January 2017

Welcoming UChicago’s 2017 Civic Leadership Academy Cohort

The CLA (Civic Leadership Academy) class of 2017 welcome reception is held at the Chicago Cultural Center on Wednesday, Jan., 11, 2017, in Chicago. (Photo by Joel Wintermantle)

In 2017, Microsoft is once again honored to be partner with the University of Chicago’s Civic Leadership Academy (CLA). This is our third year supporting the CLA program and each year, we see an increase in the depth and maturing of the program curriculum, as well as the caliber of the cohort participants. For those of you who may not be aware, the Office of Civic Engagement launched the Civic Leadership Academy in 2014, in partnership with the University’s five professional schools – Chicago Booth School of Business, Harris Public Policy, Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, the UChicago Law School, and School of Social Service Administration – and Institute of Politics, as well as Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) Chicago, Civic Consulting Alliance, the City of Chicago, and Cook County.

On Jan. 12, the 30 fellows began a rigorous six-month program that will teach essential leadership skills and provide the time and space to collaborate on a capstone project that addresses a practical challenge facing each fellow’s organization. In March, the fellows will travel to the University of Chicago Center in Delhi, India, for a weeklong global practicum. Upon completion of the program, they will receive a certificate in civic leadership from Harris.

This is the first in a series which will focus on the CLA, and how it lays the foundation for leadership and communication across Chicago and Cook County with civic, public sector and nonprofits leaders. I am privileged to be working with William Howell, faculty advisor for the Civic Leadership Academy, and the Office of Civic Engagement staff on a program for the cohort on February 10, which will focus on leadership and civic tech, as well as to be accompanying the cohort to India for their global practicum in March.

Please see below social media from the January 11, 2017 Welcome Reception for the 2017 Civic Leadership Academy participants.

Lake View High School Kicks Off 2017 STEM Challenge — This Year, A Focus on Civic Engagement

Microsoft mentor Larry Kuhn workshops with Lake View students. Credit: ISTI

A new year usually means making lots of changes — sometimes simply for the sake of change. My view is that when you have a program that is working extraordinarily well, keep those changes to a minimum and continue the positive momentum. That is exactly what PJ Karafiol, Principal, and Tyrese Graham, Assistant Principal of Lake View High School have done with the 2017 STEM Challenge, sponsored by Microsoft and managed in partnership with the Illinois Science and Technology Institute (ISTI).

Microsoft has supported Lake View in the STEM Challenge for the past two years. As we enter into our third year of the Challenge, we decided to keep the focus on the same challenge as last year: “How can the Internet of Things (IoT) help the Lake View Community?” Since this is a broad challenge, it allows tremendous freedom for the students to look at the benefits of IoT from a physical school perspective, a community perspective, or a civic perspective (such as transportation, logistics, etc.). Similarly, Microsoft is funding the Challenge process, and is bringing in a great set of employees to be mentors during. The cycle kicked off on January 17th with an auditorium filled with students, faculty and mentors, as well as a design workshop to increase student collaboration and communications.

Lake View students workshop designs at the STEM Challenge. Credit: Shelley Stern Grach

So, what is new and different?

This year, the program will be integrated into the Civics classes. As you may know, Civics is a required class for all Illinois students, thanks to strong support from the McCormick Foundation and the State.

Bringing the STEM Challenge into the Civics classes offers the program to more students because it is a wider scope than technology. While we certainly don’t want to lose the “STEM” part of STEM Challenge, the focus is more on the civic engagement aspect of the solution — technology is a key enabler, but technology alone can’t solve a key community problem. It’s the integration of creativity, collaboration and communications with technology that will prove the most effective.

Duane Davis, ISTI’s STEM Challenge coach, gives feedback to students. Credit: ISTI

We gave the students a few more hints for success:

  1. Make the most of your time with your mentors
  2. Use the Mentor Matching Engine, designed by ISTI, frequently. The mentors love the flexibility to interact with the students on line as well as in person.
  3. As you build your solutions, in addition to the documentation, PowerPoints and verbal presentations, try to include something more physical in your design — perhaps a diorama, a model, something electronic or robotic.

It’s early in the process for this new group participating in the STEM Challenge. But if the energy and interest evident at the Kickoff is any indication, this will be the best STEM Challenge yet!

Below are some of the best tweets from the Kickoff.

 

Residential Property Analysis: Motor City Mapping

The economic turmoil in the city of Detroit has devastated the housing market. Over the years, the conditions of many homes across the city have slowly eroded from dense, stable neighborhoods to blighted, barely-habitable structures. As buildings and neighborhoods have deteriorated, more families have vacated their homes in pursuit of destinations with more opportunity. This has left many architecturally-sound homes that are in good condition, unoccupied due to the “blight” of the surrounding environment.

In order to change the narrative that is taking place with the residential housing market in different Detroit communities, Data Driven Detroit (D3) and LOVELAND joined forces to develop the Motor City Mapping project (MCM), conducting the largest public data collection initiative in the history of Detroit. With the support of Rock Ventures, The Kresge Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, JP Morgan Chase, Michigan Nonprofit Association, and other amazing organizations, D3 hired over 200 Detroit resident surveyors to conduct a parcel by parcel survey of Detroit properties using LOVELAND’S mobile surveying application.

With hard work, diligence, and in the snowiest winter in Detroit’s recorded history, the team collected data from approximately 380,000 structures in Detroit, ranging from the condition of the structure to the occupancy of the structure. The cumulative efforts of the different parties lead to the development and launch of the Motor City Mapping online website which displays a map of the different Detroit properties by neighborhood with an in-depth breakdown of the structures in each community. The goal of the MCM portal was to create a comprehensive database of detailed information including the condition of each and every property of Detroit that would allow policy makers/community organizers to make analytical decision making when it comes to the redevelopment of different Detroit communities.

The research conducted by these different parties is the basis of my PowerBI presentation titled: MCM Residential Property Analysis. Using the 2009 Detroit Residential Parcel Survey (DRPS) dataset (details the information about the residential properties surveyed in 2009) and the 2014 MCM dataset (details the information about same residential properties surveyed in 2009, along with commercial properties), both extracted from Data Driven Detroit, I created visualizations using Microsoft’s PowerBI to compare the changes in residential properties for both years. The objective of this analysis was to determine how the residential housing stock in the city has changed from 2009 to 2014 and to offer some innovative strategies that the city of Detroit could apply to rebuild the housing market.

visual-1-1

The visual above displays information comparing the changes in Detroit residential properties from 2009 to 2014. Table 1.1 (Top-Left) shows detailed information about each residential property surveyed in both years, comparing the changes in the housing conditions. Information in this table includes the properties’ address, neighborhood, the property condition 2009, the property condition in 2014, and the whether or not the property has improved, declined, or maintained condition. Table 1.2 (Top-Right) displays the total amount of homes that have maintained, improved, or have declined in condition rating between the initial survey in 2009 and the most recent survey in 2014. According to the data, 190,876 homes have maintained condition, 26,508 homes have declined, and 17,425 homes have improved from 2009 to 2014.

The four graphs on the bottom of this visual display the conditional changes of all the residential properties surveyed from 2009 to 2014.  Graph 1.3 (Bottom-Left) shows in 2009, 1,468 homes were suggested for demolition (the worst condition rating) compared to 2014 where 4,042 homes were suggested to be demolished (an increase of 2,574 residential properties). Table 1.4 (2nd from left) shows that in 2009, 5,992 residential properties were in poor condition compared to 2014 where 8041 properties were determined to be in a similar condition (an increase of 2,049 residential properties). Table 1.5 (3rd from left) shows that in 2009, 21,357 homes were determined to be in fair condition compared to 2014 where 27,546 homes were in a similar state (an increase of 6,189 residential properties). Table 1.6 (Bottom-Right) shows that in 2009, 205,996 homes were measured to be in good condition compared to 2014 where 203,992 homes were determined in a similar state (decrease of 2,004 residential properties).

The data from these different charts show that the quality of residential properties has declined since 2009. More homes have declined than have improved since 2009, showing (as most Detroiters know) that there is much more to accomplish in order to improve the housing market. One of the biggest statistics that jumps out to me is the increase of homes suggested for demolition from 2009 to 2014. The number of homes basically tripled in this housing condition state, showing the severity of the housing decline from 2009 to 2014.

visual-2

The second visual posted above displays more information from the MCM data, with a detailed focus on residential properties by neighborhood. Table 2.1 (Top-Left) is a slicer tool that contains the different neighborhoods surveyed in the MCM dataset. When selecting a checkbox (or checkboxes) for the displayed neighborhoods, the information in the other tables related to the selected neighborhoods are highlighted. Below is an example of using this tool when selecting the neighborhoods Conner, Denby, and Tireman (To reference the Master Plan Neighborhoods mentioned in this dataset, click here).

visual-3

Table 2.2 (second from left) is a treemap that displays the number of properties that have declined in condition by neighborhood. The five neighborhoods where the most residential properties declined were:

  1. Tireman (1,417)
  2. Conner (1,274)
  3. Mt. Olivet (1,254)
  4. Mackenzie (1,167)
  5. Harmony Village (1,105).

Table 2.3 (Top-Right) shows the number of residential properties that are in poor and suggest demolition conditions by neighborhood. The five neighborhoods with the most homes in these conditions were:

  1. Tireman (806)
  2. Conner (696)
  3. Davison (534)
  4. Chadsey (485)
  5. Brighmoor (463)

Table 2.3 (Bottom-Left) shows the number of unoccupied homes by neighborhood in 2014. This table includes the name of the different neighborhoods and the number of structures unoccupied by number of housing units. This table could be used to build neighborhood redevelopment strategies based on the number of unoccupied residential units. For example, there are large amounts of unoccupied single unit homes in nearly all of the surveyed neighborhoods, which would be ideal for young couples and single parent families. To attract individuals to live in these neighborhoods, strategies should be implemented to make these particular neighborhoods more attractive to small families including making these homes more affordable, as well as injecting these communities with after-hour establishments for the entertainment of young couples, parks/community centers for parents to take their children, and other institutions.

Table 2.4 (Bottom-Middle) displays details about the different homes that have fire damage according to the 2014 survey. This table includes the property’s address, zip code, unit type, neighborhood, and the current condition of the property. Table 2.5 (Bottom-right) shows information on the number of homes that needed boarding by neighborhood in 2014. The five communities that have the most properties in need of boarding were:

  1. Conner (1,617)
  2. Tireman (1,428)
  3. Mackenzie (1,248)
  4. Burbank (1,195)
  5. Mt. Olivet (1,163)

The tables presented in this visual show the Detroit neighborhoods that should be focal points when it comes rebuilding the residential housing market in the Motor City based on the declining conditions of residential properties. The common trend I see in three of the five tables is with the neighborhoods of Conner and Tireman. These two communities have the highest number of declining residential properties, the most residential properties in poor/suggested demolition condition, and the largest number of residential properties that need boarding. These are definitely two communities where additional intervention is required.

One program that generates great optimism in regards to the Detroit residential housing market is the Detroit Neighborhood Initiative. Established by the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), Bank of America, Opportunity Resource Fund, and the City of Detroit, this outstanding collaborative makes home ownership a reality through the creation of a remarkable mortgage program designed to make residential housing more affordable for prospective Detroit homeowners. I believe this initiative will have a profound impact on the Detroit housing market. This program offers the following benefits to citizens that sign-up:

  • No down payment
  • No closing costs
  • No fees
  • Below market fixed rates (3.5% – 30 year / 2.875% – 15 year)
  • 30 year – One percent of mortgage permanently reduces rate by .25% to virtually zero
  • 15 year – One percent of mortgage permanently reduces rate by .50% to virtually zero
  • Available on all property types: new, existing, single to four families, condo
  • RENOVATION FUNDING INCLUDED IN MORTGAGE
  • Credit Score never considered in mortgage process
  • Homebuyers individual payment history utilized
  • Underwriting done by NACA

Including renovation funding in the mortgage will play a huge role in improving the quality of housing in the Detroit area. Before the creation of this program, obtaining renovation funding to improve housing was a huge barrier for prospective homeowners. Mortgages can only be issued for the appraised value of a house, but due to the low values of residential sales ($10,000, for example), individuals are unable to finance renovations when buying a house as costs exceed $50,000 in some cases. Including renovation funding with the Detroit Neighborhood Initiative bypasses this barrier giving prospective homeowners the power to invest in the homes they desire to purchase while sequentially rebuilding the residential housing market through the renovation funding poured into the property.

Pairing the MCM dataset with the Detroit Neighborhood Initiative would be a great strategy to track home improvement and to also formulate blueprints toward rebuilding the residential housing market. Knowing the communities with deteriorating residential properties along with the specific details about the infrastructure of each property would give more insight to urban planners and community advocates looking to strengthen community stability. While other strategies and efforts must be ignited to help improve housing in Detroit, the Motor City Mapping dataset, and Detroit Neighborhood initiative serve as two beacons of hope for restoring Detroit’s residential housing market.

To view and interact with the MCM PowerBI visualization, click here.

Big Shoulders: Dan Shalmon, External Engagement Coordinator, Cline Center for Democracy

Dan Shalmon

You know what would be a really cool job?  One where you are at the intersection of the heart of democracy and extreme-scale data analysis.  Meet Dan Shalmon of the Cline Center for Democracy at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). There, students and faculty are working together to use information to understand and better democracy.

The Cline Center uses data, combined with research tools and algorithms that they created, that derive deep insights and understanding of a variety of understudied topics around democracy.  They accumulate, curate, and leverage data to study democracy-related topics such as civil unrest, development of global social indicators, ethnic and religious group trends, sentiment analysis, and measuring rule of law constructs, just to name a few.

The research topics themselves require strong domain expertise.  But acquiring the data to do the evidence-based research is a monumental challenge.  Much of the data that they work with is unstructured – think of articles from the media, other research, and journals going back decades.  Not only is it text based, a good chunk of it is non-digital.  This is where the tools and methods that the Cline Center truly shines.  Join me in this episode of Big Shoulders where Dan Shalmon takes us through his work.

Watch Adam’s chat with Dan live on Advisor.tv.

Helping CHA Students “Take Flight”

cha-event

Photo via CHA, Twitter.

We spend a lot of time in Chicago focusing on helping CPS students get into college. But how do we help ensure they are successful and connecting to the business world while they are in college?

The terrific team at the Chicago Housing Authority has an answer: The “Take Flight: Staying the Course” Program. Managed by Crystal C. Coats,  Senior Manager, Corporate and External Partnerships, the “Take Flight” program focuses on CHA students who are in college (mostly freshmen-juniors) who grew up in the CHA community, and who are getting velvet glove treatment to make sure they are doing well, in college, have a resource network locally, and are introduced to prospective employers for jobs after they graduate.

Microsoft Chicago was honored to support this program. The students were coached on how to interact with the “Professionals” while over 20 organizations hosted tables for a round-robin speed dating discussion with the students. The Professionals ranged from theatre and arts to health care and technology. All provided a career path or internships for the students to learn about. Many thanks to the following organizations for providing time, talent and guidance to the students:

cha-to-doAt the Microsoft table, we had a steady flow of inquiries and questions. It was clear to me that CHA have selected a wonderful group of students, who were doing well in college (many were outside of Chicago so we also discussed their first “away” experience), interested in internships and planning for their career, or just looking for advice as they decided on their area of concentration or major. I was especially impressed with:

  • A young lady who was majoring in Computer Science. When I asked her how she became interested in CS, she said it was from a summer camp she attended at IIT/Illinois Tech while in high school. Hats off to IIT!
  • A great conversation with a young lady who had recently switched her major to Criminal Justice. We are both fans of the “Chicago PD” TV show and we discussed the previous night’s episode. An unspeakable crime was solved using Big Data to analyze DNA sample matches to narrow down and identify the suspect. She didn’t realize the connection to software in helping solve crimes. It was a fun, enlightening conversation on both sides.

Congratulations to the entire CHA team for developing and flawlessly executing such an important milestone for their students. We were honored to participate and look forward to future events.

Big Shoulders — Jeffrey Szorik, Votesphere

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-1-46-35-pmThe latest election cycle has taught us some interesting things about ourselves and our democracy. First, we don’t understand the electorate to the point that we thought we did. That is important, as understanding the opinions and positions of citizens is a cornerstone of the republican form of democracy. Second, we have seen, even prior to this election cycle, that partisan politics in the way it is implemented in the US has not kept up with the complexity of the real world and real world situations that require government action.  

In my latest Big Shoulders, an Advisor.tv web series exploring Chicago’s civic technology space and its leaders, I met Jeff Szorik, founder and CEO of Votesphere. Almost immediately I found my fundamental beliefs about citizen sentiment and understanding of issues challenged. Votesphere is an application that, using a smartphone, gives people a multi-dimensional way of understanding our own political identity, and a way to understand where the gaps are in our understanding of important issues of our time. In the end, it becomes much more than a profile-builder. It helps us learn about the challenges, the policy, and the topics that matter to the functioning of our nation.  

In this interview, hear Jeff discuss what led him to develop Votesphere. You will see how it provides a much different way of looking at your political profile. And you will learn how to get started in sharpening your voice to help break political deadlock.

Watch my talk with Jeff live on Advisor.tv.

Civic Tech in Chicago — January’s Top Events

mschi-events-january

2017 is here and we’re ready to dive head-first back into civic tech. Join us as we work toward another incredible year, starting with these top picks for events in January:

January 4

Chicago City Data User Group: Data and the Environmental Defense Fund
6:00pm-7:30pm
Microsoft Technology Center Chicago | Aon Center 200 E. Randolph Ste 200, Chicago

The mission of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is quite simple: We work to preserve the natural systems on which all life depends.  Climate, energy, oceans, human health, and the policy that impacts it all – all within the scope of the research and advocacy of the EDF.  EDF has a special take on environmental issues – they are interested in creating solutions that also carry economic benefits.

Of course, all of this requires data.  And ideally, it contributes new data and insights.  Come hear Ellen Bell discuss the work of the EDF.  Ellen manages the Redefining Energy Efficiency Project.

January 10

DePaul’s Employer Workshop Series: Leveraging Alumni for Recruitment

The Employer Workshop Series is brought to you by DePaul’s Employer and Internship Development Team. This free series of events offers our employer partners the opportunity to think strategically about their recruiting and hiring processes, learn new ways to enhance their recruiting efforts and network and exchange ideas with other organizations.

Chi Hack Night
6:00pm-10:00pm
Braintree office 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza 8th Floor, Chicago

The Chi Hack Night is a free, weekly event in Chicago to build, share and learn about civic tech and tools to create, support, or serve public good.
Join us every Tuesday from 6-10pm on the 8th floor of the Merchandise Mart to hear from interesting speakers, learn from each other and work on civic projects. Non-techies are very welcome!

January 12

ThoughtWorks Chicago: Build Your Own Radar
6:00pm-9:00pm
ThoughtWorks 200 East Randolph St. 25th Floor, Chicago

Chef or Ansible? Learn React Native or jump into Swift? Which techniques are hot and which are not?

Join ThoughtWorks for a night of food, drink, and mingling as we explore how technologists can grapple with these questions and make smart choices about the tools, techniques, frameworks, and languages they use in their projects.

Our speakers will talk about the themes behind the ThoughtWorks Technology Radar, which compiles years of experience across different domains to provide well thought-out opinions on many of the trends that are coming and going today. You’ll finish off the night by learning how to build your own radar and how to use it as a tool to help you and your projects.

January 17

HackChicago
7:00am-3:00pm
Blue 1647 1647 S. Blue Island, Chicago

Are you a veteran or college student? Maybe a high school junior or senior with an interest in a future in computer technology? Compete in a day-long hackathon to win prizes – no experience necessary. Also, learn about cybersecurity jobs in the Chicago area and new cyber programs at City Colleges of Chicago.

Chi Hack Night
6:00pm-10:00pm
Braintree office 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza 8th Floor, Chicago

The Chi Hack Night is a free, weekly event in Chicago to build, share and learn about civic tech and tools to create, support, or serve public good.
Join us every Tuesday from 6-10pm on the 8th floor of the Merchandise Mart to hear from interesting speakers, learn from each other and work on civic projects. Non-techies are very welcome!

January 24

Illinois Campaign Contributions: Is the Sky the Limit?
12:00pm-2:00pm
The Flats at East-West University 829 South Wabash Avenue 4th Floor Auditorium, Chicago

Please join ICPR for an open discussion with experts on 2016 campaign spending in Illinois and how it compares to other states.

Chi Hack Night
6:00pm-10:00pm
Braintree office 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza 8th Floor, Chicago

The Chi Hack Night is a free, weekly event in Chicago to build, share and learn about civic tech and tools to create, support, or serve public good.
Join us every Tuesday from 6-10pm on the 8th floor of the Merchandise Mart to hear from interesting speakers, learn from each other and work on civic projects. Non-techies are very welcome!

Adler Planetarium: Behind the scenes
11:00am-12:00pm
Adler Planetarium 1300 S Lake Shore Dr Chicago

Curators and educators at Adler Planetarium take us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the cosmology museum and the Webster Institute for the History of Astronomy.
Head Curator Pedro Raposo and staff will present some of the rare artifacts that are kept in museum’s collections and discuss the history and care of artifacts. The remainder of the session will develop as a conversation between science writers and curators about the stories that may be told.

January 31

Chi Hack Night
6:00pm-10:00pm
Braintree office 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza 8th Floor, Chicago

The Chi Hack Night is a free, weekly event in Chicago to build, share and learn about civic tech and tools to create, support, or serve public good.
Join us every Tuesday from 6-10pm on the 8th floor of the Merchandise Mart to hear from interesting speakers, learn from each other and work on civic projects. Non-techies are very welcome!