Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m part of the Microsoft Technology & Corporate Responsibility Cities Team. We work with local and national partners in cities in the U.S. to strengthen metropolitan communities and regions and contribute to local opportunities and economic growth. At Microsoft, we see how cities and counties are working at the intersection of people, programs, policy, and technology in ways that are creative, solution-oriented and highly impactful. Our team focuses on helping apply Microsoft resources, expertise, and networks to advance the effectiveness and awareness of these local initiatives and priorities.
As a Civic Engagement Manager I bring the most relevant resources that Microsoft can offer to Boston and the civic organizations that create our innovation ecosystem – non-profit to academic to startup and more.
Can you tell us about the Technology and Civic Engagement work going on at Microsoft? What opportunities/challenges are you hoping to address?
Civic Engagement for Microsoft in Boston aims to support the issues most important to the City of Boston including:
• Economic development through support of startups and access to jobs in tech
• Civic Technology, The use of technology to improve services to citizens, transparency of government and increase use of data
• Education with a focus on increasing access to Computer Science in K-12.
Given the nature of the work, projects and partnerships span a lot of different areas. What are some projects you’re excited about these days?
There are so many exciting things happening in Boston! I’m excited about our current cohort of Civic Tech Scholarship Recipients at MassChallenge. I’m thinking a lot about how we can connect students and schools to industry through teachers and internships across the tech community. And I’m thrilled to be joining the BARI Advisory Council to focus on the role of data to support the city and specifically to be working on the plans for the Spring Conference.
Civic Tech Coffee is one of BARI’s favorite civic tech events. Can you describe the motivation behind starting the group? How can others get involved?
Our work sits at the intersection of government, industry, academia and non-profit. As a result, we have the opportunity to meet a really broad cross section of people in Boston. But not all of those people know each other. We partner with Venture Café to convene people interested in civic innovation – whether that is civic tech, civic media, citizen services, data, community engagement. Civic tech coffee is a lightly structured networking meet-up that takes place at District Hall. The next coffee is on November 30 at 8:30AM. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to my mailing list.
There is also a Civic Tech Fellowship! Can you describe the program, and tell us a little about the fellows?
The Civic Tech Fellows supplement Microsoft’s engagement with community groups, the tech sector, and government officials in the greater Boston area through implementation of Microsoft technology for civic impact. For example one of our fellows worked with Somerville Public Schools to enable data visualization through power BI. Another fellow partnered with Venture Café in to build an Azure based database to track success metrics for District Hall. We look for fellows with technical skills alongside a passion for sending innovation. The fellowship runs in the summertime so I will begin looking for summer fellows in January timeframe.
What would you suggest someone do if they were looking to get more involved in the civic tech space?
For people who want to get more involved in the civic text space, I have three recommendations:
1. Choose your areas of interest. Identify what topics interest you. Is it housing, transportation, education?Pick something you care about.
2. Engage with a local nonprofit. Whatever the issue you care about, there’s a nonprofit that could use your support. Learn more about these organizations and how you can help.
3. Show up. Boston is the host to many fantastic civic events. Take a look at starthub (http://www.starthub.org/) or the Boston calendar (http://www.thebostoncalendar.com/) to find an event that meets your interests.
Things on the horizon we should keep an eye out for?
As I read the news, some of the topics I scan for include:
• Boston’s mayoral election
• Boston 2040
• Build BPS
• Brand new Chief Digital Officer for the city
• New Urban mechanics work
To keep up with the Microsoft team, check out their blog here: https://blogs.microsoft.com/newengland//