Chicago Democracy Project

Mission Statement

The Chicago Democracy Project’s (CDP) mission is to bridge the digital divide by providing citizens, community groups, and religious organizations with online information regarding campaign finance, electoral outcomes, government contracts, minority appointments and levels of public employment in Latino and Black communities. In addition, the CDP will be an information portal that will provide links to demographic, economic, and other demographic information of interest to the public.

Objectives

The overall objective of The Chicago Democracy Project is a free online database that will be accessible via the Internet. This database will contain information that can be searched using a “natural language” format. Rather than requiring high levels of technical training or familiarity with the Internet, our data is made accessible to visitors by responding to their inquiries and queries typed in simple English syntax. The Chicago Democracy Project will also contain features that cater to more advanced consumers of information. For example, the database will allow visitors to conduct simple statistical analysis of data on our website, or to download the information for analysis and manipulation on their own computers. As a third feature, the CDP website will also feature prewritten reports, that analyze information and trends in Chicago politics and other urban areas These reports will help our consumers grasp the larger meaning of the data housed by the CDP website.

Who we are and why we built this site

Michael C. Dawson is Professor in African-American Studies and Government at Harvard University. Please see Professor Dawson’s attached curriculum vitae. Professor Dawson is principal investigator of the Chicago Democracy Project. Jaime Dominguez is Project Director of the Chicago Democracy Project. He is a Ph. D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His dissertation, Latino Politics in Chicago: A Strategy of Political Empowerment, 1975-2000, examines the Latino struggle for political power from institutional and group-level perspectives including the consequence of demographic change on Latino mobilization in Chicago. He has taught a variety of courses at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. See attached curriculum vitae. Jeff Kilpatrick is Chief Software Associate of the Chicago Democracy Project. He designed the database search engine. Currently, he is Chief Software Engineer at Brixton Sun Consulting. He has been Senior Systems Analyst at C & R Research. See attached curriculum vitae.

Why we started the project. The Chicago Democracy Project (CDP) was undertaken to reduce the financial and human resource cost associated with retrieving public data. The CDP will make available previously difficult to obtain data to grassroots organizers, elected officials, religious groups, academics and citizens. In addition, the CDP will provide the training and software necessary for all interested parties to take advantage of this valuable information. By providing this resource to the public, we are taking a necessary first step in closing the digital divide that separates the community at large from critical and empowering information that has the potential to broaden their participation and empower them as citizens.

Benefits. By establishing the CDP, citizens, scholars, and community groups will no longer have to engage in the time consuming process of searching through archives, engaging the city bureaucracy, or contacting officials to obtain information. The public will be able to utilize the CDP website as a primary resource for obtaining, fast, free, and valuable information in an efficient manner. In addition, as a partner with the University of Chicago’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, the CDP, will serve as a gateway to a wealth of information, news, and events of interest to community leaders and the public.

Additional Benefits. The Chicago Democracy Project presents a unique opportunity to establish ties between community leaders, citizens, scholars, and religious organizations. The CDP has as its goal the establishment of a community of users that will collaborate and network to respond to common problems and develop strategies to overcome the challenges facing communities and neighborhoods in the Chicago area. The foundation of the CDP community will be the many and diverse ways that groups and individuals can become empowered by information.

Different Communities, Different Needs, One GoalAcademic researchers will find The Chicago Democracy Project Data very useful in analyzing political preferences, voting and political appointment trends in specific Chicago neighborhoods over three decades and comparing them to better-understood demographic trends in the racial and ethnic composition of neighborhoods and adjoining neighborhoods, income changes, economic development, and local and national political developments. To take just one example, we should be able to say something about how political preferences in Chicago neighborhoods change when they undergo gentrification.

Community organizations and activists will be interested not only in examining trends in political participation to flesh out their understanding of their own specific Chicago neighborhood, but also in the potential of this understanding for encouraging wider and deeper civic participation.

Different Communities, Different Needs, One GoalAcademic researchers will find The Chicago Democracy Project Data very useful in analyzing political preferences, voting and political appointment trends in specific Chicago neighborhoods over three decades and comparing them to better-understood demographic trends in the racial and ethnic composition of neighborhoods and adjoining neighborhoods, income changes, economic development, and local and national political developments. To take just one example, we should be able to say something about how political preferences in Chicago neighborhoods change when they undergo gentrification.

Community organizations and activists will be interested not only in examining trends in political participation to flesh out their understanding of their own specific Chicago neighborhood, but also in the potential of this understanding for encouraging wider and deeper civic participation.