May 2015

Civic Chat: Networking our Neighborhoods — John Flavin, Executive Director of Chicago Innovation Exchange

Civic Chat: Networking our Neighborhoods — John Flavin, Executive Director of Chicago Innovation Exchange

Chicago is one of America’s fastest-growing hubs for innovation, and it’s due in great part to organizations like the Chicago Innovation Exchange (CIE). In Shelley Stern Grach’s latest episode of Civic Chat: Networking Our Neighborhoods, she speaks with John Flavin, CIE’s Executive Director. Over the years, CIE has supported business start-up activities and innovation for local community members and University of Chicago affiliates, bringing innovation to the forefront of our community and inspiring us all.

Watch Shelley’s chat with John Flavin live on MeetAdvisors.

Lake View High School Students Shine at STEM Learning Exchange Challenge

What happens when 600 innovative students come together in one room? Energy! Creativity! Can-do attitude! It’s great to see that across Illinois, there are hundreds of committed, driven students ready and able to solve every day STEM challenges.

The Illinois Science & Technology Institute (ISTI) hosted the Second Annual R&D STEM Learning Exchange Challenges Student Showcase on May 20, 2015, challenging students from 17 Illinois high schools to solve real-world problems in partnership with nine industry and academic partners. Microsoft’s Civic Technology & Engagement team joined the competition to witness students excited about research and development and careers in STEM fields.

This year’s Challenge addressed specific issues in science and technology, such as finding a way to provide power during a disaster or conducting a trade study for a missile defense system. Students have been working all year on the challenge, partnering directly with industry leaders to collect data and conduct experiments.

We are fortunate to support the amazing students and faculty of Lake View High School, an Early College STEM-focused high school that works closely with our local Microsoft team. In partnership with ISTI and Lake View High School faculty, Microsoft identified Water Management as a key, real-world Chicago program to solve. The students’ challenge was to use tools like sensors and analytics to diagnose and ultimately solve the water management issues in our community, which will help provide solutions for the greater Chicago region.

The ISTI Challenge was woven into the curriculum for multiple classes, and the students were grouped into several teams. We’d also like to congratulate the winning Lake View team, “Hydroswale” for their initiative in tackling the Challenge and bringing a steadfast solution to the public. The students developed a really creative approach to management water flow and cleanliness.


The students incorporated true STEM analysis, looking at various options, considering the benefits of various solutions prior to the development of the Hydroswale solution.


They also took a strong business approach, thinking through the benefits for the City of Chicago, the community, and taxpayers. Congratulations to the winning Lake View High School team of Kenia Maldonado, Oscar Rodriguez, Gavin Ou, Stephanie Vargas. Special thanks to Assistant Principal Angela Newton and Lake View Computer Science teachers Bernardo Juarez (Department Chair) and Bill Starzyk.

Lake View High School Students Shine at STEM Learning Exchange Challenge

Hats off to the hundreds of inspiring students who showed us the power of STEM education at the ISTI STEM Challenge. All the students are winners, and this outstanding process will serve them well as they further their education. Microsoft would also like to thank Mark Harris and Allie Barwise for their counsel, leadership and partnership on the ISTI STEM Challenge.

Welcoming Lake View High School Students and Partners at STEM Learning Exchange Challenge

The Illinois Science & Technology Institute (ISTI) is a 501(c)(3) public charity and an affiliated, complementary effort to the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition. The mission of the ISTI is to advance scientific understanding and technological innovation in Illinois through discovery, education, invention, and partnership. 

To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to youth and education, visit our YouthSpark Hub or follow us on twitter at @msftcitizenship.

Big Shoulders: Chris Whitaker, Midwest Brigade Coordinator at Code for America

Big Shoulders: Chris Whitaker, Midwest Brigade Coordinator at Code for America

In Adam Hecktman‘s latest episode of Big Shoulders, he showcases a local civic tech leader that goes above and beyond the call of duty as Midwest Brigade Coordinator at Code for America. Chris Whitaker has branches in all corners of civic technology in Chicago and we couldn’t be more thankful for it. From supporting civic hacking events to teaching a weekly Civic Hack class, he’s Chicago’s go-to civic technologist.

Watch Adam’s feature on Chris Whitaker live on MeetAdvisors.

Civic Chat: Networking our Neighborhoods — Marc Irlandez, Director of Information Technology and Life Labs at United Cerebral Palsy

Civic Chat: Networking our Neighborhoods — Marc Irlandez, Director of Information Technology and Life Labs at United Cerebral Palsy

Shelley Stern Grach‘s latest episode of Civic Chat: Networking Our Neighborhoods focuses on hackathons for social good — in this case, for the sake of accessibility. Here, Shelley spotlights Marc Irlandez, Director of Information Technology and Life Labs at United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) in the middle of UCP’s hackathon, geared toward creating solutions for people with disabilities and their families.

Watch Shelley’s chat with Marc Irlandez live on MeetAdvisors.


Englewood Blue: this is just the beginning!

Mayor Rahm Emanuel addressing the crowd via @shelleysternIt’s inspiring to see collaboration in action and to watch how relationships evolve into a whole greater than the sum of the parts. Such is the potential of Englewood Blue, a business accelerator partnership between the Greater Englewood CDC and Blue 1647.

For the past several months, my colleague Adam Hecktman and I have had the pleasure to support four men of true vision: Emile Cambry of Blue 1647, Glen Fulton and Jim Harbin of Greater Englewood CDC and Bruce Montgomery, of OnePresence and TATV. And let’s not forget Jennipher Adkins — the woman behind the men. Strong personalities all, but with a common vision to provide technical, business and financial resources to the people of Englewood.

On May 19, Mayor Emanuel, local Aldermen and a host of business partners gathered to launch Englewood Blue and the Chicago Start Up Boot Camp. Roxanne Nava of the City of Chicago truly “opened the doors for Entrepreneurs”. The room was literally filled with entrepreneurs from all sorts of businesses—food service, manufacturing, technical, digital media—that make up a strong, diverse, lively community. There was a distinguished panel discussing what makes a successful business and a successful business community. The panel included:

The Panel was followed by a workshop on tips to “getting online”.

As the Mayor thanked all the supporters of Englewood Blue, you could feel the energy and the “positivity” in the room. Smiles all around because people could feel a brighter future happening—in the moment. A hearty congratulations to everyone associated with Englewood Blue, and a bright future to those who enter the doors with an idea for a new business venture. You’ve come to the right place.

Nonprofit Impact Features Shelley Stern Grach, Director of Civic Engagement

Nonprofit Impact Features Shelley Stern Grach, Director of Civic Engagement

At Microsoft Chicago, we love sharing stories — from our community, our nation, or the world at large. And we love when our stories are told, too. That’s why we were thrilled to hear that Meegan Bassett was featuring our Director of Civic Engagement Shelley Stern Grach in her MeetAdvisors series, Nonprofit Impact. As part of the MeetAdvisors network, Meegan showcases smart leaders in philanthropy, public policy, direct service, higher education, and business who offer advice in increasing the social impact of nonprofits.

Watch Shelley’s feature in Nonprofit Impact live on MeetAdvisors.


Civic Cocktail: What Role Can Technology Play in Our Cities?

Last week while in Seattle, our team had the opportunity to speak on a panel on a show that airs on the Seattle Channel called Civic Cocktail. Hosted by Joni Balter, the show features a panel of professionals to discuss diverse topics, with a set of three journalists and the audience posing questions. The topic of this segment was Civic Technology, with the perspectives from the City of Seattle (Rebecca Lovell), the civic tech space of Boston (Cathy Wissink), and Chicago (Adam Hecktman).  

We covered a lot of ground in this panel, with one overarching theme emerging: while the specific applications of civic technology vary from city to city, there is consistently a desire to apply technology (and technology-related processes like agile) in metros to provide better citizen services, foster interaction between governments and citizens, and promote accountability and transparency with open government data. 

Rebecca represented the city government of Seattle. She has the very cool title of Startup Advocate for the City of Seattle. During the course of the conversation, Rebecca’s comments and examples highlighted the importance of government participation in the civic technology equation. Rebecca also outlined the diverse roles that government plays in using technology to solve city challenges. 

What roles does government play in civic tech? According to Rebecca, the city government can, first and foremost, play the role of convener. In Seattle, Rebecca has access to all the city departments. The points of view of multiple departments are needed to ensure that civic projects are useful to a range of scenarios, citizens and stakeholders.  

Government can convene players outside of the city as well.  For example, Rebecca has a reach that extends into the private sector. City governments serve and partner with for-profit industry players. Given Rebecca’s role, she can bring those players, large and small, to into the process to leverage their skills, experience, and resources.

One of the most important roles government can play (from the perspective of a civic technologist) is that of data stewards. In most cases, the city generates and provides the data itself. In other situations, it can encourage non-governmental organizations to contribute their data so that technologists have a more complete model of some aspect of a city.

Towards the end of the discussion, we learned that another key role of government in this space (that is often overlooked) is simply being present. When government stakeholders, especially city government, are involved in the civic technology process, they become part of the discourse that formulates the solutions to city challenges.  They help frame the thinking by working hand-in-hand with the citizens that are contributing their skills and thinking. Most crucially, by being present throughout the process, government players are in a great position to craft policy that accurately and appropriately meets the needs of the citizens that they serve.  

We enjoyed the chance to participate in this inspiring series that brought together such a diverse audience to discuss an important topic; we also hope to participate in future Civic Cocktail events the next time we get to Seattle! 

The conversation can be seen here, and starts at 29:14.

#OntheTable2015 From Sunrise to Sunset…

On May 12, the Chicago Community Trust celebrated its 100th anniversary with the second citywide program of On the Table 2015 (OTT2015). OTT2015 is a movement that reimagines philanthropy  and helps make our region the most generous and compassionate in the nation. On the Table–in case you haven’t participated in one–is a meal time conversation about anything that makes Chicago a better place. Friends, business colleagues, and people who have never met, gather together to discuss topics that are of interest and important to our city.

This year, Microsoft was honored to host a group of over 20 people who have a vested interest in making Englewood a better place to live, work and raise a family. We had representatives from Chicago Public Schools, Englewood Blue, R.A.G.E Englewood, Teamwork Englewood, LISC Chicago, Chicago Public Library and others. Microsoft hosted in partnership with Connect Chicago Challenge, a multi-sector partnership to achieve full participation in the digital economy. We started the day off with an early breakfast (burritos were awesome!), lots of coffee and great conversation.

We identified 3 key areas to improve Englewood and agreed that a core team was needed to move the conversation forward:

  1. Train the trainer: Work with Microsoft and other technology partners for more advanced skills.
  2. Promote and Computer Science 4 All in Englewood schools.
  3. Identify creative ways to get 28 local businesses online.

#OntheTable2015 From Sunrise to Sunset…

In the late afternoon, I had the privilege to participate in the first Connect Chicago Challenge Technology Advisory Council. Our Council will work closely with Connect Chicago Challenge Managing Director Demond Drummer on aligning resources and corporate investments to address the key issues in the City, like those that were outlined at the Englewood meeting in the morning.

#OntheTable2015 From Sunrise to Sunset…

#OntheTable2015 From Sunrise to Sunset…After our Council meeting, we had a joyous celebration with the Council and community organizers to officially launch the Connect Chicago Challenge and its new Twitter hashtag #connectchicago. It’s unbelievably gratifying to see all the hard work and community connections coming together to help our citizens get online and digitally engaged.

A huge shout-out to the Chicago Community Trust team for its centennial celebration and for conceiving and executing the On the Table program, which is making Chicago a better place. And congratulations to Dan O’Neil and Demond Drummer for all your impact through the Smart Chicago Collaborative and #connectchicago. It’s going to be fast, fun and fruitful.

American Bar Association (ABA) TechShow Highlights Microsoft Legal Technology

Last month I had the privilege to attend the annual American Bar Association (ABA) TechShow at the Chicago Hilton Hotel and help evangelize Microsoft cloud solutions and devices to lawyers and legal professionals. During this past year Microsoft also had a significant presence at events coordinated by other leading legal technology organizations such as the International Legal Technology Association and LegalTech.

This year Microsoft increased its sponsorship for the ABA TechShow and we were Diamond Sponsors. Being a Diamond Sponsor enabled us to have a large booth to showcase our solutions, to have a team of Microsoft attendees and a Vendor Track Session. Our Vendor Track Session was entitled “Building Trust in the Cloud: Navigate the Journey to Cloud-Based Services.” My colleagues Nathan Leong and Larry Kuhn co-presented during this session and showcased Microsoft’s “trusted cloud” story – which is based on these four key pillars: Transparency, Protect, Comply and Control – to a highly interested group of lawyers and legal professionals. Nathan and Larry also highlighted that Microsoft is the first and only major cloud provider to achieve ISO 27018 compliance (ISO 27018 is the first international cloud privacy standard) for its cloud solutions, that we have a dedicated digital crimes unit that fights cybercriminals and we incorporate our learnings from those activities to make our cloud solutions even more robust and secure.

Here’s a few more observations from the ABA TechShow:

  • It seems like Microsoft Office 365, OneNote, OneDrive for Business, Yammer, Surface Pro 3 and our Office Lens App are really gaining traction and interest in the legal community.
  • Given the increase in high-profile data loss incidents, more than ever before security/privacy/compliance are “top of mind” issues.
  • At our booth we provided a demo of our Matter Center solution that is targeted to the legal community. We are currently exploring ways to bring Matter Center to partners and customers.
  • It’s clear that the legal community is increasingly realizing the benefits of technology. In fact, many of the lawyers we met really appreciated the opportunity to speak directly to a Microsoft lawyer to learn how we use Microsoft solutions within our own legal department to make us more productive, collaborative and agile.

Microsoft looks forward to the opportunity to participate in next year’s ABA Legal Tech Show which will be held again in the Windy City during March 17th-19th, 2016.

Civic Chat: Networking our Neighborhoods — Rod Levy, Executive Director of Code Platoon

Civic Chat: Networking our Neighborhoods — Rod Levy, Executive Director of Code Platoon

In Shelley Stern Grach‘s Civic Chat: Networking Our Neighborhoods, she highlights some inspiring leaders in Chicago, who use technology to improve their communities. One such leader is Rod Levy, the Executive Director of Code Platoon. Code Platoon is a non-profit organization with a mission to provide veterans with the support and resources for a career in software development.

Watch Shelley’s chat with Rod Levy live on MeetAdvisors.