Chicago civic tech levels up; Hong Konger's tech tools; and more.

  • This is civic tech: Say hello to Civic Exchange Chicago, a new “coworking space and learning community centered on how news, information, and technology can increase democracy and freedom,” as co-founder Derek Eder of DataMade describes the hub. Along with his organization, the other founding partners are Block Club Chicago, BrightHive, The Center for Tech and Civic Life, Chalkbeat Chicago, Change Illinois, Hearken and mRelief. “Being in proximity to one another helps us not only share ideas and resources, but also inspires collaborations. It’s a beautiful thing as a small company to feel part of this larger network that’s making change, while discovering ways to grow companies according to new playbooks,” adds Jennifer Brandel, Civic Exchange’s Co-Founder and the CEO of Hearken. Kudos and welcome to the club!!

  • What do people experience when they apply for social safety net programs? Code for America has built a first-of-its-kind view of the state of benefit applications, focusing o on SNAP, Medicaid, TANF, WIC, and LIHEAP, across all fifty states. The results are sobering.

  • Here’s a great report from Liz Hynes of the Narrative Initiative, sharing some of the early learnings from “Start Making Sense: A Working Convening on Technologies for Narrative Change” that, with the help of Civic Hall’s Forums team, brought together 50 technologists and narrative change organizers two Saturdays ago.

  • Google got more than 2600 applications from organizations around the world responding to its call for ideas on how they could use artificial intelligence to help solve societal challenges, and this post from Brigitte Hoyer Gosselink and Carla Bromberg of Google shares some of the commonalities across that broad pool.

  • Apply: Independent cyber-security expert Bruce Schneier is looking to hire a “strategic thought partner” to work closely with him “to assess the current ecosystem of public-interest technology and determine what kind of organization is needed to best leverage his expertise, reach, and influence to advance practice, integration, and adoption of public-interest technology.”

  • Attend: This Saturday is the National Day of Civic Hacking—find an event near you!

  • The reckoning continues: Sixty-one tenured MIT female faculty have signed an open letter to the university’s leadership calling for integrity and action in the face of the “apparent complicity of administrative leadership” in the MIT-Epstein scandal. Noting that Epstein was a “level three”—high risk of repeat offense—registered sex offender, they call out not only the fact that MIT took his money but that it also invited him onto campus. “How can MIT’s leadership be trusted when it appears that child prostitution and sex trafficking can be ignored in exchange for a financial contribution?” they ask. Only 266 of MIT’s 1066 faculty members are women.

  • The MIT faculty had a meeting to discuss the scandal yesterday, and Ethan Zuckerman live-tweeted much of it.

  • The many hidden connections between Epstein and Harvard—which he gave more money to than MIT—are starting to surface. Among them, a $110,000 gift to Verse Video Education, a nonprofit run by Elisa New, who is married to former Harvard president and Obama economics czar Larry Summers.

  • Organizing tech: Finally! Here’s a clear and well-contextualized summary of how Hong Kong’s protesters are using technology to organize themselves and battle government surveillance, by Maciej Ceglowski.

  • What sharing economy? Don’t read this story by Eliot Brown in the Wall Street Journal about highflying WeWork CEO Adam Neumann unless you want to be completed disgusted.

  • Food for thought: Faced with a news desert—no local paper covering her community of 92,000 in Longmont, Colorado—longtime resident Ellen Ranson is pioneering a new idea: creating “info districts” (modeled on special improvement districts that lots of communities use to fund public services) to support a new nonprofit news organization. And as Rae Ellen Bichell reports for NPR, libraries—themselves nonprofit sources of nonpartisan information—are getting interested in the same idea.

  • End times: OK, so maybe heavy smart-phone use isn’t causing young people to grow bony neck horns. But one can still dream!

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