Civic ScopeAthon

About the event

Use Data. Solve Problems. Do good.

South Side Civic a CAPP-student led group is partnering with UChicago’s Institute of Politics (IOP), Department of Computer Science, and the Harris School's CAPP program to host the Third Annual UChicago Civic ScopeAthon!

While traditional hackathons are about writing code, a scopeathon focuses on understanding the purpose and use of technology in helping solve problems. Before anyone writes a line of code, it’s crucial to understand what a technology solution needs to accomplish. This understanding bridges developers and organization representatives, and the scopeathon strengthens this cross-discipline awareness.

What is Our Goal?

The ScopeAthon Mission

The main objectives of the ScopeAthon are to form cross-functional teams to scope out problems faced by civic organizations, break the problems down into manageable parts and develop a plan to address them. The solutions may or may not be entirely tech-oriented, or only parts of the solution may have a tech component.

The event brings together leaders of civic organizations, students, and community members to learn about civic hacking, civic problems, and how to work in teams to form a solution. Participants come from various backgrounds, including, but not limited to, computer science, political science and public policy, economics, geography, visual art, civic innovation and leadership, etc.

  • Learn and exercise problem-scoping skills
  • Meet civic leaders in active organizations
  • Work on real problems
  • Contribute to the civic-tech community

Schedule of Events (Subject to change)

Friday, October 12

The Joseph Regenstein Library, Room 122
1100 E. 57th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

4:15 PM - 4:30 PM


4:30 PM - 5:30 PM


5:30 PM - 6:30 PM

Keynote Speaker Address

Presentation by Matt Pazoles, Chief Data Scientist at the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University

6:30 PM - 7:15 PM

Meet the 2018 Scopeathon Community Organizations

Introductions by Organization Leaders

7:15 PM - 8:00 PM

Networking Reception

Saturday, October 13

Ida Noyes Cloister Club
1212 E 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

9:00 AM - 9:30 AM

Check-In & Breakfast

9:30 AM - 10:00 AM

Welcome & Team Breakout for Introductions

10:00 AM - 11:00 AM


11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Team Breakout: Scope the Problem

Mentors will be circulating the room

12:30 PM - 1:30 PM


1:30 PM - 2:00 PM


2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Team Breakout: Prepare Outline of Proposal

Mentors will be circulating the room

3:30 PM - 4:00 PM

Explore the Room for Ideas & Restroom Break

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Team Breakout: Finalize Presentations

Mentors will be circulating the room

5:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Final Presentations

6:00 PM - 7:00 PM

Dinner as Judges Deliberate

7:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Awards & Thank You Reception


The ScopeAthon is open to the entire University of Chicago community as well as interested community members working anywhere from the public/non-profit sector to the private sector.

Participants will come from various backgrounds, including, but not limited to, computer science, political science and public policy, economics, geography, visual art, and civic innovation and leadership.

No. We want a diverse array of skills present at the scopeathon, which means that even if you can’t code, we want you there!

Teams will present their work to a panel of expert judges and compete for prestige at the end of the day on Saturday.

The real prize for our civic scopeathon is the opportunity for teams to continue their work after the ScopeAthon. While there is no formal pipeline from the ScopeAthon to project completion. Representatives from the Community Action Bureau, the Tech Team, South Side Civic, and other affilitated institutions will be present at the ScopeAthon.

Here’s an example of a civic problem and successful solution:

Problem/objective: A maternal health provider wants to optimize locations for birth-outcomes clinics given limited resources

Data: Birth outcomes data, census tract data

Improved Technique: Switching from analysis by county to analysis by census tract

Solution: Build a map by census tract that better illustrates the number and proportion of birth outcomes in a given area

Here are examples of the types of projects we won’t be working on:

Data exploration without a question/problem in mind (i.e. "Here’s all of our data, now tell us something!")

Building a website or app/making your website/app prettier

Register for a team when you sign up on Eventbrite. Check out our website beforehand and find some problems you’re interested in working on! We will keep updating the website with organizations that will be at the scopeathon.

A laptop will be useful on Saturday.

Saturday’s workshops build upon one another to provide a “problem-scoping toolkit” by the end of the event. Coming for just the afternoon or just the morning will diminish your opportunity to fully engage in the scopeathon. So, email us if you have concerns about scheduling conflicts.

The Civic ScopeAthon is a joint effort with South Side Civic, a CAPP student-led group, UChicago’s Department of Computer Science, and the Harris School of Public Policy.

Contact ChicagoSouthSideCivic(at) to learn more, or volunteer at the event!