One of the best things about the Civic Tech community is the willingness to collaborate and share best practices. The Microsoft Chicago team has had the pleasure of partnering with the Smart Chicago Collaborative on many community programs to expand civic tech and civic engagement in Chicago over the past few years. Now we have the excitement of partnering with Smart Chicago in the launch of CUTGroup Detroit. Our Detroit-based team member is Civic Tech Fellow Ivoire Morrell, who has been working with Data Driven Detroit and the City of Detroit on this program. We will update you as the launch progresses, and please follow @CUTGroupDetroit on Twitter for the latest updates.

— Shelley Stern Grach

City-of-DetroitWe are excited to announce that Smart Chicago is partnering with the City of Detroit, Data Driven Detroit, and Microsoft, to help build the first Civic User Testing Group (CUTGroup) in Detroit. This is part of our CUTGroup Collective efforts to convene organizations and institutions in cities to help others establish new CUTGroups, create a new community, and share and learn from one another.

In April, we announced we would conduct UX testing on websites and tools that use data that is part of the White House’s Opportunity Project initiative. “The Opportunity Project expands access to opportunity for all Americans by putting data and digital tools in the hands of families, communities, and local leaders, to help them navigate information about the resources they need to thrive.” While we initially wanted to align this work with the national efforts of National Day of Civic Hacking, we quickly learned that we needed to take smaller steps to building a CUTGroup and planning for a test in another city. We began planning with Detroit, one of our CUTGroup Collective members, and a city that has curated data related to opportunity as part of the Opportunity Project.

In the last months, I have been working closely with the CUTGroup Detroit team to share ideas and insights from our CUTGroup experiences in Chicago. We have discussed recruitment and communications strategies, as well as test planning and design. In the upcoming weeks, Detroit will begin recruitment and in mid-August, we will conduct a test around a tool that helps people understand more about commercial or other non-residential properties in Detroit.

This work with Detroit is the start of an ongoing relationship through the CUTGroup Collective. Smart Chicago plans to be available to help CUTGroup Detroit grow and create better technology and where we will learn from Detroit experiences to help other cities build CUTGroups.


I am overwhelmed by the support and hard work of our Detroit partners to make this happen. I wanted to acknowledge them here:

First, we are grateful to the Knight Foundation, which makes the CUTGroup Collective possible. They are funding this work through our Deep Dive, where we are part of a cohort representing a diverse set of approaches to expanding community information and increasing community engagement.

The City of Detroit and Garlin Gilchrist, Director of Innovation & Emerging Technology, is leading the strategy and vision of CUTGroup Detroit.

Data Driven Detroit (D3) is managing the recruitment and logistics of CUTGroup. D3 is an organization that provides accessible high-quality information and analysis that drives informed decision-making. Our appreciation for their involvement goes to Erica Raleigh, Executive Director, Noah Urban, Project Lead & Senior Analyst, Kibichii Chelilim, Data Manager & Programmer, and Boitshoko Molefhi, the MSU InnovateGov Summer Intern.

Microsoft is extending their support for Civic Tech in both Chicago and Detroit to focus on CUTGroup Detroit. Microsoft’s Detroit Civic Tech Fellow, Ivoire Morrell, has been a key person in planning and putting together the pieces in building CUTGroup Detroit. Ivoire works closely with Shelley Stern Grach, Microsoft’s Director of Civic Engagement, who always provides important insights in every conversation and who made CUTGroup Detroit part of Ivoire’s project plan.

We are excited about what we can do together and look forward to sharing what we learn this summer!

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