Summer time is transition time. It is bittersweet. It is the time when we welcome new Civic Tech Fellows to our team. And it is also time when we say goodbye to the Civic Tech Fellows who have served our civic tech community and our city with such passion and inquisitiveness.
A little bit about the program: Microsoft’s Civic Technology Engagement team understands that many of society’s greatest challenges require a strong grasp that comes only with being present, being empathetic, and doing some solid listening. It also requires the energy and passion to solve those challenges at the local level.
To help us do exactly that, Microsoft created the Civic Tech Fellows program. We offer fellowships to students who are building a strong command of a variety of civic tech related disciplines: policy, economics, computer science, data science, design, etc. Our Fellows not only become a valuable part of the conversations that take place in our metros, but they also develop the strategies and technologies that help represent Microsoft’s engagement with community groups, non-profits, the tech sector, social entrepreneurs, academic institutions, and government officials.
This summer, we say goodbye to Kevin Wei, who has been our Civic Tech Fellow for the last year and a half. If you have ever been to a Chi Hack Night (the weekly gathering of Chicago’s civic tech community), you have likely met Kevin. I say that because if you didn’t reach out to him, he has reached out to you. His passion for using technology to solve the seemingly intractable challenges of our city and society are so genuine, so deep, that he simply wants you to come along and join him on his journey.
You clearly see this when he leads the Civic Tech 101 sessions for folks who are new to Chi Hack Night: he is removing stereotypes, eliminating hesitations, and welcoming newcomers. And if you haven’t been to a Chi Hack Night (shame on you and), you may know him from his amazing breadth of work. He helped Microsoft scale our DigiSeniors program, spreading digital literacy to those who could otherwise become marginalized in the digital world.
Kevin learned and leveraged Microsoft data tools like Power BI to help make meaning derive insights from City of Chicago open data (see his Divvy Bike visualizations here), often partnering with others to extract the most out of it. Kevin has also become an authority on Microsoft’s vast array of open source tools and products. He has helped Blue 1647 light up their civic tech muscle. He has been a gracious and welcoming host of the Chicago City Data Users Group. And, somewhere along the line, he studied hard and graduated with degrees in economics and public policy.
And now, we have to say goodbye to Kevin as he pursues his career. Kevin will be (temporarily) leaving Chicago to build new skills, embrace new people, and contribute to civic tech and society in new ways. While we will very much miss all the work that he does in Chicago, I will mostly miss Kevin the friend. He is thoughtful and wise beyond his years. And while I watch his career grow from a distance, I’ll look forward to his eventual return to his roots: the civic tech community of Chicago.
Keep your eyes on this blog to meet our new crop of civic tech fellows!
Tags: Blue 1647, Chi Hack Night, Chicago, Chicago City Data User Group, DigiSeniors, Divvy, Kevin Wei, Microsoft, Microsoft Chicago, Microsoft Chicago Civic Tech Fellow, Microsoft Civic Tech Fellow, power bi