February 2017

Taking Library Data Off The Shelf

Since its founding in 1871, the Chicago Public Library (CPL) has continually transformed itself to meet the needs of Chicagoans. In 2014, in the face of rapidly-changing norms around library usage nationwide, CPL responded by collaborating with Civic Consulting Alliance to create its strategic plan, which provided a roadmap for how CPL should grow, invest, and innovate to serve its nearly 10 million annual patrons.

CPL frequently uses its strategy as a guidepost to make decisions about programs and services at all levels of the organization. However, CPL lacked a method to measure its progress towards fulfilling each of its strategic goals. To remedy this situation, the Library decided to invest in a performance management system to monitor and report progress towards its goals.

Civic Consulting Alliance supported the Library in identifying metrics tied to the goals of its strategy, and Allstate Corporation, on a pro bono basis, created a dashboard to track and understand those metrics. The Civic Consulting/Allstate team then developed the process and norms to make performance decisions based on findings from the dashboard.

In November, the Library held its first monthly performance management meeting, where senior staff used data to inform management and programming decisions. By adopting performance management practices, the Library will be equipped to make its strategic vision a reality — and improve services for millions of patrons.

“Performance management presented the logical next step from our strategic planning efforts and has allowed us to focus on areas of our work that most need our attention,” said CPL Commissioner Brian Bannon. “As a result of our collaboration with Civic Consulting, our senior leadership is better prepared to make decisions that improve services for Chicagoans.”

Civic Chat — Networking Our Neighborhoods: Kathleen Murphy, Director of Communications, Forefront

It’s no secret that Microsoft Chicago loves Forefront. Our own Shelley Stern is on its board, and we’ve spotlighted Forefront on our blog, our social media channels, and more over the past few years. The organization, previously called Donors Forum, is Illinois’ only regional association for both nonprofits and foundations, where organizations that provide social impact can garner support through financial contributions, consultation, and outreach.

In Shelley Stern Grach’s latest Civic Chat: Networking Our Neighborhoods, she sits down with Kathleen Murphy, Forefront’s Director of Communications, to discuss Forefront’s growth. The two focus on IL Give, a campaign to increase individual giving to Illinois charitable organizations.

Watch Shelley’s chat with Kathleen live on Advisor.TV.

Round 2: CUTGroup Detroit

Back at it with one civic user test already under the belt, on February 2nd, the CUTGroup Detroit crew convened for another round of civic user testing with Detroit residents at Motor City’s premier business innovation hub, TechTown Detroit. Partnering with Detroit Ledger, a philanthropic organization that provides data about grants given to different Detroit organizations (particularly nonprofits), for our second go-around, the CUTGroup team proctored user tests built around the usability and functionality of the Detroit Ledger website. The goal of the testing was to determine the ease of use around locating information about Community Development Block Grants and to determine what changes can be implemented to improve the usability and functionality of the website.

After prepping our testing location with an array of snacks (warning: if you are attempting to lose weight, do not become a CUTGroup tester!) and setting up our testing stations, we launched our first series of tests at 4:00pm. The level of excitement to begin testing was off the charts for both proctors and for Detroit citizens! The first unit of testers contained a mix of familiar faces from our first CUTGroup test along with a few new faces. After signing in and loading up on snacks, our testers were assigned to one our five outstanding proctors listed below:

The biggest testing rush came during our 4:45pm time slot where we had five testers stationed with our proctors, testing the Detroit Ledger website, and providing insightful feedback. During this huge rush, I took a brief break from my administrative duties to shoot a brief video with my colleague and friend, Dmitri Pivtorak (Digital Strategist, Milo Detroit). After a few failed takes (not used to being in front of the camera) I channeled my inner Denzel Washington and we captured a solid video documenting our civic user testing experience.

After our 4:45pm rush, the testing slowed down for about 45 minutes before picking back up around 6:15pm. More new faces showed up for our tests and after the experience with the proctor, they were ecstatic about sharing CUTGroup Detroit with people in their community. One tester took about 20 fliers that she said she will share with her community group.

The second CUTGroup Detroit testing experience was a huge success! We had 75% tester attendance which was a huge surprise considering the blistering cold temperatures that night. We also had a total of five new CUTGroup Detroit testers who all seemed to thoroughly enjoy the testing experience. Our partners Jessica McInchak and Benjamin Chodoroff from the Detroit Ledger were ecstatic about the feedback gathered from the CUTGroup testing experience. Both expressed how the information obtained from the testers will go into directly improving their website and how CUTGroupDetroit gave them the platform to conduct the most user testing they have ever had on their website.

On behalf of the entire CUTGroup Detroit team, I would like to send a big thank you to all of the community testers that came out that night. Your persistence and passion for improving Detroit’s civic tech ecosystem is self-evident. The feedback you all provided is priceless and we appreciate your commitment to improving civic tech. We would also like to send a big thank you to all CUTGroup Detroit testers who are eagerly awaiting their opportunity to participate. CUTGroup Detroit is impossible without all of you. We appreciate your patience and hope to host you at one of the CUTGroup tests soon.

Finally, we would like to express our gratitude to the Detroit Ledger. It was a pleasure working with your organization to plan a successful second CUTGroup Detroit test; we hope the feedback garnered from the test lead to an enhanced platform and ultimately enhancing civic technology in Detroit.

Big Shoulders: Matt Wolf, Managing Director, Dandelion

Dandelion works with cities to help communities achieve access to opportunities and to activate underutilized assets in neighborhoods. Early on, this was the team that helped Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan get elected in a storied campaign (the campaign brought him to a 2013 primary victory as a write-in candidate). It consists of a tactical team of designers, developers, content creators, project managers and others who wrap their talent around civic projects. They establish trust with limited-budget clients such as non-profits, private foundations, and governments, and leverage that trust to “deploy new ideas” in cities. And they have deployed more than 100 of those projects in the last 5 years. Now they are bringing that experience and those skills to Chicago. Watch Matt Wolf from Dandelion talk in my latest Big Shoulders about place-based projects for economic development and those around creative re-use.

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

Civic Chat — Networking Our Neighborhoods: Darlene Hightower, Associate Vice President, Community Engagement And Practice, Rush Medical Center

How can we leverage healthcare to build our local communities? At Rush Medical Center, that’s a priority, not just as an academic hospital, but also as a facility that directly contributes to Chicago’s thriving community.

Shelley Stern Grach’s latest Civic Chat — Networking Our Neighborhoods features Darlene Hightower, Associate Vice President, Community Engagement And Practice, Rush Medical Center. Together, they discuss Rush Medical Center’s focus on building the Chicago community by working on the affordable care act, the anchor mission strategy, and total health collaborative.

Watch Shelley’s chat with Darlene live now on Advisor.tv:

Civic Tech in Chicago — February’s Top Events

Love may be in the air this February, but around Microsoft Chicago, civic tech is in the air every day. Join us at these events around the metro area this month to stay engaged:

February 2, 9, 16, 23, 30

Chicago Women Developers Weekly Hack Night
6:00pm
1871 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, 12th Floor, Chicago

This weekly event gives ladies a space to code together. Whether you’re just getting started, or are a veteran in the tech world, there’s a seat for you at the table. BYOL: Bring your own laptop!

February 5

1919 Women in Tech and Entrepreneurship Demo Day IV & Spring Informational
3:00pm-5:00pm
Blue 1647 Tech Innovation Center 1647 South Blue Island Avenue, Chicago

Our 4th round of cohorts have graduated and are excited to present their final projects! The ladies of 1919 will display the skills they have learned to family, friends and all who attend. It will be a celebration of skill development for the 75 women who have completed their 12 weeks of learning.

February 8

Chicago SQL Server User Group – February 2017 Meeting
5:30pm-8:00pm
Aon Center | Microsoft Technology Center 200 East Randolph Drive, Suite 200, Chicago

Azure SQL Database is a relational database service in the Microsoft cloud-based Microsoft SQL Server engine and capable of handling mission-critical workloads. SQL Database delivers predictable performance at multiple service levels, dynamic scalability with no downtime, built-in business continuity, and data protection with near-zero administration. SQL Database is based on the SQL Server engine, SQL Database supports existing SQL Server tools, libraries, and APIs, making SQL Server to Azure SQL migrations easy. Learn what it takes to manage, administer, monitor, develop with Azure SQL Database. Also how you can migrate your SQL Server to Azure SQL Database.

February 9

Cleantech University Prize 2017 – Midwest Showcase
2:00pm-7:00pm
Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation 1452 East 53rd Street, Chicago

Clean Energy Trust will showcase eight of the most innovative and promising university-based cleantech companies in the Midwest for a chance to win the Department of Energy’s Cleantech University Prize.

February 16

Dashboard in a Day – Power BI Workshop
8:30am-5:00pm
Aon Center | Microsoft Technology Center 200 East Randolph Drive, Suite 200, Chicago

Dashboard in a Day (DIAD) is a training event that Softweb Solutions is hosting in collaboration with Microsoft to educate professionals on how they can use Power BI in their businesses.

The workshop is meant for beginners as well as users with intermediate level skills and the goal is to give all the attendees a solid foundational knowledge of Power BI and a working dashboard of their data.

February 22

Design for Sustainability
6:00pm
Mightybytes 4001 N. Ravenswood, Suite 404, Chicago

The internet is becoming the world’s largest source of CO2 emissions. 560,000 agencies around the world make daily design decisions on behalf of their clients, directly impacting internet sustainability. By applying sustainability principles to the process of designing digital products and services, we can make better decisions on behalf of people and planet. Come hear Tim Frick – author of Designing for Sustainability – as he outlines strategies to make sustainability an integral part of your product design and development. He’ll also discuss a design framework for sustainability and tactics to implement in day to day digital work to keep sustainability in the forefront of the process.

February 22-25

Adler Planetarium Mardi Gras Celebration
9:30am-4:00pm
Adler Planetarium 1300 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

Dust off your spacesuit. It’s time to celebrate Mars-di Gras!

While the commonly-known Earthly festivities of Mardi Gras bring street festivals, masquerades, merriment, and lots of colorful beads to cities around the world, the Adler takes the festivities one giant step forward—TO SPACE!

We’re saying goodbye to Earth and heading to Mars for an out-of-this-world event. Following the success of last year’s inaugural event, the Adler super krewe is organizing another Mars-di Gras extravaganza.

Once again, we will bring the beads, band, and the science to this carnival of fun. You’ll be transported to the Red Planet, masquerade as the first Martians and experience first-hand what it would be like to live, work, and play on Mars.

February 24

Science Is Cool Conference
10:00am-12:30pm
Malcolm X College 1900 West Jackson Boulevard Conference Center, Chicago

The Science is Cool Conference is an initiative of the Pipeline to Careers in Healthcare, Predominantly Black Institution Grant, at Malcolm X College. It is a bi-annual conference that specifically targets 5th through 8th grade African American students from Chicago area schools. As a premier student based conference, Science is Cool is a unique opportunity because it promotes, demystifies, and raises students exposure to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

February 28

What the Heck are Bots?
3:00pm-4:00pm
Northwestern Knight Lab Fisk Hall, 1845 Sheridan Rd, Evanston

Instead of R2D2 and BB-8, most of the bots people talk about these days don’t have a body. Come “talk” to some “intelligent agents” and discuss what their value might be.

In the Knight Lab’s “What the Heck is …?” series, you’ll get a chance to try new technologies and be part of a conversation about the cultural implications they may have.