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Civic Tech Toronto hacknight: July 28

Second hacknight! 18 participants!

Presenter: Dorothy Eng

Breakout groups:

  • [idea] Online database of accessibility of private venues – Rachel
  • [challenge] Making sense of Toronto city budget – Henrik
  • [challenge] Housing data – (see Bianca)
  • [idea] ON legislation tracker – Amanda
  • [idea] Mapping shared spaces + innovation districts – Caitlin

7 thoughts on “Civic Tech Toronto hacknight: July 28”

  1. Topic: Mapping Accessible Venues – Toronto
    Participants: Rachel, Waeza, Jason, Russell, Bianca
    User: all


    Currently, there does not appear to be a simple, unified way to gain basic information about accessible private venues that are open later than 9PM, such as restaurants, bars, concert and other event venues, etc. This creates a problem where many people experience barriers to attending events due to where they are held.

    Private venues are the focus of this project because they do not always fall under the same compliance regimes as public spaces, and these are specifically the spaces that are most often available for evening gatherings. Additionally, while many public venues are accessible and available, few are open later in the evening for gatherings.

    Challenge #1 – Invisible information
    – there are venues that are accessible, but we may not know about them

    Challenge #2 – Incomplete information
    – there are venues listed as “wheelchair accessible” but what qualifies these venues as ‘accessible’ is unclear

    Challenge #3 – Lack of an interface for disseminating this information
    – even if this information is out there, the team does not know of a unified resource for bringing it together
    need has been expressed for this type of resource at the provincial level

    Challenge #4 – Accessibility beyond the physical venue
    – what about places that are typically difficult to access by public transportation?


    1/ Is anyone else mapping the city’s accessible venues, or doing something close to this?
    2/ Who would know whether this is being done, and how can we help to build or extend their work?
    3/ How have people defined accessibility?
    4/ What other work (knowledge, applications, etc) can we build on?

    Next steps:
    – shared working document with the rest of the group (prefer to keep to direct group sharing as there is contact info in the doc)
    – to-dos assigned for further research and problem refinement

    1. Hey Rachel,

      Just came across this today – looks like someone is working on something similar, but the description is pretty vague. Might be worth it to get in touch and find out what exactly they’re planning to map out?

  2. Hi Y’all: I’ve compiled some research on ‘urban tech’ writ large – this research is not specific to any of the projects pitched tonight. Rather, it’s an aggregation of some of the exciting things that are happening in this space, categorized thematically. I’m hoping it will be useful as a resource. It is by no means exhaustive – please feel free to add info, thoughts, questions, etc. Link:

  3. Workgroup: Making Sense of City of Toronto Budget
    Participants: Henrik, Asher, Matthew

    Prior to today’s session I had assembled some background information, including my ‘better taxonomy’ work (see comment from July 21 meeting), but particularly from who have done a ton of work in this area. The paper includes draft material on mission, mandate, status, workgroup, design tools, some relevant questions, and resources. For details see

    In introducing the session, I noted that the City of Toronto’s operating budget for 2015 was about $11.5B, and this budget had increased by about 35% in inflation adjusted dollars since 2003. There were two particular areas where I thought citizens could contribute – debate of policies and priorities as represented in the budget, and local neighbourhood or ward budget requirements. Another important area that could be addressed by citizens was the efficiency and effectiveness of city expenditures, based on their own experiences.

    I suggested that the topic is so vast the next step should be to focus on finding opportunities of projects we could undertake that could make a constructive impact on the annual city budget process. These projects should be realistic to build and deliver in a reasonable amount of time.

    During the meeting, we generated a number of ideas for consideration:


    Inclusiveness (cultural communities)
    Policies and Priorities
    Local Services
    Efficiency and Effectiveness


    Brainstorm problems we could solve

    Project ideas:

    1. what can we do for councillors (like a councillor portal)

    2. community asset utilization
    map community assets
    commentary on existing assets
    request for new or revised assets
    cycling assets
    communicating information
    (forming alliances)

    3. program improvements (but this is may be outside budget scope)

    4. participatory budgeting – ward citizens vote on where local capital budget goes
    next steps read bbto section
    city analyst notes for toronto
    brainstorm on this, and review such processes operating elsewhere

    5. budget taxonomy
    interactive visualization
    must look professional
    content driven

    6. toronto budget process information portal – a convenient way for citizens to find out how they can participate in the budget process

    7. front line worker portal as ‘suggestion box’

    There was a general consensus that providing better access to budget information to the various participants was a good place to start, and that would be a good venue for this. This could be followed up by an attempt to encourage the city process itself to absorb and include some of the ideas or tools.

    The next step is to evaluate the ideas put forward one at a time. This might well take several sessions. Finally, decisions would be made about commitments to production.

    The process is open, and other interested parties are encouraged to participate, and can be invited by current workgroup members.

  4. Topic: Ontario legislation tracker
    Participants: Amanda, Curtis, Howard

    We reviewed some portions of the website together and it looks like pulling the data will be pretty easy – the information is posted in a standardized way, so we just need to figure out the data points.

    Other things to figure out:
    – What’s the minimum notice for posting order papers?
    – How soon after debate does the Hansard come out?
    – What kind of notice is given for posting committee agendas?
    – How exactly does one get on a committee’s agenda?

    Dream ideas/next phase ideas:
    – Pull out key amendments – why were they made? At what point in the process? And who proposed them?
    – Laws are legislation, but regulations are posted in the Gazette – phase 2 idea could incorporate these.

    Next step: schematize the documents, find common data points, look for universal contingencies.

  5. Update from Last Week – July 28th
    Topic: Mapping Toronto’s Shared Innovation Spaces (co-working spaces, hacklabs, makerspaces, etc.)
    Participants: Caitlin and Helen

    Following a great conversation about the context, objectives, and target audience for this type of resource, Helen and I landed on the following next steps:

    1.) Ascertain whether this type of tool exists in Toronto (don’t want to be duplicative) and whether it may exist in other cities (what can we learn?).

    We need to explore the following resources (and any others that may exist) further in order to determine whether what we are proposing is going to be a value add, and provide a unique approach/solution.

    City of Toronto’s Map of Business Support Eco-System: (IMO, it leaves out a lot of spaces/orgs I would want to include, and it is not very focused. Business support eco-system is a vague catch all term.)

    Co-working Toronto: (I think this is more along the lines of what we had in mind – we need to figure out whether it makes sense to collaborate with this existing initiative, or to continue to pursue our own project.)

    One important point that Helen and I discussed is target audience – we had discussed focusing on ‘extreme users’, people who are not as likely to be linked into networks where this info is commonly circulated. Older people, younger people, people who live outside of downtown, people are seeking diverse spaces (gender, sexual orientation, accessibility, race, ethnicity, etc.).

    So again, in analyzing existing tools, we need to ask (1.) is the information provided too vague or too focused for our purposes (do we still have a unique vertical?) and (2.) do the existing tools cater to the same target audience that we want to serve? is there overlap or is there room for something new?

    2.) Start creating a list of the spaces in Toronto we want to map. Shared doc accessible here (please feel free to add new spaces and orgs):

    3.) Determine partners/collaborators with whom we’d want to work (e.g. Is Coworking Toronto linked in to the Civic Tech network?)

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