Yes, another one of these. A year in review! But before we get to the year that was, I want to take a moment to thank you, readers and contributors, who were responsible for this blog making the “50 Must Read State and Local IT Blogs 2015 list”. The author of the piece noted: “It’s always a feel-good read, because there’s just so much exciting work happening here. When public–private partnerships thrive, this is the result”.
Well, if it seems that Shelley and Adam are optimistic it is because…we are optimistic. Chicago is a unique city. It is a city with challenges, yes. Some of those challenges are seemingly intractable. But seemingly intractable is not the same thing as definitively intractable. And Chicago is also the “city that works”. It is a unique place with unique people, and an empathetic, accepting and energetic civic tech movement to propel it forward. And now, our look back.
Any new initiative or team goes through stages of maturation. Microsoft Technology and Civic Engagement Chicago has experienced this process first hand. And in that process, we’ve learned about the fabulous people and innovative organizations who freely “opt in” their time and talent to learn about how opening data to the citizens of Chicago helps encourage economic growth, while fueling the democratic process. And beyond learners, these Chicagoans are also doers.
In 2015, we “experimented” and developed partnerships, the majority of which were (and still are) successful. Here are some examples that really excited and motivated us:
- In 2015, we supported the Chicago Public Library in their Internet to Go Pilot. This is a creative approach to “extend the walls” of the Library and its resources into the community. Specifically, it allows citizens to provide access to the Internet by checking out a WiFi hotspot the way you would check out a book. Microsoft supported this pilot by providing Surface devices to people in our neighborhoods who don’t typically have access to the internet or a device at home. Ini turn, this will provide the opportunity for those patrons to do homework, write a resume, research an investment, etc.
- Another great pilot program that we formed in 2015 is the CyberSeniors program. Our focus here was to work with the City and several agencies that support our Seniors. We developed curriculum in several key areas that seniors told us they wanted to learn: internet safety, Skype and social media. We are currently in the process of testing our curriculum to validate that it’s digestible and of value to Seniors. Our expectation is that in early 2016 we will bring training, policy work, workshops, webinars, and physical toolkits to help senior citizens to use the Internet more effectively and safely.
- The second week of December was Computer Science Education Week, which highlighted the Hour of Code. Talk about knocking it out of the park! We built a consortium of the City, CPS, the Library, Chicago City of Learning, the Digital Youth Network, museums and nonprofits. All worked together to host citywide programs on coding to encourage youth to get excited about 21st Century skills and careers in STEM. In 2016, we are looking to expand our successful model and continue to grow our numbers for youth, as well as for adults.
- The Greater Englewood Community Development Corp announced the launch of Englewood Blue, with Microsoft and others as early supporters. This is a fantastic new incubator and accelerator directly across the street from the new Whole Foods opening in Englewood. It promises to be a major economic driver of Englewood and its surrounding neighborhoods. We solidified our relationship with Englewood Blue with a Digital Alliance. The Microsoft Digital Alliance brings together an array of programs that empower people, promote a better education and 21st Century skills, inspire youth to imagine the opportunities, and help citizens find a job or start their own business. We fully believe in the tapped and untapped talented in this neighborhood, and are committed to getting the best out of it.
- UI LABS announced their second Lab, City Digital, which focuses on smart cities and the physical-digital convergence. Microsoft was the leading founding partner, and in May, they moved into a new state-of-the-art home on Goose Island. Since then, we announced our first two projects focused on urban flooding and underground mapping. We feel smarter every time we visit.
- With Blue 1647, we started working with their Civic Engagement program manager and Accenture to build a civic tech curriculum. The goal is to build that next generation of civic technologists, and to arm today’s community organizers and activists with the tools they need to execute on their mission. With Accenture’s Skills to Succeed curriculum and Microsoft’s various digital literacy programs, you can’t go wrong.
- We were inspired to spread the word! Adam continued his Big Shoulders show on civic tech, while Shelley launched her Civic Chat series, focused on engagement in our neighborhoods. We cannot possibly thank our guests and the good folks at Mabbly enough for helping us move this from an experiment to a platform.
- And, of course, we hacked. Oh how we hacked. We participated in Chi Hack Nights, taught sessions at the City of Chicago Data Learnathon, hung out with students at 1871 for the Community Safety App Development Hackathon, and overall ate more pizza than is healthy for the two of us.
And finally, we want to take a moment to thank all of those who were guest bloggers on this site. We cannot tell you how thrilled we were to have the opportunity to tell and amplify your stories.
On to 2016, which already seems like a full agenda for Adam and Shelley. Here are a few of the highlights on our dance card…and we hope to see you there! We look forward to supporting these wonderful organizations which make such a difference in Chicago:
- Tuesday nights — we will continue to see you at ChiHack Night
- First Wednesday of the month – we will continue the Chicago City Data User Group at the Microsoft Technology Center Chicago
- February 18 — LISC Chicago’s Neighborhood Development Award Ceremony will celebrate successes in our communities
- January, March and May — we host our friends from Lake View High School at the Freshmen Field Trip
- January-June — University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy launches Cohort 2
- April 22 — Illinois Institute of Technology launches the ITPRO Student Competition on Big Data
- April 27-29 — Adam will present civic data and Excel at the Do Good Data Conference
- April 28 — We celebrate WE Day Illinois
- May 19 — ISTC/I STEM Challenge, with Lake View High School showing their work
- June 1-3 — We participate in the Chicago Forum on Global Cities
- June 4-6 — We wrap up 6 months of work at the Center for Neighborhood Technology Urban Sustainability Apps Hackathon
- June 21 — Forefront Annual Luncheon to celebrate the philanthropic and social enterprise communities.
We hope you’ll join us in making 2016 Chicago’s best year yet.
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