Documenters for the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force meetings

This month I conceived, led, and participated in the documentation of the four community forums hosted by the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force.
The work, centered at Smart Chicago, is a part of the Documenters program. Here’s a snip from a blog post I wrote, kicking off this particular work with the CPATF:

We care about justice and we care about accountability, so we have sent text documenters, videographers (Community TV Network), and a photographer (me) to these convenings under our Documenters program, which “an essential tool for us to add new thinkers, generate ideas, and expand the field for civic tech.”

We show up at public meetings and document the proceedings because we’re interested in paying as much attention as we can to what others are saying, what their concerns are, and how they interact with official government structures. These community forums give us a great opportunity for this. We have a number of goals for this series:

  • Document the actual proceedings, with special attention, in this instance, to the speakers from the public— exactly what questions were asked, what documents were referenced, and what answers were offered by the task force
  • Research the questions and answers to the greatest degree possible. This includes learning more about the speakers, many of whom have decades of experience in their communities. Research and link to their organizations, their work, and the external documents, cases, and other matters that they reference
  • Aggregate the information and draw some rudimentary conclusions. This means simple things like counting attendees and speakers as well as some more sophisticated analysis like grouping comment types and themes.

My role was to manage the project— hire the videographers, writers, and photographers. I also attended most of the meetings and did all of the photo documentation for meetings 1, 2, and 3.

Documenters Session with Honorary Chicago

This evening I helped set up and run a Documenters session for Honorary Chicago. Here’s a snip from a blog post I wrote about the work on the Smart Chicago blog:

All of this is a part of digitizing the official records of the streets from City Council data not yet available in digital format to help complete Linda’s research of 30 years of honorary sign designations (more than 2,000 signs!).  Most of 1985-present has been collected, there are some gaps, especially in the 2003-2009 timeframe.

We’re going to help her with that. This is a perfect project for our Documenters program, for a number of reasons:

  • Focus is on city data and helping people understand a central record of our municipal government

  • Gets Chicago residents paid while learning and being civically engaged

  • Helps out a great actor in civic tech who has already done an enormous amount of work

  • We get to hang out at one of our central shared spaces— the public library!

I invented the Documenters program to “add new thinkers, generate ideas, and expand the field for civic tech”.