Derek Eder

Civic Tech Builder


About Derek

Derek is an entrepreneur, developer, civic technology leader and climate advocate. He uses data, builds tools, and organizes people in Chicago to democratize power.

Derek is Founder and Partner at DataMade, a data and web consultancy for civil society working toward democracy, justice, and equity and Co-Founder and President Emeritus of Chi Hack Night, a free, weekly event in Chicago to build, share and learn about civic technology.

He has built and collaborated on dozens of civic and data applications including 2nd City Zoning, Chicago's Million Dollar Blocks, Councilmatic, Decarb My State and Dedupe.io.


Current Positions

Organization and Position Description Dates
DataMade
Founder and Partner
A data and web consultancy for civil society. We support our partners in working toward democracy, justice, and equity. Jul 2012 - present
Chi Hack Night
Co-Founder and President Emeritus
A free, weekly event in Chicago to build, share and learn about tools that create, support, and serve the public good. Mar 2012 - present
Village of Oak Park
Building Codes Advisory Commissioner
Advises and makes recommendations on model code amendments, updates and interpretations to the Village of Oak Park's Chief Building Official, and serves as the Building Codes Board of Appeals. May 2024 - present
Oak Park Climate Action Network (OPCAN)
Member
A volunteer group of Oak Park residents working to eliminate our community’s contribution to the global climate crisis through equitable policies and practices Jan 2022 - present
Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition
Member
Coalition of hundreds of environmental advocacy organizations, businesses, community leaders, consumer advocates, environmental justice groups, and faith-based and student organizations working together to improve public health and the environment, protect consumers, and create equitable, clean jobs across Illinois. Oct 2022 - present
mRelief
Board Member
A nonprofit startup working to help people gain access to social services and eat with dignity. Aug 2015 - present

Past Positions

Organization and Position Description Dates
Dedupe.io
Co-Founder
A powerful tool that learns the best way to find similar rows in your data. Using cutting-edge research in machine learning we quickly and accurately identify matches in your Excel spreadsheet or database. Oct 2018 - Jan 2023
Civic Exchange Chicago
Co-Founder
A learning community centered on how news, information and technology can increase democracy and freedom Jan 2019 - Feb 2022
Transition Team - Good Governance
Mayor-Elect Lori Lightfoot
Member
Good governance policy for incoming administration Apr 2019 - May 2019
Transition Team - Data
Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi
Member
Open data policy for incoming administration Oct 2018 - Dec 2018
Digital Privacy Alliance
Board Member
Statewide advocacy for digital privacy laws Mar 2017 - Jan 2019
Read/Write Library
Board Member
Nonprofit that collects, preserves, and provides access to community media Mar 2016 - Nov 2018
Environmental Law & Policy Center
Next Generation Advisory Council
Co-Chair and Member
Supporters and ambassadors for ELPC mission Jul 2014 - Aug 2017
Open City
Co-Founder
Volunteer group that created civic apps with open data to improve transparency and understanding of our government in Chicago Feb 2012 - June 2017

Awards and accolades

Award Presenter
Green Award Village of Oak Park Jan 2024
Chicago's Emerging Power Players Chicago Magazine May 2017
Navigator Award
with Christopher Whitaker for Chi Hack Night
Route Fifty Nov 2016
2013 Emerging Leaders Community Indicators Consortium Oct 2013

My bio: the long version

Or, my journey in civic tech.


In the beginning, there was open data

In August 2011, I was working for a dev shop in Chicago called Webitects when the City's recently elected mayor (Rahm Emanuel) decided to start releasing some interesting data on the city's Data Portal. At the time, I already had an interest in government and technology and had volunteered my tech skills to the Obama campaign in 2008, but this data gave me a way to engage with my local government and community that was completely new.

Paul Baker, my boss at Webitects, decided to put a group together — Chad Pry, Nick Rougeux, Ryan Briones and me — to take one of these newly released datasets on lobbyist disclosures to create our first "civic app" called Chicago Lobbyists.

The app, which I like to describe as a "Facebook for lobbyists," allows you to see who the top paid lobbyists are, who's hiring them, and who in government they are lobbying. Through this app, this raw, open data was made accessible to average citizens (like ourselves) in a way that was easy to understand and delightful to interact with. The response from the City, local press and tech community was immediate and positive.


Co-founding Open City

At this point, I was hooked on making civic apps. I continued collaborating with Paul, Nick, and Chad to build new apps with other available datasets like ChicagoBuildings.org, which tracks vacant and abandoned buildings in Chicago, and Look at Cook, a visualization for exploring Cook County's budget over time.

Through the OpenGov Chicago(-land) Meetup run by Dan X. O'Neil and Joe Germuska, I met and collaborated with Juan-Pablo Velez and Forest Gregg to create ClearStreets, an app to track where snow plows go during a snowstorm. This got us our first big exposure in the Chicago Tribune.

I eventually found myself among a core group of volunteer developers, designers and policy wonks who all shared a common goal: to create apps with open data to improve transparency and understanding of our government. We knew we had a great thing going, so in January 2012, we decided to give it a name and call ourselves Open City.


Chi Hack Night

In order to better facilitate collaboration and get work done outside of our regular 9-to-5 jobs, we decided to start meeting regularly every week. Our first meeting consisted of Juan-Pablo Velez, Scott Robbin, Tom Kompare and myself (I gave a lightning talk about this moment in 2016).

We dubbed this event Open Gov Hack Night (now Chi Hack Night), made it open for anyone to attend and publicized it on the OpenGov Chicago Google Group. The idea of a friendly place to talk about civic tech and get work done was apparently very appealing to a lot of people.

Over the first few years it grew from 4 to 40 to over 100 weekly attendees - developers, designers, researchers, journalists, policy wonks and curious citizens who all want to build or learn about open data and civic tech.


Starting DataMade, a civic technology company

In the Summer of 2012, I was approached by Dan X. O'Neil, the new Executive Director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative, to work on some projects (Connect Chicago and Chicago Early Learning) as a consultant. I had already decided to go part-time at Webitects to devote more time to Open City, and it seemed like it was finally time to strike out on my own.

I formed my own LLC, called it DataMade (my wife Aya's idea) and got to work. At the same time, my collaborations with Forest Gregg continued on projects like CPS Tiers, Dedupe and Councilmatic. In January 2013, Forest joined DataMade as a partner.

Over the years DataMade has grown our staff, clients and expertise. Our clients include many notable universities, nonprofits and municipalities, including the City of Chicago, Los Angeles METRO, Injustice Watch, DePaul University, and Columbia University.


Growing up and taking my place as a leader of Chicago's civic tech community

Since my first civic app back in 2011, through persistence and determination, I steadily became a leader in the open government and civic tech movements in Chicago.

Many of the applications, approaches and ideas we championed have spread to cultural institutions like the Chicago Architecture Foundation via their City of Big Data Exhibit, to academia via programs like theThe Eric & Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Summer Fellowship, to the Chicago startup scene, and even back to the City of Chicago and their ambitious Tech Plan.

As the Chicago civic tech community continues to mature and evolve, so have the fledgling organizations I have started. Chi Hack Night is now incorporated as a non-profit organization with an 11 member board, of which I am now the Board President. DataMade has grown to 6 staff and we have spun out one of our data tools, Dedupe.io, as its own software as a service company.

I have become one of the most visible people in the Chicago tech scene, appearing frequently on shows like WTTW's Chicago Tonight and participating as a member of both Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi's and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's Transition Teams.

In all of these positions I now hold or have created for myself, I will continue to elevate and highlight the work of our community and organizations, and create some more of it myself. I will advocate for the ethical and humane use of technology and continue to push for more transparency, accountability and equity in Chicago. And now that I am in a position of power and influence, I will use that power to open more doors for those who seek to follow the same path I did.


Additional thanks

No one ever truly makes it on their own. In addition to the people mentioned above, I'd like to thank a few people for helping me get to where I am today:

  • My parents, Bob and Jan Eder - for of course raising me, but also valuing my education and sending me to college debt free. Later in life I now fully appreciate the gift that this was
  • Gene Adams, Vice President of Information Services at the Art Institute of Chicago - for referring me to Webitects to get my first good programming job
  • Todd Reifenrath, (former) Vice President at Webitects - for being my first good boss and showing me the value of patience, curiosity, and autonomy in a professional setting
  • Suzanne McBride, Dean of Graduate Studies at Columbia College Chicago - for seeking me out and paying me to make my first interactive Google map of Tax Increment Finance (TIF) projects

Last updated on Oct 29, 2022

Photo credit for my headshot: ©️Chicago mag, Photo by Taylor Castle

@derekederderek@derekeder.com • © 2024 Derek Eder