Engaging, Training, Deploying Citizen Investigators For Local Government Accountability

How did our small nonprofit get over 12,000 Chicagoans to attend workshops and activate hundreds of volunteers to do collaborative civic research?

The TIF Illumination Project uses data mining, investigatory journalism, graphic design, and community organizing to expose and educate around the hyper-local impacts of Tax Increment Financing Districts – TIFs – (www.tifreports.com). We are a Chicago-based people-powered grassroots civic effort (www.civiclab.us) with few resources and no office. This session will explain how this work has triggered over 170 public meetings – all run by different neighborhood groups – and how we activated hundreds of volunteers to help with data gathering, analysis, reporting, and civic engagement. Over 12,000 people have attended these public forums since 2013. We feel this is a great model for civic reporting, P2P research, crowdfunding driven platforms, robust grassroots democratic practice, and effective government accountability work. We are working with citizen groups in multiple cities and we would like to share this work on a national basis – as TIFs are thousands of municipalities across 49 states. We see these programs as laden with corruption, opacity, racist practices, and misuse of public funds. We will walk attendees through our work and have people do real-time investigation of the state of the data for the TIFS of their own communities (laptops required).

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