News Article: The business hug: Do you embrace it or not?

Here’s me in a Chicago Tribune story re: The business hug: Do you embrace it or not?

Collaboration and distance

Dan X. O’Neil ⇒, executive director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative, reserves hugs for close collaborators, and ones he doesn’t see very often.

He partnered remotely this summer with others via Slack, using the messaging platform to design a youth-led tech program. When they met in person after weeks of shared work, O’Neil greeted them with a hug.

“I think infrequency is the biggest thing — infrequency of contact but depth of work,” O’Neil said.

Gottsman, the etiquette expert, noted that virtual work tools and social media can cause a feeling of enhanced familiarity even among colleagues who don’t know each other well. That could make them more prone to hugging earlier in a relationship.

But it takes more than that for O’Neil to graduate beyond a handshake.

He noted that the custom of shaking hands is said to stem from the practice of making sure the other person wasn’t hiding a weapon up their sleeve.

“There’s a vulnerability, an exposure, an accountability” in a hug, O’Neil said. “It does matter, because if you allow someone to get close enough to hug you, they’re close enough to stab you.”

PANEL: Social Media and Digital Tech in Service Development

Today I participated in this panel: Social Media and Digital Tech in Service Development

Social media provides us with a unique opportunity to listen to and understand citizen needs and to launch innovative programs and services that address them. While social media commentary is often overlooked when programming decisions are made, social good organizations can gain significant insight from community residents by paying attention to what they’re saying online, and by analyzing the data gathered from this medium.  This panel will focus on examples of social and digital media projects that work to address issues within the community and will touch on digital strategies and tactics your organization can use to both engage and serve constituents.

PANEL: Looking at Infrastructure: Smart Cities & Smart Government

Today I participated in a panel discussion about Smart Cities. We covered a lot of ground, including equity.

Looking at Infrastructure: Smart Cities & Smart Government – Embark on a panel discussion regarding the issues associated with smart city projects ranging from infrastructure considerations to imperatives regarding privacy, ownership, and stewardship of data, to funding issues and policy issues which can detract or enhance the outcomes of these initiatives.

  • Moderator: Sol Salinas, Managing Director, Accenture Digital-Mobility
  • Mohamad Nasser, Sr. Director of M2M Product, Platforms & Marketing, Sprint
  • Dan O’Neil, Executive Director, Smart Chicago
  • Karen Weigert, Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Chicago
  • Paul Steinberg, CTO, Motorola Solutions
  • Omar Elrafei, Business Development, Eluminocity

News: Youth-Led Tech on Backchannel

Here’s a story on the Smart Chicago Youth-Led Tech program published today by Susan Crawford on Backchannel: Crossing the Digital Divide on Chicago’s Toughest Streets. Snips:

Dan O’Neil, the spiky-haired, fearless leader of Smart Chicago, told me last week he was often on the phone with parents and probation officers, asking “Can we have this kid?” Juvenile court probation officers referred their charges to Youth-Led Tech. And once the youth started to participate, most of them were hooked: more than 90% of the 140 attendees finished the six-week program.

At the same time, Smart Chicago found church basements and community technology centers in the target neighborhoods that had WiFi and could be used as convening places — and here it’s important to point out that Connect Chicago, another program of Smart Chicago, has made sure that there are more than 250 places in Chicago (libraries, community centers, public housing, etc.) where people can use computers for free. It also pays 1,200 city residents to provide part-time help with digital access and skills in those places. “Everything we do, we try to do with real people in real neighborhoods,” O’Neil says.

Smart Chicago found instructors for Youth-Led Tech by way of Facebook and Twitter and email — the instructors were people from these neighborhoods, and from diverse backgrounds, who didn’t necessarily have engineering training. Dan O’Neil says, “We hired a set of wonder-people.” Here are their pictures. Talk about inclusion: the instructors are truly representative of Chicago. “We’re changing all these people’s lives,” O’Neil says. “These people are in the tech industry now.”

For an executive director, Dan O’Neil is remarkably focused on menus. The program fed these 140 kids two meals a day during the six weeks of the program, at five sites. This was no easy task — Smart Chicago wanted to use local food sources and learned a lot along the way about the real problems of food deserts in Chicago: “The giants and slick newcomers in the industry like Peapod or Instacart aren’t accessible to these neighborhoods in need. Those [neighborhood] organizations that are trying to fill those gaps. . . don’t have a polished organizational structure,” says Smart Chicago.


There were also social-emotional learning elements of the program — peace circles, restorative justice — and talks about power in the city of Chicago. And here’s where Dan O’Neil’s attention to food fits in: O’Neil says the number one message he wanted to get across to the youth in the program was, “”We love you and we’re never going to let you go.’” He’s emphatic. “That’s what matters more than anything,” he says. “You can learn WordPress, that’s fine, but we’re never going to let you go.”


The first pilot summer went well. “Now we’re expanding the program, thanks to Get IN Chicago,” O’Neil says. Smart Chicago is going to scale up Youth-Led Tech and add drop-in centers during the week during the school year. O’Neil is staying in touch with his graduates, all 140 of them. Smart Chicago is never going to let them go. “We are building our tribe, and it’s legit,” O’Neil says.

News Story: Chicago police misconduct records published online

Today marks the publication of more than 56,000 complaints alleging misconduct by Chicago Police Department by the Invisible Institute.  Crain’s Chicago wrote a story: Chicago police misconduct records published online. Here’s the framing:

Chicago has championed using technology to present granular civic information on everything from towed vehicles to food inspections, in ways that improve citizens’ lives. But starting today, the public can easily access one data set the city had fought hard to keep secret.

And here’s what I had to say:

One of the leaders of Chicago’s open data movement, Dan O’Neil said he was eager to see the new database. O’Neil currently heads the Smart Chicago Collaborative and was a co-founder of Everyblock. While Chicago has positioned itself as a leader in publishing civic data, citizens still have “a right and a responsibility” to request data from the government. Some of Smart Chicago’s own initiatives highlight gaps in the information available on the criminal justice system.

“It just goes to show you that we’re certainly not in an era of default transparency,” he said.