Civic Exchange is a Chicago co-working space and learning community centered on how news, information and technology can increase democracy and freedom.

Latest news
Sept 17, 2019: Can startups help our civil society? Announcing Chicago’s first co-working hub dedicated to democracy and freedom


Founded in 2019, Civic Exchange is a collaborative effort of civic startup and non-profit founders from Block Club, BrightHive, The Center for Tech and Civic Life, Chalkbeat Chicago, Change Illinois, DataMade, Hearken and mRelief. Working across journalism, government, education and social services, these organizations are helping democratic institutions evolve to better serve the public.

How and Why We Came Together

Chicago has enjoyed a unique global impact due to its geography. Sitting at the crossroads of vital bodies of water, highways and rail systems, in 1865 the city became the home to the Union Stockyard, enabling the exchange of livestock to help nourish a growing America. Less than two decades later, the Chicago Stock Exchange was founded, transforming the country’s commerce and trade. As the global economy has shifted from physical goods to prizing the exchange of data and information, we see the next defining dimension of value generation. Chicago is again poised to contribute locally, regionally and globally.

We know from experience that change and innovation happen more quickly and more powerfully when people with a similar mission intentionally collide, collaborate and learn from each other. This is why Silicon Valley became what it is. And we believe Chicago has the DNA to become something else - the hotbed of civic innovation, process and practice.


In late 2018, the founders of Civic Exchange Chicago, Derek Eder (DataMade / Chi Hack Night) and Jennifer Brandel (Hearken / Zebras Unite), started looking to find like-minded organizations that were interested in sharing space, supporting each other and creating something bigger for the Chicago community. They heard from dozens of founders of civic organizations, and worked over the course of many months to align timelines, budgets and needs. In March 2019, the initial cohort of 8 organizations moved into a beautiful space in the Illinois Center at 233 N Michigan Ave.

Our Space

Located in the Illinois Center in the heart of downtown Chicago, Civic Exchange brings together civic innovators through our unique Exchanges with founders and communities.

We have a lovely events space for civic-related organizations available for rental. Learn more >

With support from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation