over 400 residents of neighborhoods across Chicago. The events focused on four questions:

-What are the challenges facing your community?
-What kind of information might make a difference?
-How would residents use that information?
-How could an app providing that information prosper financially?

These questions prompted participants to develop apps that make neighborhoods, both in Chicago and across the country, more livable and sustainable.

During the first weekend of June, 15 teams came together for an intensive weekend of coding, designing, and business planning. The apps they built to solve neighborhood problems were grounded in the idea leaders’ intimate knowledge of their communities and fellow residents. Coders and designers worked with the idea leaders to turn their concepts into working prototypes.

Five judges were charged with selecting the finalists who will present their apps and app-enabled business concepts at CNT’s Sustain-a-City Celebration on June 16th:

-Shelley Stern Grach, Director - Civic Engagement at Microsoft, the Presenting Sponsor of the Apps Competition
-Erik Harmon, former executive director of the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce
-Peter Laundy, a retired graphic designer and information designer, formerly with Deloitte/Doblin
-Elizabeth Lukehart, Associate Director of the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Northwestern University
-Uzma Noormohammed, Program Analyst at the Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation

Deciding the winners was a difficult task. In the end, the judges chose these four finalists:

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.

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.

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.

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.

Join us at the Sustain-a-City Celebration on June 16th where a panel of high-powered judges will choose the winning team and YOU will get to vote for your favorite!


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