What’s Next After Microsoft — Civic Tech Fellow Alumna Erin Simpson

 |   MSFT Chicago Staff

Erin SimpsonCongratulations on graduating! Can you tell us your official degree and where you received it? Public Policy, with a concentration on Issues of Inequality, from the University of Chicago

What were your main duties as a Microsoft fellow?

– Led the digital badging efforts for Microsoft’s online programs for youth

– Helped organize the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s Urban Sustainability Apps Competition

– Taught a series of Open Data town halls in neighborhoods throughout Chicago

– Organized a Civic Apps Development 101 course for non-coding community members

– Judged and participated in Chicago-based hackathons

– Created a digital resources Power Map model to visualize the development of public computer centers in Chicago

– Completed various data and mapping projects for Aldermen, City offices, and non-profits

– Organized Hour of Code partnership with the Museum of Science and Industry

– Generally participated in the Chicago civic tech community

What has been your favorite project with the Technology and Civic Engagement Team? Working on the Open Data town halls a phenomenal experience. For many participants, this was the first time they had worked with data, and helping validate and give power to the ideas they had with public data was a great way to grow the civic tech community. I really enjoyed workshopping ideas with neighborhood leaders about how they planned to improve their communities and connecting them with data resources that might help make it happen.

Where is civic tech taking you next? In August I’ll be starting my new position as Project Director at Civic Hall, the home for all things civic tech. In my new role, I’ll be joining a community of social entrepreneurs, change-makers, government employees, hackers, academics, journalists, and artists to share knowledge, build tools, and solve problems, together.

What advice do you have for future fellows?  Pitch a big tent. Inclusion is key to good civic tech in cities. Both your work and the movement will be better if you try to learn from and include people working in all different types of spaces. Take Laurenellen McCann’s advice to heart and really do build with, not for. You’ve got a great opportunity to do that, and Microsoft will totally support you in doing so.

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