November 2015

Giving is the New Black: ILGive for Giving Tuesday is December 1

ILGive-1Microsoft is delighted to host a guest blog from Eric Weinheimer, CEO of Forefront. Eric is highlighting a very important day for all nonprofits throughout Illinois: ILGive.
Microsoft is a member of Forefront and I am proud to personally support Forefront on the Board of Directors. Please take a few minutes to learn about this very important initiative and please spread the word about ILGive with your professional network.

— Shelley Stern Grach

ILGive-2We give thanks on Thanksgiving, go to the mall on Black Friday, and browse the web on Cyber Monday. Now, we have a day dedicated to giving back. On #ILGive for Giving Tuesday (December 1), nonprofit organizations, families, local businesses, and students around the world come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

Now in its fourth year, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media, people power, and collaboration. Observed on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year and a growing catalog of organizations participating in spreading awareness and rallying communities. To date there are 40+ civic campaigns across the US harnessing the power of social media and goodwill driving charitable contributions to favorite causes and organizations.

Since its inception, the movement has gained 30,000 partners in over 60 countries and it is estimated that online donations have jumped 470% since #GivingTuesday was born in 2012.

Based in Chicago, #ILGive (pronounced “I’ll Give”) is in its second year as the statewide campaign for #GivingTuesday. Launched in 2014 by Forefront (previously Donors Forum), the state association for foundations and charitable nonprofits, the campaign mobilized thousands of people to donate nearly $4 million to their favorite causes in one day in its first year.

(How you can tell this is the giving season: All donations are meant to go directly to the organizations donated to.)

This year, #ILGive is raising the bar — $6 million is the bold goal. Over 300 charitable nonprofits have joined the campaign and now is the time for donors to start thinking about ways to prepare for the big day.

How Can You Be a Part of #ILGive on #ILGive?

  • Pledge to Give to your favorite cause on Dec 1 – and then share it on your social media channels.
  • If you don’t already have a cause you donate to, check out ILGive’s list of participating #ILGive nonprofits to help you find a cause to give to on ILGive (Dec 1).
  • Set up a profile on Public Good. You can search for organizations working close to your home or that are working on causes close to your heart.

How Can Your Family Be a Part of #ILGive on Dec 1?

  • Use these 3 Tips to Talk to Your Family About Giving from the Family Dinner Project, or check out Chicago Community Trust’s Philanthropy for Families Guide.
  • For a week or two, everyone in the family skips the ‘extras.’ Take the money you would have spent and collect in a jar. Watch it grow and donate to your favorite cause!
  • Claim your profile on Public Good and compete to be your cause’s biggest supporter.
  • Be a social media ambassador. Help an organization you care about raise awareness by sharing the work they do on social media using the #ILGive hashtag.
  • Have a conversation with your family about a cause that all of you can support. Donate to an organization that supports that cause.
  • Hold a neighborhood yard or bake sale and donate the proceeds to a shared cause.
  • Rather than purchasing gifts for the holiday season, go all out for your cause. Ask friends and family to donate to your organization on Tues., Dec. 1.

Why give? It feels good, it does good, and, ultimately, giving to worthy organizations makes our neighborhoods and families stronger. With campaigns like #ILGive for Giving Tuesday raising awareness, maybe giving back will be the indispensable gift this holiday season.

Join the movement and visit to learn more about how you can make a difference. Contact Marlee Honcoop ( and Delia Coleman ( for questions about the campaign.

#ILGive is a statewide, non-partisan movement to support nonprofit communities in Illinois by increasing individual giving. #ILGive is a multi-year initiative that will launch on December 1, 2015 as a compliment to the nationwide #GivingTuesday campaign. It is our goal to unite the state of Illinois in celebrating the contributions nonprofits make and to promote the values of philanthropy.

Celebrating The Hour of Code with Minecraft

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The Hour of Code is here!

To kick off another Computer Science Education Week (December 7 — 11), we’re excited to join for the Hour of Code. The quick and easy program teaches anyone to code with an hour of fun that shows the amazing things you can create with code. And this year, we’re even more excited to announce that the Hour of Code tutorial uses Minecraft to teach code to all!

Anybody can learn to code, and this year, you can join 1,922,485 others in an educational opportunity that takes an hour, but lasts a lifetime. Imagine all the possibilities you can build with code.

Read the full announcement at the Microsoft News Center.

Looking for more coding opportunities? Find more coding tools and resources for students, parents, and educators at

Inspiring Students at the Illinois Tech Fall 2015 IPRO Day

One of the widely recognized strengths of the Illinois Tech (IIT) is the diverse student population. That remarkable quality was on full display at the Fall 2015 IPRO Day last week. Microsoft is proud to be a sponsor at this terrific program and my colleague Adam Hecktman and myself served as judges. If you or your organization are interested in helping students refine their business acumen as they tackle global challenges, I strongly recommend investing time and talent in IPRO Day at Illinois Tech. You will get an opportunity  to learn more about IIT students, the user-centered design methods they apply to problem solving, and the innovative solutions that create value for stakeholders. Since 1995, the Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) Program has brought together undergraduate students from all majors to work in interdisciplinary teams on projects that span engineering research, process improvement, sustainability, community engagement, venture development and other contemporary themes.


This year included an exciting shift for IPRO Day. In collaboration with Illinois Tech Career Services, the traditional IPRO Day experience was reimagined to better connect the talented students with high-caliber organizations by inaugurating the Fall 2015 IPRO Day Showcase – an interactive networking event. The IPRO showcase  involved exemplary teams with projects that emphasize a theme associated with user-centered design thinking:

  1. Technological Innovation: These projects focus on the research, development, demonstration, and/or deployment of new or improved technologies that can aid or change the way the world works.
  2. Social Innovation: These projects focus on new strategies, concepts, ideas and organizations that meet the social needs of different elements which can be from working conditions and education to community development and health — they extend and strengthen civil society.
  3. Business Innovation: Your project introduces new ideas, workflows, methodologies, services or products that focus on the fields of entrepreneurship, new ventures and business.

I served as a judge for the Social Innovation track. Here are a few of the innovative ideas and approaches from the Illinois Tech students:


  • Rondayvoo—a social networking app specifically designed for IIT students to collaborate, socialize and network with other students, thereby avoiding the “sit in your dorm room” syndrome.
  • Unleashing STEMagination—an immersion program to include STEM resources and educational suggestions for the new 606 park and walkway.
  • Team Accessibility—working in partnership with the Adler Planetarium, this team is tackling the physical challenges of a large destination like the Adler Planetarium.
  • My personal favorite: Pitch Please: Safening Chicago’s Traffic Ways for Humans and Animals. This creative use of sensors providing a high-pitch frequency to deter animals from crossing busy streets in Cook County, thereby avoiding harmful collisions with ongoing traffic.

These are just a few examples of the IPRO program, which included over 50 creative examples of students working collaboratively—and scientifically— to solve important problems in local and global communities, using technology. Congratulations to all of the student teams at IPRO and a special shout out for the wonderful faculty and staff who helped design and orchestrate the day. While many were involved, a special mention to:

  • IPRO Director Jeremy Alexis
  • Director of Operations Thomas M. Jacobius
  • Director of Student Experience Rima Kuprys
  • Vice Provost Student Access, Success  & Diversity Initiatives Gerald P. Doyle

For more information, please email or

Civic Chat — Networking Our Neighborhoods: Denise Linn, Program Analyst at Smart Chicago Collaborative

Civic Chat — Networking Our Neighborhoods: Denise Linn, Program Analyst at Smart Chicago Collaborative

The Smart Chicago Collaborative is a great Chicago-based initiative that brings technology to the forefront of the city’s success. Through open data and civic technology, Smart Chicago is helping Chicago and other cities improve their day-to-day functions. In Shelley Stern Grach’s newest Civic Chat: Networking Our Neighborhoods, she focuses on Smart Chicago’s variety of projects with Program Analyst Denise Linn.

Watch Shelley’s chat with Denise Linn live at Advisor.TV.


Recap: Illinois Technology Association Third Annual Internet of Things Summit


This week, we were thrilled to join the Illinois Technology Association for the Third Annual Internet of Things Summit. Over the course of two days, we saw leaders in technology, business, and nonprofits explore the possibilities of the Internet of Things (IoT) and prove how staying connected leads us to progress. As the IoT expands, we expect greater technologies, unimaginable opportunities, and connectivity that benefits all.

Missed the chance to join us? Catch up with our recap below, Twitter-style:

Microsoft announces 175 megawatt wind project in Illinois is now operational


Photo: BusinessWire

Illinois is swiftly becoming a megahub for technology opportunities — with code camps springing up everywhere, computer science education becoming widespread, and startups quickly filling the Chicago metro area, it’s no surprise that the state is also becoming a serious supporter of sustainability. We’re excited to announce that we’re contributing to the green energy revolution right here in Illinois.

The Pilot Hill Wind Project, a 175-megawatt wind power facility, is now up and running, and will be powering 100% of our Chicago Data Center for the next 20 years.

Read more about the Pilot Hill Wind Project and Microsoft’s commitment to sustainability on the Microsoft Green Blog.

Recap: The ADA 25 Chicago Opportunity Summit


For 25 years, the American Disabilities Act has been providing accessibility to all across the country. By providing the opportunities for equity and fairness, the ADA has removed barriers and empowered people nationwide in an inspiring act of equal access. We’ve been thrilled to support the 25th anniversary of the ADA all year round, and this week’s Opportunity Summit was a culmination of months of excitement and progress. Together, we applauded the progress we’ve made in the past 25 years, and presented new ideas to keep equity alive for the next 25.

See our recap of the summit in tweets below:

Wow! What a difference a year makes!

In the business world, there is a strategic planning mantra which goes: Storming, Norming, Forming and Performing. It basically means that high performance organizations goes through a process and sometimes there are valleys before you get to the peaks. It also means that it takes leadership and high quality people to really bring an organization to its full potential.

logo (1)As a longtime supporter of the Early College STEM School program, the entire MSFTChicago team is thrilled to see the progress at Lake View High School, from a community engagement, academic, and leadership perspective. Taking a local, neighborhood school to the “top” can be a logistical, budgetary and academic challenge for parents to navigate, when you are surrounded by charter, selective entry and private choices. As evidenced in the Wizard of Oz, Sometimes The Grass Isn’t Greener On The Other Side Of The Fence:

Tin Woodsman: What have you learned, Dorothy?
Dorothy: Well, I – I think that it – it wasn’t enough to just want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em – and it’s that – if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?

We would like to congratulate the entire Lake View High School team on your dedication, commitment and for what you do—every day—for the Lake View community. We also would like to share with our readership some “Coming Attractions” at Lake View High School this fall….

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Microsoft and Lake View High School will again be partnering on the STEM Challenge for the Juniors and Seniors. Last year, we launched our first STEM Challenge, which focused on Water as a key resource and the Challenge focused on efficient ways to “guide”, store and reclaim water for Chicago. This year, we will be focusing on the Internet of Things with the students. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the name given to the interconnection of everyday devices with built in sensors and is a major trend impacting all areas of life.  IoT is the way that machines communicate with each other in order to improve automation and efficiency in daily tasks. It allows sensors to be placed on physical objects to connect them to the Internet.  Once there, these objects can identify themselves to other devices, and capture data that people can use to solve problems.

IoT can create impact on a grand scale, transforming everything from buildings to massive, robot-powered factories to rush-hour traffic in major cities. Think about sensors embedded in traffic lights.  It is also smaller IoT solutions that can really capture the imagination—as they scale out to create real, measurable value. Think about sensors embedded in wearables such as health bands.

We will be working with the Lake View HS students and challenging them to:

  • identify a problem in the Lake View  community
  • use IoT technology to build a solution or improve upon existing technology, using tools like sensors and analytics.
  • consider how their IoT solution will be improve the problem the students are  addressing and how to  reach the targeted audience.

The STEM Challenge will kick off December 1st and run through Spring 2016. The winning team will be representing Lake View HS at a statewide event in May 


Last year, we had an absolute blast partnering with Lake View High School, especially with Angela Newton and her awesome team of Computer Science teachers for Computer Science Education Week and the Hour of Code program. Lake View students helped teach coding to elementary school students from the Lake View feeder schools and we plan to do repeat this program again this year. This brings several elements of the Storming, Norming, Forming and Performing process together at once:

Storming-bringing together a team of students who are committed to working with younger children on computer science skills

Norming-figuring out which “Hours of Code” classes will be fun and age appropriate

Forming-Developing and executing on the plan to teach-Which students (Lake View and feeder schools)? Where do they go? When? What do they teach? Is the equipment set up? Is the internet working? Evaluating how it worked?

Performing-the satisfaction of a great program that was highly successful and repeatable and scalable.

To quote Angela Newton, Assistant Principal at Lake View High School: “Computer Science does not mean you are going to sit in front of a computer taking chips apart all day. It does mean that you will have an amazing awareness of how computers can help you accomplish your dreams! At Lake View High School, we are planning our Hour of Code… Our goal is to help you develop higher order thinking skills, by exploring the field of computers, from a scientific, creative, expressive and real world approach.”

It’s this kind of innovative teaching and collaboration that is bringing Lake View into the Performing category. Please read on for more impressive results and our congratulations to the entire Lake View team!

Read Lake View High School’s spotlight in DNAinfo by clicking here.

Honoring Veterans Every Day

Every November, we pause for a day to honor our veterans who have served overseas and returned home to us. After a day filled with parades, ceremonies, and banquets, it can be hard to remember that our veterans need support year-round. From returning to the civilian workforce to receiving proper healthcare to simply finding a home, we can work around the clock to give back to our veterans who have served so bravely for our freedoms.

As part of Microsoft’s commitment to community, we take the time to serve our veterans the way they served for us. After months to years of service, these veterans must take on the jarring task of returning immediately to civilian life — and that’s where we can help.

This year, we were proud to sponsor Team Red White & Blue in their second annual Old Glory Relay, a two-month, 3,540-mile journey across the continental U.S to shine a light on our nation’s veterans:

And every year, we help open doors for our service members by providing training and career opportunities in the tech industry. After all, a veteran’s spirit lies within innovation and entrepreneurship. This year, we’re excited to announce an expansion to our Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) from three regions to nine, bringing our coverage to a total of 12 bases nationwide. Read more here.

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And our work has just begun. This Veterans Day, we encourage you to honor our service members and challenge you to keep them in mind year-round.

For more ways to help our local veterans, see our recent post on The Bunker Labs.

Chicago’s Bunker Labs Nurtures Veteran Entrepreneurship

November 11th is a day that many of us remember to thank those who serve and have served in the US military. It is an acknowledgement that we are thinking about their service. The Bunker in Chicago thinks about this every day, and not only to thank our service members, but to nurture the entrepreneurial potential inherent in the military experience.

In his blog, Bunker executive director Todd Connor states that only 6 percent of new businesses are started by veterans. When you think about the skills that are required to start a new business (creativity, tenacity, drive, problem solving, leadership) they mesh beautifully with the skills tapped into by military service. The Bunker is there to make that match.

And so it is with Microsoft, as well. Last week, Microsoft announced an expansion of our Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), which provides IT career training to eligible active-duty U.S. service members. Eligible active-duty service members at 12 military installations will now be able to develop the career skills necessary to meet the IT industry’s high demand for cloud developers, cloud administrators, and database and business intelligence administrators. Upon successful completion of the program, participants gain an interview for a full-time job at Microsoft or one of our hiring partners, and 81 companies have hired MSSA grads.

It all starts with the amazing people in our services. Many service members are wrapping up their duties, and are looking for new, promising career paths. We fill them with marketable technology training. They leave in a strong position to compete for high-paying, long-term careers in technology. And with programs like The Bunker, they start businesses that hire even more people, scaling what makes our vets excellent. I’m proud of The Bunker’s presence in Chicago. I’m proud of Microsoft’s work in Chicago. And I’m grateful for our men and women in service.