July 20th, 2017
Capturing Public Priorities for Transportation: An Innovative, Online Approach

NOTE: This meet-up will take place on Thursday, July 20th in Room 514 of Northwestern's Weiboldt Hall (339 East Chicago Ave) from 6 - 8pm. 

How can we capture public input in a way that is both open and representative?

In early 2017, the UIC Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement (IPCE) conducted a statewide, online engagement process for the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to inform the development of IDOT’s 2017 Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). This multi-phased process allowed the public to contribute transportation ideas that a representative group of Illinois residents later evaluated.

July’s Demo Night will feature a presentation on IPCE's online engagement process. The speakers will be researchers Matt Sweeney and Roy Rothschild, and their presentation will provide an overview of the project and their findings.

This month’s Demo Night is co-organized by the Northwestern MA in Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) Student Board. The MPPA Student Board works to create and host events that allow students and alumni to grow their knowledge of public policy and their professional networks. For more information about the MPPA Student Board and student events and opportunities, please contact


May 18th, 2017
On the Table Conversation

During the third week of May, tens of thousands of people across Chicagoland gathered to participate in On the Table - an annual forum designed to elevate civic conversation, foster new relationships and inspire action.  As a community dedicated to advancing public engagement, we will host an On the Table conversation for this May’s Demo Night.

In times that threaten and divide, participants turned toward one another to ask: What should we do? 

The amazing Walter Fisher created the following visualizations that capture the content of the conversations: 

March 16th, 2017
Engaging with the Chicago Park District
Presenter: Becky Kliber, Welles Park Supervisor

Welles Park, located on the north side of Chicago in the Lincoln Square area, is known for attracting community members from the neighborhood and other parts of the city. Residents and visitors alike are engaged at Welles Park, providing their input for activities, events, and projects that are in the planning stages.

Welles Park Supervisor Becky Kliber talked about the many ways the public can get involved in their local parks. Whether an individual, parent, local business owner, association, or passive park user, there are ways to support one’s park so that it continues as an anchor of recreation in the area. Kliber focused on Welles Park in particular, talking about the day-to-day methods of communication, illustrating a few projects, and discussing how the public engagement process has worked and what challenges they have faced along the way. As with any public-serving institution, a Chicago park thrives with regular community interactions and support.

January 19th, 2017
On the Table and the Power of Public Conversation
Presenter: Joe Hoereth, Director, Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement

On the Table is an annual forum designed to elevate civic conversation, foster new relationships and create a unifying experience across the region. Since 2014, as part of On the Table tens of thousands of Chicago-area residents have gathered in small groups to share a meal and discuss the challenges and opportunities they face. 

Joe has led the research of On the Table since it began in 2014. During his presentation, he provided an overview of On the Table and discussed the impact and potential of public conversations.

November 17th, 2016 
Developing an Equitable Approach to Transit-Oriented Development
Presenter: Center for Neighborhood Technology

The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) has developed an interactive tool called the Equitable TOD (eTOD) Social Impact Calculator which allows users to examine and quantify the financial, social, and environmental benefits of eTOD projects in Cook County. Whether you’re a developer in the midst of the predevelopment process or an advocate for affordable housing or social services, the data this tool provides can help you make the case for eTOD in your community.

CNT’s Jacky Grimshaw and Elyse Fischground provided an overview of the eTOD Social Impact Calculator. Grimsahw is Vice President for Policy and has been with the CNT team since 1992. During her tenure, she has developed CNT’s capacity to engage in public policy advocacy and transportation planning, transportation research, environmental justice, public participation tool development, GIS mapping, community economic development and air quality.

October 20th, 2016 
An Alderman’s Perspective on Police-Community Relations and Public Engagement
Presenter: Alderman James Cappleman

Chicago’s 46th Ward is one of the most diverse wards in the city of Chicago, encompassing portions of the Uptown, Buena Park and Lakeview neighborhoods. The dynamics occurring within its boundaries reflect the benefits, opportunities, and challenges of urban living in the 21st Century. 

As in many areas of the city, those who live and work in the 46th Ward are grappling with the best methods for addressing violence and for improving the relationship between the community and police.

Alderman James Cappleman of Chicago’s 46th ward talked about the current stakeholders involved in the process of improving police-community relations, and how these stakeholders affect the climate of public engagement.

August 18th, 2016 
How should a large government agency go about public engagement?

When there is a healthy dialogue between the people and government, both parties benefit. But many government agencies do not know how to effectively perform the kind of public engagement necessary for that dialogue to occur.

At the request of the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement (IPCE) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) undertook a months-long effort to research ways in which the agency can more effectively engage with the public in planning and executing its projects. The result was a comprehensive report containing eight recommendations on how the agency can enhance its engagement practices and maintain a robust dialogue with the public at large. While designed for a transportation agency, these recommendations have relevance to public agencies and organizations of all kinds.

Researcher Jordan Jones presented the report’s findings, highlighting noteworthy examples of excellent public engagement, and discuss the recommendations’ wide applicability. A recent graduate of UIC’s Master’s in Public Administration program, Mr. Jones was the lead author on the report; he has an extensive background in engagement owing to time spent in the world of politics and grassroots organizing.

July 21st, 2016
Engagement and Tech // Cook County's New Website

How might Cook County's new website better inform and engage residents?
Cook County just launched a new version of its website that was restructured to focus on helping residents quickly find the services they need. The old school way of designing government websites was to build an online copy of what existed in the physical world – a page for each office, agency and elected official. The new County website still has these pages, but its focus is on the services the County provides. With sections focused on residents, businesses and all sorts of subcategories, Cook County aims to simplify the process and connect residents as quickly and easily as possible.

June 16th, 2016
Incubator Session #2 // Chicago Public Schools

In June we asked: What do we want the public engagement process with CPS to look like? Demo Night attendees continued the conversation from April's incubator session and laid the foundation for a working group that seeks to improve public engagement processes at CPS.  

April 21st, 2016
Incubator Session #1 // Chicago Public Schools

April's Demo Night Incubator Session explored CPS' approach to public engagement and how it might be improved. 

In March, Kari Theirer of The School Reform Initiative presented her work developing school-community partnerships, which spurred broad questions at the meet-up about public engagement around education in Chicago. In the breakout session following Kari’s presentation, the group collectively examined the community meetings that have been implemented before school closings and began identifying ways CPS could better engage the public in the future. The energy and enthusiasm in the room led to the decision to structure April's Demo Night as an incubator for ideas and action. 

April's Demo Night continued the conversation and laid the foundation for a working group that seeks to improve public engagement processes at CPS. Kari facilitated using methods designed specifically for this incubator session. We tackled questions like: What do we know about the school closure process in CPS? What public engagement activities look place? What don't we know that we would like to know, about engagement in CPS? 

March 17th, 2016
Moving Beyond Conflict Toward Equity: Where Do We Begin?
Presenter: Kari Thierer of the School Reform Initiative 

Deeply entrenched divides between teachers, schools, communities, and public officials are defining the news on public education in Chicago. With this environment of seemingly intractable conflict, how do we begin? What levers enable community-led conversations with decision-makers that result in real change?

Kari Thierer, Organizational Director of The School Reform Initiative presented her work developing school-community partnerships, sharing specific examples of success. She shared her experience developing transformational leadership within underrepresented communities, where community members found opportunities for engaging school leadership in authentic ways, that resulted in changes directly impacting educational equity for their children and families.

February 18th, 2016

Mikva Challenge Youth Councils // Youth Policy Makers


Youth Voice in Aldermanic and Mayoral Decision-Making
At Mikva Challenge, Democracy is a VERB! The organization was founded on the premise that youth voice and participation matter, and that our civic and political life will be stronger when youth participate and help shape their own destinies. At this event, Mia Salamone, Democracy in Action Coordinator shared her experiences working to bring youth voice into policy and public spending decisions in Chicago.

Mia shared her experiences working with a group of high school students to bring youth voice into the 49th Ward’s (Ald. Joe Moore) participatory budgeting (PB) process. PB is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. As a part of this process, youth spent a year identifying community needs, researching potential projects, and developing a project proposal for the public vote. As a result of this success, the principal of Sullivan High School agreed to allocate $25,000 of the school’s funds for youth driven PB process.

January 21st, 2016

A People’s Budget for West Humboldt Park // TIF Districts and Participatory Budgeting


Democratizing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Funds
In 2014 Chicago was the site of the country’s first participatory budgeting (PB) process to allocate tax increment financing (TIF) funds. Blocks Together, a community-based organization, worked with residents and businesses in the neighborhood of West Humboldt Park to engage residents in a pilot PB process to directly decide how to spend $2 million in TIF funds. This process resulted in deep engagement of residents and the development of six community-developed projects that would not have received funding through the usual channels including job training programs and public infrastructure improvements.

As part of this historic process, Blocks Together, UIC’s Great Cities Institute and the Participatory Budgeting Project are developing a tool kit that will provide information, resources, and lessons learned from using PB with TIF funds.