Here’s ChicagoWRKS TV (aka Chicago FIXIT)

Chicago Civic Media
5 min readJul 18, 2019


by Steve Sewall (7/18/19)

It’s TV that actually moves Chicago forward.
ChicagoWRKS (formerly ChicagoFIXIT): TV to move Chicago forward.

ChicagoWRKS is civic-purposed, citizen-participatory, voter-driven Reality TV. It exists to help Chicago solve violence, not just reduce it. In this process it keeps Chicagoans of all ages and backgrounds on the edge of their seats playing a smart, digital-age version of the great game of voter-driven democracy.

It’s an instance of participatory democracy whose solutions to violence feeds into the larger structure of our representative democracy as recommendations to elected officials. Its outcomes, in the form of best solutions to systemic issues like violence determined by viewer votes, are submitted on a advisory basis City Hall for possible implementation following many weeks of compelling yet carefully vetted on-air deliberations.

This process enables Chicago to supplement and enhance its existing election-centered system of representative democracy with a citizen-participatory component that gives Chicagoans an informed, ongoing and advisory voice in the government decisions that affect their lives.

The above graphic illustrates a 6-phase, 30 week season of ChicagoWRKS.

Phase I. Auditions. Conducted in a welcoming, all-inclusive spirit by a team of four competent, charismatic judges, six auditions are held citywide over a four-week period. TV newscasts cover WRKS as a novel and unprecedented opportunity for Chicagoans of all ages and backgrounds to contribute to the safety of their city. TV coverage highlights two program features: open-minded receptiveness to all approaches to violence and firmness with respect to the criteria to be used by judges in their evaluations of team performances.

Three features are key to these criteria:

  • The clarity, inclusiveness, cost-effectiveness and feasibility of a team’s solution to violence
  • A team’s ability to understand and respond intelligently to other, competing solutions
  • A team’s ability to cooperate as well as compete with other teams in developing — sometimes on the spot and in real time — best solutions to Chicago’s violence.

Phase II. Team training. auditions and then trains and showcases not individual singers but small, four-member teams of talented, telegenic Chicago problem solvers of all ages and backgrounds coming from all over the city. It’s all-inclusive.

In 2006 we discovered how easily the power of voter-driven reality TV shows like American Idol — with over 750,000 viewer votes cast in its tenth season alone — can be tweaked for civic purposes.

With America’s Choice, we created an issue-centered, citizen-participatory decision-making platform capable of enabling Americans and their political leaders to process the issues of the day rationally and productively.

ChicagoWRKS is a localized version of America’s Choice.

The idea is for all Chicagoans to see themselves, their leaders and their best thinkers interacting publicly in ways that make Chicago safer and eventually SAFE. As safe as New York. The ChicagoWRKS drama moves from hostile confrontation to close listening to hard thinking and then to collaborative solutions.

After being trained in ChicagoWRKS’ rules and problem-solving procedures, small problem-solving teams of Chicagoans of all ages and backgrounds compete and cooperate with each other in contested, televised searches for best solutions, large and small, to violence and other systemic problems.

ChicagoNV’s rules reward teams that demonstrate the ability to compete anfd cooperate with other teams. By bringing out the best in all participants — especially the ability to listen to and learn from others — these rules enable Chicago’s current and future leaders to act in the best interests of the people and city of Chicago.

ChicagoWRKS is a training (and playing) ground for the good citizenship that inspired Chicago’s visionary city planner, Daniel Burnham, to create the Plan of Chicago.

ChicagoWRKS’ rules are structured to earn the same high levels of respect and trust from Chicagoans and City Hall that rule-governed telecasts of Chicago’s beloved sports teams have earn from competing athletes, team owners, sports media and sports fans alike.

Its rules are modeled on those of sports telecasts: on the three-tier rule structure — of on-field rules and referees, of remote umpiring with instant replays, and of expert play-by-play commentary — that sports telecasts use to earn and maintain the respect and trust of the public.

Trust is everything! Chicago’s attitude to violence will morph from apathy and despair to energy and confidence when all Chicagoans can access trustworthy violence-solving media content and programming. Programming that is

  • Ongoing, issue-centered and outcome-focused, so Chicago can accomplish great things, like making itself safer than New York
  • Smart and inclusive to enable Chicagoans to listen to and learn from each other. In a political era of mind-numbing, election-time TV attack ads, civic media values and gives voice to the native intelligence of all Chicagoans.
  • Dialogic and public-spirited in order to make all Chicagoans (including City Hall) responsive and accountable to each other in shaping Chicago’s best future
  • Dynamic, exciting and inspiring in ways that enable an industrial-age I Will City to proudly reinvent itself as a digital-age We Will City.

Chicago TV’s rules effectively make informed problem-solvers of everyone. They keep the program impartial, non-partisan, non-ideological, issue-centered and impressively transparent.

Winning solutions (and teams), while routinely and continuously vetted on air by thoughtful experts and concerned citizens, are ultimately chosen by viewer votes following each 60-minute telecast.

ChicagoWRKS submits winning solutions to City Hall on a strictly advisory basis, thereby duly subordinating its issue-centered, citizen-participatory proceedings to Chicago’s candidate-centered election system.

ChicagoWRKS transforms Chicago politics virtually overnight. It transforms Chicago’s moribund industrial-age representative democracy to a vibrant information-age participatory/representative democracy.

Chicago’s media cover and critique ChicagoWRKS’ competitive drive to solve violence as enthusiastically and profitably as they cover and critique the championship drives of Chicago’s beloved sports teams.

Before long, other cities nationwide are replicating Chicago’s informal, high-functioning digital-age civic infrastructure.

As a deliberative power-sharing platform, scalable ChicagoWRKS operates at local, state and national levels. Once successful in Chicago, there is every reason for it to serve as democracy’s best response to the recent rise of autocratic, top-down, so-called populist governments worldwide.

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Steve Sewall, Ph.D., is a Chicago educator and Director of Chicago Civic Media.



Chicago Civic Media

Making citizens and governments responsive and accountable to each other at all levels of government with impartial, problem-solving political discourse.