One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Posts Tagged ‘collaboration

Meet Your Neighbor: COOP Careers

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(Special thanks to Kalani Leifer for his time and insight)

On September 15th, COOP Careers launched their inaugural cohort of first-generation and low-income college students in Chicago after launching similar programs in Los Angeles and New York. Recently, I had the chance to speak with Kalani Leifer, Founder and CEO of COOP Careers, to learn more about the organization and its community-driven approach to workforce development.

At the start of the 2008 recession, Kalani Leifer had chosen to volunteer with Teach for America and served as a high school history teacher in New York. He was also part of a new startup high school with an initial class of 120 students. Watching students develop strong peer-to-peer relationships over time, Leifer wanted to work to ensure that these “trailblazers” were able to succeed rather than languish post-graduation. In Leifer’s view, it would be seen as a broken promise to the students, and that their hard work and dedication meant nothing.

COOP Careers was initially launched in New York in 2014 with three cohorts. With its mission around overcoming “underemployment” in first-generation and low-income college graduates through digital skills and peer connections, the organization sought out corporate partners to build out the program and fuel upward mobility. (Partnering with corporate entities like IPG Mediabrands, their programs focus around digital marketing and data analytics) Describing the growth process as “organic”, Leifer related how the first two cohorts of that year would serve as “credible messengers” and advocates within the greater community. In 2005, COOP Careers took on two alumni as coaches as they launched two new cohorts, and added a third and fourth cohort that year.

As Leifer described it, this became a form of “alumni mobilizing” as past COOP Careers participants became passionate advocates of the program. Providing referrals for potential employment, outreaching to various other community organizations, and serving as coaches for future cohorts, past participants in COOP Careers ensured that the program would thrive. As cohorts were launched in Los Angeles and San Francisco, COOP Careers continued to see its grassroots mobilization-style approach to identifying new communities and launching further cohorts.

Although COVID complicated COOP Career’s plans for a Chicago launch, Kalani Leifer indicated that it provided to be a “silver lining”. Alumni captains were able to perform their duties virtually. In many ways, the Chicago cohort followed the COOP Careers model: engaging the initial community with the idea and watching it grow and develop. Referring to COOP Careers’ approach as “grassroots mobilization” is not too far from the track, as the program works to not only train future professionals but establish and strengthen a strong peer network that can foster professional growth. As Leifer himself remarked, “Launching a career is hard; it shouldn’t be lonely.”

COOP Careers has established a firm presence in Chicago and is a well-needed resource. They’re also a neighbor worth knowing.

If you have questions or comments, please leave them below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. If you want to contact the blog via email, please use this form.

And as always, thanks for reading!


Remote Work Trends in Chicago Business & Technology

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(Special thanks to Matt Mead of SPR Consulting for his time and insight)

Many full-time workers and freelancers are adjusting to remote work in the wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic. However, many companies have had to rapidly shift towards remote work policies with varying results. Given Chicago’s thriving technology and business communities, we wanted to examine how local companies have successfully adopted remote work policies and how those policies may progress in the future months. We spoke with Matt Mead, Chief Technology Officer at SPR Consulting, about trends and predictions around remote work in Chicago.

Can you provide an overview of how the Chicago technology & business scenes are adjusting to remote work models in light of COVID-19?

Fortunately, many tech companies and groups with companies that are tech-heavy were not strangers to remote work technologies— even before COVID. As a result, the transition to working remotely has been less impactful than most assumed. While working with our clients on various technology initiatives, we’ve had no significant issues moving previously onsite engagements into the virtual realm.

However, working remotely does take more effort to keep all necessary stakeholders and team members up to speed. Fortunately, there are almost ubiquitously adopted tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Slack that make the transition easier and keep all people in the loop by leveraging features that allow synchronous virtual meetings mixed with asynchronous threaded communication.

What are the challenges that are being faced by the tech/business community in the wake of COVID-19?

There are two primary challenges facing the tech and business communities in the wake of COVID-19:

  • With a now-remote workforce, the many cultural differences between different tech companies, such as free lunches, on-site gyms, etc. aren’t as important. As a result, COVID is starting to level the playing field between employers.
  • At the same time amid COVID, we’re actually seeing technology workers continue to change jobs. Entering the pandemic, we assumed most tech workers would stay put and value the inherent job security of a tighter labor market, but that hasn’t been the case. What’s most surprising is that the required networking and interviewing is being done almost exclusively virtually and it is proving to be effective.

How has the pandemic impacted hiring patterns and processes? (For example, have employers increased their geographic reach in trying to find candidates?)

We’re starting to see technology workers look at wider geography for their next jobs, as most companies are working remotely for the foreseeable future.

By being able to apply now for more jobs that are now remote,  tech workers still expect to be able to drive up their salary as they compete for jobs in higher-paying markets. However, employers think they can drive down their salaries and costs by competing for employees in markets that pay lower. From what we’ve seen so far, it seems the workers are winning, as they are able to work anywhere and are demanding higher salaries in more expensive markets. This ultimately has the ripple effect of raising salaries in all markets, given that everyone is fishing in the same pond for this pool of potential employees.

Finally, as many companies adopt technology and digital tools to enhance collaboration and communication, how do you see this adoption impacting how companies function during – and potentially after – this pandemic?

We can expect most tech companies to continue to present more remote work opportunities than pre-COVID, mostly due to companies having positive experiences managing their remote workforces. As a result, CFOs are now questioning whether the cost of their lease and/or real estate is worth it.

However, this is not the death of the physical office. We also expect that most companies will continue to have a physical space, but their in-office requirements will be less stringent than pre-COVID, as some workers will continue to operate remotely.

Thanks again to Matt Mead of SPR for sharing his time and thoughts. If you have questions or comments, please leave them below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. If you want to contact us privately, please use this email form. As always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

October 7, 2020 at 9:20 am

Best of 2019 in Review

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Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

To be honest…the first half of 2019 had minimal activity on the blog. Part of it was moving past the infrequent posting in 2018 (yes, I did develop a content calendar…but caregiving duties and other things kept me away from the keyboard).

However,  I wanted to focus on finding social media and copywriting consulting work as well as my pulp fiction writing. However, as 2019 progressed I found that I could balance creativity and caregiving, and managed to carve out some great working relationships through blogging. (If you’ve noticed, the “Meet Your Neighbor” posts increased steadily through 2019).

But enough of my bragging…just like last year, these are the best posts of 2019. In reviewing these posts. I have chosen one per month (luckily, only one month has had one single post) and chose a random quote. They’ve all been linked, but you’re always welcome to choose your other favorite post about technology, social change, and the greater Chicago community. Here’s the best of 2019 in review – enjoy!

January – Think of it as the dark side of “clickbait” and “viral memes” – online information designed not just to engage, but to sow dissension amongst users.

February – One of the most brutal effects of this past winter has been its effect on my caregiving and my own self-care…and nearly cost me my sense of connection with others.

March – They were kind enough to share their video of my experiences…and via the magic of YouTube, I’m sharing it with you 

teddy-heidt-sidebarApril – With a mission-driven impulse towards collaboration and community, the Gauge Collective under Teddy Heidt’s leadership provides a great example for other businesses – and even some digital agencies – to emulate.

May – Over ten years ago, I attended a “free weekend” run by a local “business coaching” organization. Given some of their tactics at the time, I believe I dodged a bullet.

June –  In a business landscape that is becoming more focused on greater social benefit, there is also a greater need for introspection and honest self-exploration about their own potential complicity in fostering systemic issues

July – Driving social change through small acts is a radical idea: these acts can have ripple effects and enable people to make a huge change via small actions.

August – “For Seke Ballard, the emerging cannabis industry does not just provide great opportunities for business growth; it also serves to back Ballard’s principle that “the free flow of capital is the lifeblood of any community”.

September – In short, caregiving is no longer a “journey” – it’s a destination 

Raks Geek

Raks Geek

October – Because we ourselves come from marginalized groups, we know how important it is to have spaces that are truly welcoming, spaces where you’re able to belong, where your full humanity is respected and loved. Honestly, because of who we are, building an inclusive community has been easy for us.

November – Belmont Cragin is one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets: it’s a neighborhood that has been experiencing a renaissance.

December –  Legal resources for low income and underrepresented tenants can alleviate housing concerns, especially since eviction filing rates are higher in neighborhoods of color which lack such resources.

Here’s to a happy, healthy 2020! If you have questions or want to say “hello”, you’re more than welcome to join us on our Facebook page or email me directly via this contact form. (I also have a personal web site and online portfolio for your review as well). And as always, thank you so much for reading!

Have a wonderful, Happy New Year!

Meet Your Neighbor: & Chicago Tenants

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(Special thanks to Hanna Kaufman of the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois for her time and insight)

Navigating landlord/tenant issues can be tricky for many Chicago apartment renters and can be especially complicated for people in low-income areas. Getting landlords to make necessary repairs or negotiating the return of a security deposit can be difficult, but tenants facing eviction often lack critical resources including representation. Legal resources for low income and underrepresented tenants can alleviate housing concerns, especially since eviction filing rates are higher in neighborhoods of color which lack such resources. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Hanna Kaufman of the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois about, a new site that empowers Chicago tenants to exercise their rights and negotiate the legal process.

A collaborative effort between the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois, the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) and Illinois Legal Aid Online, is an online tool that allows Chicago tenants to think through a problem, develop appropriate letters and other documents, and get referred to legal services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (Tenants can also text ‘Hi’ to 866-7RENTER to access the tool as the YouTube video demonstrates). Although limited to issues around repairs/conditions that affect livability and safety, security deposits, and eviction, Rentervention helps tenants through the process through using chatbots to determine the source of an issue and referring them to a “virtual clinic” (staffed by two full-time lawyers) for more extensive issues. (Although virtual clinic lawyers are available during normal business hours, Rentervention is working on after-hour access to attorneys).

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

In its first six months, Rentervention has made a significant impact in addressing the imbalance of legal resources between Chicago landlords and tenants, as well as helping guide people towards needed resources. By casting a wide net in their outreach, ensures that everyone – including low-income residents – were able to access appropriate legal services and tools. Highlights of the site’s overall impact include

  • Rentervention has been used in two-thirds of all Chicago zip codes, including 60647 (Logan Square), 60619 (Chatham), 60615 (Hyde Park), 60626 (Rogers Park)
    and 60611 (downtown)
  • 40% of Rentervention users have focused on concerns related to building conditions.
  • Rentervention users have spent 47 cumulative hours on the site, crafted 79 letters to send to landlords and downloaded tenant guides 127 times.

One of the more intricate tasks that Rentervention performs for Chicago tenants is assisting people in negotiating complicated situations in a scalable, sophisticated manner. As Ms. Kaufman explained, criminal law advocates for the notion that everyone is entitled to a lawyer, yet civil law (which involves issues such as housing, domestic violence, and custody among others) does not guarantee representation. When examining legal activity around evictions between landlords and tenants from 2010 to 2017, LCBH discovered that landlords were represented  79% of the time, while tenants had attorneys 11% of the time. Sixty-two (62) percent of tenants without legal representation had their cases result in eviction, while only 22% of cases with legal aid attorneys ended in eviction orders.

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

The other major impact that Rentervention has had on landlord/tenant legal concerns is the remediation of cases before they head into a formal court setting. Tenants who are seeking needed repairs in their apartment can use Rentervention to craft a formal letter to their landlord and avoid seeking legal redress. Knowing whether certain landlord/tenant policies applied to them provides Chicago tenants who use Rentervention an opportunity to understand their responsibilities. Finally, with relative anonymity and access via laptop or mobile device, Chicago tenants in low-income neighborhoods have the ability to engage and access legal services that may not be immediately available.

When I lived in St. Louis,  I became familiar with property management issues through writing a policy white paper on malicious landlords and problem properties. Negotiating landlord/tenant issues can be especially difficult but as Hanna Kaufman of the Lawyers Trust Fund informed me, is working exactly as everyone involved had hoped. Although limited in its scope, is ensuring that Chicago tenants know their rights under the law and have resources to exercise those rights. With housing issues becoming increasingly prevalent in current times, it is very heartening to know that there are tools like that enable and empower every Chicago resident.

Thoughts or questions? Please leave your comments below or join the conversation via our Facebook page. Please check out other entries in our “Meet Your Neighbor” series or contact us directly via this email form.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

December 11, 2019 at 11:07 am

Belmont Cragin: One Chicago Neighborhood’s Renaissance

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Belmont Cragin is one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets: it’s a neighborhood that has been experiencing a renaissance. This renaissance was driven by a collaboration between the Northwest Side Housing Center and LISC Chicago which engaged community residents around community and neighborhood development in drafting a Quality of Life Plan (QLP). As Jose Quilles (the blue-shirted man in the photo above) explained,

LISC Chicago has been working with the Northwest Side Housing Center (NWSHC) and other neighborhood partners for several years on the Belmont Cragin Quality-of-Life Plan (QLP), and published the first-ever QLP created by the neighborhood in 2016. The planning process helped engage local residents to organize, then realize, a collective vision for their community’s future,” said Jake Ament, LISC’s Neighborhood Network Director. “The drive of neighborhood leaders and organizations working together on a single roadmap shone a spotlight on the strong assets but clear needs of Belmont Cragin—making many of the initial projects envisioned a reality and leveraging over $170 million in investments in just three years.”

Recently, we interviewed James Rudyk, Jr. Executive Director of Northwest Side Housing Center, which is the lead agency for the Belmont Cragin Quality of Life Plan, for his insights into the process.

How did you get involved in developing the Quality of Life (QLP) plan?

The NWSHC began talking with LISC-Chicago in 2013 sharing the needs that we were seeing in the community and our ideas for proposed solutions. We believed that the establishment of a QLP would help organize and assemble resources needed in the community to help the community combat issues of increased violence, gentrification and displacement, and much-needed resources for our youth. After three years of working with LISC, we were selected as the lead agency of the Belmont Cragin QLP in 2015 and began the planning process. As a result, we created the first-ever community plan for Belmont Cragin from 2016-2018. We are currently in the process of working to update the QLP for 2020-2025. 

As a member of the Belmont Cragin community, how do you perceive the process of developing the QLF Plan?

Jose Quiles is an active community member, and Quality of Life Plan participant, and was key to the organizing campaign for one of the biggest QLP achievements: a new elementary school. He shared, “This [the NWSHC] is the only organization I see where the community takes the lead. We gave birth to Mary Lyon Elementary in 1995 because of overcrowding, and here we are in 2019 with the same problem. But when the community speaks out and the mayor hears us, that’s a victory itself.”

What current and potential benefits are you experiencing personally or professionally?

Since our QLP in partnership with LISC-Chicago, we have invested over $170 million dollars in Belmont Cragin including additional community resources, affordable housing, a new public elementary school, and community center. We have seen a more united community that is also more resilient, able to withstand and bounce back from trauma and adverse experiences. We have also seen the community become more engaged and organized uniting to secure additional resources around a common agenda that has brought additional investment from Chicago Cares, Lurie’s Children’s Hospital, CDOT, Chicago Park District, the Chicago Fire, and Chicago Public Schools.

Finally, how do you expect the QLP plan to affect Belmont Cragin in the future?

We are changing the way in which community planning happens, instead of a top-down approach in which decisions are made by those in power for communities, we are identifying and responding to the needs of the community and developing resident leaders to lead the planning process. This changes the inherent power imbalance between community members and those in power. Through this process the community will remain educated, engaged, and empowered for years to come.

Community and neighborhood engagement work most effectively when residents and stakeholders involved are included in the process. When discussing the success of the Belmont Cragin Quality of Life Plan, the most successful strategy that Northwest Side Housing Center and LISC Chicago implemented was engaging neighborhood residents in the planning process. Thanks to these efforts, Belmont Cragin receives a variety of benefits which include

Such changes only result from a spirit of collaboration and cooperation. Thanks to that spirit, Belmont Cragin is one Chicago neighborhood that’s experiencing a renaissance.

Please join the conversation in the comments below or via our Facebook page. If you need to email us directly, please use this contact form.

And as always, thanks for reading!

An Open Letter to

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We need to have a serious talk.

Many people, professional organizations, nonprofits, and other social endeavors rely on your service for a basic community-building tool that provides event planning, RSVP, member contact, and other services for a small price. (I should know – I use meetup to organize groups around caregiving, coworking, and Doctor Who). You’re recovering from a recent service outage on your site, and although your acquisition by WeWork has led to further growth…you’ve also had some hiccups. (Like, in retrospect, adopting “Resist” groups as part of your philosophy.) But in short… has way too many faults and issues, making it very hard on organizers to use your service. And worse, you rarely listen to Meetup organizers when they provide feedback, choosing to charge ahead rather than allow Meetup to become a truly effective community-building tool.

For example, customer service – when I received an e-mail from “Katie at Meetup” about a billing problem, I e-mailed her back with some information as well as my follow-up. Suffice it to say, I received an autoresponse that suggested articles that might “help” me solve my problem. After reaching out via Twitter, I was fortunate to get another employee to respond – an actual flesh and blood person. (Although I have to say that although your Twitter outreach is excellent, you might want to rethink how Meetup engages on Facebook. Too few posts and too many complaints about site functionality.

An example of Meetup's customer engagement

An example of Meetup’s customer engagement

And speaking of site functionality and user experience – several years ago, you asked a few Meetup organizers (including myself) to beta test a new format for the site. We did, and we gave you honest feedback: we hated it. But you went ahead and implemented it, and the site is a mix of high-end “kewl” graphics that make it difficult for us to promote our events…and back end graphic interfaces that were out of date in the late 1990s. Even now, Meetup’s web site seems built more for people to find “last minute” events (which make planning difficult) rather than build and engage a community. (Speaking from experience, two-thirds of my two largest Meetup groups have not attended a Meetup in the last two years, and purging them is a long, arduous process).

Although Meetup has some basic social media functionality (such as posting to Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin), the ability to generate a Facebook Event page from a Meetup event would be especially beneficial in driving traffic and membership to our Meetup site. After all, Eventbrite allows that, and they’re free (with limitations). Sure, I could create an Eventbrite page for a Meetup event and then generate a Facebook Event…but if I’m attempting to drive traffic to a Meetup group, wouldn’t it make more sense to streamline the process? And Meetup will sometimes send e-mails about upcoming events to members while organizers send similar e-mails; wouldn’t it be wiser to give organizers a reason to further invest in Meetup? (People can join and use Meetup for free, and with your pricing system based on the number of members…well, we can’t easily purge absent members, and so we’re stuck paying for members who do not engage our community yet are unable or unwilling to leave).


That’s part of the problem that many organizers (including myself) see with – you ask organizers (who pay to use the service) for feedback, and then ignore our feedback. As paying users of Meetup, that behavior demonstrates poor customer service as well as a short-sighted approach to online and offline community building. Especially given the fact that Meetup “owns” a group’s data – after all, trying to funnel an entire community through one platform should mean a greater willingness to empower organizers and users to engage more effectively.

I can see the counter-argument from some who are reading this open letter: “But Gordon, if Meetup is so ineffective and you’re not reaching all of your members, why not switch?”. Ironically, Meetup’s philosophy of aggressively recruiting new members without any further incentive results in a passive audience who believes themselves to be reliant on the service. (I have asked my Meetup members about options; few are willing to switch over entirely). Besides, the point of investing in Meetup for many organizations is that the site alleviates and streamlines the work of online and offline community building…and with the service focusing more on entrepreneurship and community building as a business rather than a social function, Meetup is slowly becoming a relic. Soon, Meetup will be joining services like Friendster, MySpace, Prodigy and Compuserve as electronic communities that quickly became outdated and obsolete without acknowledging the needs of modern users.

I don’t expect you to do anything, Meetup, and that’s the sad thing…there’s no vision, no discernable leadership, no other mission other than growth. For organizers like myself, the possibility of switching to another service is difficult but possible. But for those individuals who are seeking support, small organizations looking to build advocates, and nonprofit organizations looking to mobilize…your apathy and nonresponsiveness are particularly telling. And once you leave, they will be stuck.

Thanks for listening,
Gordon Dymowski
Chicago Now’s One Cause At a Time

Written by gordondym

June 5, 2019 at 8:46 am

Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition Wins Adult Literacy XPRIZE Communities Competition

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 Last week, I wrote about the Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition and their efforts to drive both digital and healthcare literacy in the city. In my previous post, I mentioned that the CCLC focuses on digital literacy as well as workforce development and healthcare literacy. As I mentioned in last week’s post, technology is at the forefront of their activities.

… the Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition uses a blended model of community-based centers using technology. Although the CCLC does use apps to assist learners in developing their skills, providing a social/interactive environment not only allows those users to thrive but provides them with the support and motivation to stay on track.

The Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition demonstrates a strong determination to integrate technology, community, and literacy in their work. It was that determination to make an impact that led the CCLC to apply for – and win a milestone award in the Adult Literacy XPRIZE Communites Competition.


As a global leader in designing and operating innovative competition models, XPRIZE focuses on efforts to make a positive impact on the world. With its focus on reaching the underserved adult learner community (only 2 million of the 36 million adults in need are served by existing adult literacy programs[1]), the CCLC thought the Communities Competition would be a method to increase its capacity. Although the CLCC believes it is only reaching ten percent of its total capacity, it also sees huge potential in integrating technology solutions for adult learning and encouraging the development of mobile apps to allow people to improve their skills independently. As a result of being a competitor in the Adult Literacy XPRIZE Communities Competition, next week CCLC will give individuals a code to download and use the Learning Upgrade mobile app to use for building their literacy skills.

With three million adults in Illinois lacking education beyond high school, the economic and social benefits of the CCLC’s work cannot be understated. It is expected that more than 67% of jobs in Illinois will require postsecondary education or training by 2020. Adult literacy and education can provide $2.50 in return for every $1.00 of Illinois tax money spent, saving the state millions and reducing the need for state-funded programs like Medicaid, corrections, housing unemployment, SNAP, and public aid.

Join the conversation by making a conversation on our Facebook page, or make comments below. And as always, thanks for reading!

[1] Source: Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education. 2018, August 15

Five Years of Chicago TARDIS Charity Auction Planning

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It’s really hard to believe that this will be my fifth year as Chicago TARDIS Charity Auction director. (Chicago TARDIS, for those of you who are unaware, is a Doctor Who-themed convention that happens every November in Lombard). Not only does it support Northern Illinois Food Bank, but it’s also a way for me to enjoy the convention on a different level. For example, there’s always the great assortment of fan-created and donated items and cosplay that I get to see on a regular basis (check out the gallery below)


But more importantly, the work that goes into the Chicago TARDIS charity auction not only allows me to feel fulfilled professionally…but also helps me feel valued, and that my values and ethics – like that of Doctor Who – are being reflected

My professional background involves community building and engagement – living in St. Louis, it meant engaging the community directly face-to-face, attending meetings, and building programs (And usually involved tobacco)  Here in Chicago, it has been mostly through social media…and although yes, I have volunteered off and on, my professional and family commitments have meant that my time is precious. Working the Chicago TARDIS charity auction has allowed me to master both worlds – engaging friends, colleagues, and others to help through item donations, spreading the word via social media and general moral support.

But it’s also the smaller moments – when Mat Irvine (who worked on special effects for the classic series of Doctor Who) donated a communicator prop from the story Warriors of the Deep. Getting to know a wide variety of people who have some curiosity about what we’re offering. And most importantly….building that sense of community. It’s no wonder that we’ve raised over $10,000 over the past five years.

So now, how can you help? Here are a few suggestions:

  • If you have any great fan-created Doctor Who items or memorabilia, please drop me a line at or use my contact me page for an additional level of anonymity
  • Make a direct donation via our new online portal at
  • Note – this year, we are not collecting food items, mostly because we’re not only seeing a decline in food item donations, but many food banks prefer the cash
  • Spread this note via social media…getting the word out helps us reach a wider range of potential donors and sponsors.

But for me, the best thing about running the Chicago TARDIS charity auction is how it reflects my own values…and the values of the show. In the recent series closer, Peter Capaldi (as the 12th Doctor) gives a speech that strikes at the very heart of our current experience:



If you’ve caught the news at any point in the past six months, you’re acutely aware at the amount of dissension, conflict, and anger. One side has made it clear that anyone who embraces diversity, equality, and addressing the changing nature of our community deserves to be persecuted and punished. Divisiveness and hatred are threatening to tear our social fabric into shreds…and that for many of us, kindness is not just warranted, it’s needed to maintain some sense of sanity in an ever-increasingly belligerent society.

That’s ultimately why I enjoy running the Chicago TARDIS charity auction – entering data, entering past inventory, following up with bidders, all of this isn’t merely because I enjoy a free convention. (Because I love working conventions). It’s because, in my own small way, I get to show kindness. My current experience is split between caring for my mother, trying to acquire new freelance work, and keeping current with freelance assignments. My social life is slowly, but surely, improving..but it’s easy for me to get stuck in that narrow mindset. The Chicago TARDIS charity auction is a great opportunity for me to express my own personal values: compassion, empathy, inclusion, and kindness….in a way that allows me to engage my fandom and make a greater impact on the community. Being Chicago TARDIS charity auction director allows me to express my values and engage in the kind of community building work that I love…

Because where I stand is where fall.

Please leave your comments below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. Comments are moderated.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

September 15, 2017 at 11:03 am

Meet Your Neighbor: My Block My Hood My City on August 19th

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Every once in awhile, this blog highlights some great organizations that make a positive impact on the city of Chicago and its neighborhoods. In the past, we have highlighted Chicago Cares and its efforts to engage residents and volunteers on improving our community. On August 19th, there is a great opportunity to make an impact…and in times like these, we need opportunities for connection on collaboration.

This Saturday, Chicago Cares will be partnering with My Block My Hood My City and other organizations  and looking for volunteers to serve the Woodlawn community through various beautification service projects. Check-in and kickoff will be held at the Jackson Park Field House, with volunteers then engaging in service throughout the morning. (You’ll be sent to various sites throughout the Woodlawn neighborhood). Projects include community gardens, park and lot clean up sites,  and a mosaic project with Green Star Movement, and all projects will be within walking distance of Jackson Park Field House.

Here are some of the fine details:

It’s a real privilege to focus on great events like this that build collaboration, communication, and community. We’re more than happy to boost the signal, and hope that you can make it.

Please feel free to leave comments below or join the conversation via our Facebook page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

August 16, 2017 at 3:45 pm

App Camp for Girls: Follow Up

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(Special thanks to App Camp for Girls for the invitation)

When I wrote my initial post about App Camp for Girls, I was hoping to not just draw attention…but also drive attendance. When they invited me to attend their pitch event on July 28th at 8th Light, I was even more curious. After all, what did the end results for teaching girls how to code look like? Impressive, as the gallery at the end of this post shows.

But now, the fine details: three different teams of girls were selected to “pitch” to a panel of local judges which included:

All of the apps were quiz apps…but with a nice, fun approach. Teams were asked to provide background on the apps, as well as their marketing plan, how they would finance their apps, and identifying their target market for the app. (In short, App Camp for Girls helped these teams learn and practice skills for “real world” applications. Teams and their apps included

  • Ducks That Code, who created an app called Dino Survival, which helps people who find themselves trapped in Jurassic Park;
  • Blue Lemurs From France, who created a quiz that lets you determine your Spirit Animal (and which indicates that my personal spirit animal is a hippo); and
  • Lettuce4Pie who created an emergency preparedness app called Raining Duck-Tastrophe, which assesses a person’s ability to cope should there be a torrent of ducks raining from the sky.

Although it sounds like I’m making light of this, I would like to emphasize that App Camp for Girls’ mission is to engage middle school students in learning how to code. Having tested these apps myself (mobile devices were provided to the audience), I found them very well done, with a great attention to detail….and fun. Many industries are working towards gender diversity in the workplace and the Chicago tech scene is welcoming App Camp for Girls as a critical partner.

In short, I was glad to take part – even in a small way – in helping App Camp for Girls establish a presence in Chicago. They’re a great resource for the Chicago area, and hopefully, we’ll see them again next year.

Have any other suggestions for great tech resources? Know organizations that could use exposure? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below, reach out to me privately via e-mail, or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

And as always, thanks for reading!


Written by gordondym

July 31, 2017 at 11:42 am