sarah

Meet

Microsoft Teamwork Helps Northwest Side Housing Center Thrive

As we all know, part of our work at Northwest Side Housing Center is reporting data to our funders. There was a time where we were triple-entering data into different data systems. This was a great headache for everyone involved. Enter Microsoft and their unique technology solutions. They were generous enough to help take on this headache.

When they heard of our issue at Chicago’s Do Good data conference, Microsoft posted details of the project on their shared worldwide website and used words that associate with the NWSHC, such as, “community oriented,” “social change,” and “justice.” The result: Microsoft employees from across the globe from Japan to Seattle, volunteering to help build the NWSHC a customized database to solve our data entry problem. This dream team of Microsoft volunteers took what would be a very long-term project and condensed it into a week! The results to this day are remarkable. Our data entry time has been cut in half and our team loves using the new system.

With the help and generosity from Microsoft, we’re more efficient serving the community that we care so deeply about. Today, we are in the process of getting this database approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which will be the first of its kind as a result of this one-of-a-kind partnership. Without the help of such a great partner like Microsoft, we’d probably be still searching for solutions to our headache. I’d like to thank Microsoft and the worldwide team of volunteers who pitched in countless hours to make this happen.

Sean Washington joined the Northwest Side Housing Center in 2013 and is responsible for all of the Financial reporting, compliance, and General Operations for the NWSHC. He also assists with staff management, development, and organizational meetings. Before joining the NWSHC, Sean served at various non-profit and foreclosure prevention agencies including ACORN Housing, Affordable Housing Centers of America, and Illinois Housing Development Authority. At each organization Sean held a leadership role in some capacity, and brings his experience in management and leadership to the NWSHC. Sean double majored in Psychology and Human Services during his studies at Upper Iowa University. He recently completed the HACE Leadership Academy, one of the graduates of the 2017 cohort. Sean currently resides in Forest Park with his spouse and their daughter, Corinne. They were married on Sweetest Day, October 20th, 2012 and bought their first home together on that same day four years later. Ironically, it was the house Sean’s wife grew up in as a child. Sean enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, along with playing and watching sports.

Civic Tech in Chicago — July’s Top Events

The dog days of summer have crept up! Keep going nonstop with us with these top picks for civic tech events in Chicago:

All Month

Chicago Innovation Awards (make your nominations by July 31st!)

The Chicago Innovation Awards make Chicago a recognized hub of innovation by igniting a new narrative for our region, strengthening its economic future and building the spirit of innovation throughout the community.

July 6

500 Startups @ UChicago
5pm—7pm
Polsky Exchange – Promontory Point Meeting Room 1452 E 53rd St, 2nd Floor, Chicago

500 Startups is a global venture capital seed fund headquartered in Silicon Valley with over $350M in capital. The most active seed investor in the world, 500 Startups has invested in 1,800 technology startups across 60 countries the world since 2010.

On July 6, join Entrepreneur in Residence Mark Goldenson for an expert presentation on fundraising. Mark will dive into the details of creating a pitch deck with slide-by-slide tips and give advice on applying to 500 Startups next batch. Come with questions!

Dinner will be served.

July 11, 18, 25

Chi Hack Night
6pm—10pm
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 speakerslearn from each other and work on civic projects. Non-techies are very welcome!

July 12

Chicago Innovation Summit
1pm—7pm
Harold Washington Library Center 400 S State St, Chicago

Chicago Innovation, The Executives’ Club of Chicago, and the Chicago Public Library have joined forces for the 2nd annual Chicago Innovation Summit. Featuring top innovation minds and leaders, this half-day event will unveil new ideas and strategies to help grow your business, as well as a showcase featuring innovative technologies of tomorrow.

July 13

The Future of IoT
9am—11am
TechNexus 20 N Wacker Dr, 12th floor, Chicago

​The Internet of Things is moving from the “cool products” phase into a more mature, fully developed world where the focus is shifting from IoT-enabled products to how to establish the IoT-enabled Enterprise. Accommodating this shift will fundamentally be a function of leveraging the underlying data, and will require considerations about architectural deployment, security, privacy, and data primacy and governance.

ITA Tech on Tap: Cogeco Peer 1 on ITA Roofdeck
5:30pm—7:30pm
Civic Opera Building 20 N. Wacker Drive, 15th Floor, Chicago

​You are invited to join Cogeco Peer 1 and ITA on the Civic Opera Building Roofdeck to celebrate summer, network and collaborate with your peers in the Chicago tech community.

July 18

Diversity & Inclusion: What, How & Why
9am—11am
TechNexus 20 N Wacker Dr, 12th floor, Chicago

​Diversity and Inclusion has had quite the spot in the news lately as companies are trying to become more educated when it comes to attracting a diverse workforce and creating a more inclusive environment to help retain these employees. What does diversity in the workforce really mean? How should inclusion programs be implemented? Is there ROI in these programs or are they just the ‘right thing to do?’

Join a panel of professionals that are taking great strides in making their companies diverse and inclusive.

Detroit Hosts First Neighborhood Tech Talk in Cody Rouge

On June 20th in the Cody Rouge neighborhood on Detroit’s far west side, the first Neighborhood Tech Talk was held in the basement of Grace Community Church. Hosted by Grand Circus, this event brought technologists and entrepreneurs of color to one of Detroit’s westside neighborhoods to talk about their paths to careers in tech. The term “neighborhoods” in Detroit typically refers to areas that have not seen the same kind of economic investment and growth as thriving areas such as Midtown, Downtown, and Corktown. This discussion series aims to increase diversity in Detroit’s growing tech scene and connect people in the neighborhoods with potential tech mentors.

Panelists Marlin Williams, Diversity and Inclusion Entrepreneur-in-Residence at TechTown and founder of Sisters Code, Justin Cook, Co-Founder of Pro:Up, Ashley Williams, founder and CEO of RIZZARR, And Monica Wheat, Lead at Detroit Startup Week and founder of Digerati Girls / Digerati Kids, talked about what led them to careers in tech.  They also discussed both positive and negative experiences they had as minorities in the industry.

An audience of about thirty people listened to the panel talk about computer science and entrepreneurship. For some panelists, their inspiration to pursue a career in tech came from the desire to build a business. Justin Cook told the audience how his idea for an app that helps students find job, volunteer, and scholarship opportunities came from working as a high school guidance counselor.  Other panelists echoed this sentiment, encouraging students to seek out solutions to challenges they face everyday because diverse perspectives identify a wider range of challenges and more innovative solutions.

The panel discussion was followed by a Q+A. Local community benefits advocates asked about opportunities to get coding programs started in the Cody Rouge neighborhood. While programs currently exist in Midtown and Downtown, due to inadequate public transportation, some Cody Rouge residents are unable to get to those locations. This concern highlights the need for increased access to computer science education programs in the neighborhoods.

At the end of the event, the panelists, all from Detroit, offered to connect and serve as mentors for students who may not have previously considered a career in tech. Studies have revealed the importance of having a mentor from a similar background who can empathize with and guide mentees through challenges they may face. Events like Tech Talks in the Neighborhood are an important part of creating a more diverse and inclusive tech community and providing opportunities for all Detroiters.

Doing Good is Worth Doing Well

In May 2017, the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation celebrated five years at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and announced a $20 million gift. The Rustandy Center, formerly called the Social Enterprise Initiative, is the destination for people committed to helping solve complex social and environmental problems.

The following is an excerpt from a speech given by executive director Christina Hachikian, Booth adjunct associate professor of strategy.  

Only one human disease — smallpox — has ever been eradicated through deliberate intervention.  Polio, for instance, remains endemic in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria more than 64 years after Jonas Salk invented the Polio vaccine. That’s because disease eradication takes more than a vaccine. Leadership is required to take a solution and implement it on the ground.  

Questions of leadership in the social sector are among the most important that the Rustandy Center will strive to address through research.

But can research really have that kind of impact in the face of real, on-the-ground challenges?

Let me tell you a story.

A few years ago, Quaker Oats gave 20,780 pounds of surplus cereal bars to Feeding America. Each of its food banks wanted the bars. But to get them, they had to compete.  Bidding opened at 10 a.m. By noon, Kansas City, had won the bars.

Booth faculty members Canice Prendergast, Harry Davis, Donald Eisenstein and Robert Hamada devised Feeding America’s “choice system,” which lets food banks bid for products.

The local food banks lose more than they win, but this method of online non-cash bidding is far better than the old system. Previously, Feeding America assigned donations by rotating down a list. That system would sometimes leave food rotting in Rhode Island; cause chicken to go from Alaska to Alabama; or flood Florida with even more orange juice.

Booth faculty devised a system whereby “shares” were allocated to food banks daily, based on the poverty level and population of the community. To ensure small food banks could sometimes outbid much larger ones, smaller ones would get more shares.

Here’s how the head of a Michigan food bank described it: “Deciding which products to bid on isn’t easy, but we know our service area better than anyone else. For better or worse, the decision making is now precisely where it needs to be.”

In short, the model worked. But of equal importance are the questions it raises. Can this model be applied to other resources? What other lessons can we learn? What kind of leadership and buy-in was needed for wide-spread adoption of this model?

The mission of the Rustandy Center is to marry practical knowledge with academic insights into how the sector functions. And we seek answers the Booth way — by questioning, testing ideas, and seeking proof.

Armed with these insights, we strive to help people increase their odds of solving seemingly intractable problems.

Because doing good — from eradicating polio to distributing food to the hungry — is worth doing well.

Christina Hachikian is the executive director of the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She leads the center’s global work as the hub for people solving complex social and environmental problems.  In particular, she is responsible for strategy and direction, as well as resource development and partnerships.  She is also an adjunct associate professor at Booth, and teaches courses on scaling social innovation and on social enterprise strategy, as well as serving as a coach for the school’s Social New Venture Challenge.

Fellow Profile: Meghan Urisko

Meghan Urisko, Microsoft Civic Tech Fellow in DetroitWhere are you from? I’m a nomad who has lived in Los Angeles, Detroit, Paris, San Francisco, Brooklyn, Boston, Greenville, and Grosse Pointe. Currently, I live in Ypsilanti, MI.

School/grad year/major: I just finished the first year of my Master of Science in Information at the University of Michigan School of Information and will graduate in 2018. I’m specializing in Civic Experience Design.

Last thing you searched on Bing: Surface Pro

Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program? I was honored to be selected as the Microsoft Civic Tech Fellow in Detroit so I can utilize my user-centered research and design skills to improve citizen experience. I look forward to learning more about serving communities with open data.

What’s your favorite civic project in the Detroit area? The Digital Stewards Training Program, which trains community members to build and maintain their own wireless communications infrastructure. I’m also inspired by the city’s payment kiosks which provide residents without connectivity a convenient method to pay water, tax, and electricity bills.

Who is your civic tech mentor/idol? I’m thrilled to be working with Erica Raleigh and the whole team at Data Driven Detroit. I have admired their work for years.

What projects are you working on for your position as tech fellow for Microsoft Chicago?

My main goal is to help Microsoft foster a meaningful role in supporting Detroit’s civic tech scene. Some of my projects will include developing an in-depth understanding of the existing civic tech community, supporting Data Driven Detroit in documenting local government and community data, training non-technical partners on technologies useful to the civic space, and supporting the Detroit Civic User Testing (CUT) Group.

What excites you about civic tech? Technology has the ability to have a large and positive impact on a wide variety of civic issues. It’s really exciting to join Microsoft at the forefront of exploring new ways that technology can support cities.

What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities? I hope the civic tech sphere will continue to champion public education on data and technology literacy so that tech solutions are inclusive solutions.

Fellow Profile: Soren Spicknall

Where are you from? I don’t feel tied to any one place above others, but I spent time living in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Alabama before moving to Chicago three years ago.

School/grad year/major: Illinois Institute of Technology, December 2018, co-terminal BS in Computer Science and MS in Data Science

Last thing you searched on Bing: I most recently searched “define fickle” to make sure I was using the right word when describing the behavior of characters in a film I was discussing with a friend.

Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program? My work in computing has always been rooted in a desire to unite technical knowledge with sociopolitical advocacy. I had previously interacted with Adam Hecktman during an interdisciplinary project at Illinois Tech, and when he introduced this fellowship opening at ChiHackNight, I knew that it was an opportunity that both aligned with my interests and would be overseen by somebody who I enjoy working with.

What’s your favorite civic project in the Chicago area? Though it’s an obvious choice, the very existence of the City of Chicago’s Data Portal is a huge catalyst for civic tech work in the city. With improvements being made and new data sets being added regularly, the Data Portal (and the Department of Innovation and Technology overseeing it) is indicative of a general cultural shift toward government data openness.

Who is your civic tech mentor/idol? Rather than pointing out a specific name, I’d like to focus on the one person in each successful civic tech team whose every fifth word seems to be “stakeholders.” A civic tech project that is only accessible to civic technologists is a failed project, and those individuals who constantly push for input from voices outside the civic tech community help keep our discipline healthy.

What projects are you working on for your position as tech fellow for Microsoft Chicago? In addition to general outreach at meetups like ChiHackNight and the Chicago City Data User Group, I’ll be developing and heading up Microsoft Chicago’s blockchain strategy over the span of the fellowship. This work already includes partnerships with members of the Blockchain Education Network, UChicago’s Center for Data Science and Public Policy, and THRIVE Chicago, and there are sure to be more collaborators brought on board in the near future.

What excites you about civic tech? I have never wanted to be the kind of developer who works in a room filled only with other coders, and I’ve never wanted to be the kind of data scientist whose skills are put to use figuring out the most effective way to market soap. I want to be one component of an interdisciplinary team that has an impact on major issues and topics in government and society, and the realm of civic tech brings together developers, policy experts, citizen activists, and more to accomplish those goals.

What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities? I am excited by the potential of civic tech (and, specifically, of data science) to target infrastructure improvements in cities. Foot traffic data, water runoff data, and countless other measures of different pieces of physical infrastructure can give us a clearer picture of where repairs, redevelopment, and new projects could be most effectively implemented.

What’s Next After Microsoft — Civic Tech Fellow Alumnus Kevin Wei

Read Adam Hecktman’s goodbye to Kevin here.

Where did you study? I’m a proud graduate of UChicago Class of 2017, with a BA in Economics and Public Policy

What were your main duties as a Microsoft fellow?

Personal Projects – The fellowship gives everyone an awesome opportunity to pick and work on personal projects that are meaningful and help contribute to the civic tech ecosystem in a unique way. It’s such an awesome experience to have the support of the Microsoft Chicago team while you’re working on these projects which are specifically catered to your interests and skills; I developed a passion for digital access/literacy and data storytelling, and you can see that manifested in my projects such as DigiSeniors or Divvy Data Analysis.

Evangelism – Civic technology is all about inclusivity, and showing anyone and everyone the potential of technology for public good was really important. Presence and ‘showing up’ is what gets things done in Chicago, so whether it was hackathons like Migrahack or Tech for Justice, community organizations like Blue1647 or LISC, and civic tech meetups like ChiHackNight or Chicago City Data User Group, I made sure I was there to talk civic tech! No matter where you come from, everyone has something to contribute!

While personal projects and evangelism were important, I could write a whole book on the amount of amazing things I did during the fellowship, from device loans to relationship building. But to sum it up, I think it’s safe to say that there are so many amazing individuals, organizations, and efforts that are doing amazing things across the city, and I absolutely enjoyed every second of meeting and working with the wonderful people who are dedicated to making the world a better place through tech.

What has been your favorite project with the Technology and Civic Engagement Team?

DigiSeniors is an initiative to provide essential digital skills to senior citizens across Chicago. I had worked on it for the entirety of my fellowship, doing user experience research, creating the curriculum, and managing the program as we scaled across the city. This was one of my favorite projects because it really crystalized the power of collaborative ecosystem. Whether we were training nonprofits with our curriculum with Smart Chicago Collaborative, piloting a service-learning project with CPS/Senn High School, the list goes on and on…, it was clear that we need to continue addressing the digital divide across the city. But of course, I also have to give a side shout out to my public policy thesis, which analyzed why Chicago’s civic tech ecosystem was one of the best in the world!

Where is civic tech taking you next?

For now, I’ll be joining a rotational program at LiveRamp, a marketing-tech company in San Francisco, but I’ll never forget my civic tech roots! I know I’ll be heavily involved with the various civic tech groups in the Bay Area, like Code for America and the San Francisco Brigades and hope to learn and grow there! It’s an honor to have been a part of this wonderful civic tech ecosystem and have the ability to say, “you know in Chicago, we did this…”

What advice do you have for future fellows?

I’ll echo some advice from a previous fellow, the wonderful Erin Simpson, when I say that the core mantra of “build with people, not for people,” will always remain relevant. Whatever you’re building, keeping the civic tech ideals of accessibility and inclusivity will always lead you in the right direction.

And I would be remiss to not mention the fact that Adam Hecktman and Shelley Stern Grach are the best team and mentors you could ever ask for, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them; learn as much as you can from them!

What’s Next After Microsoft — Civic Tech Fellow Alumnus Ivoire Morrell

Where did you study? I Graduated Manga Cum Laude from Lawrence Technological University earning my Bachelors in Computer Science.

What were your main duties as a Microsoft fellow? As a Microsoft Fellow, my main duty was to serve the city of Detroit through using Civic Engagement, Civic Technology, and data analysis as vehicles to drive positive change. I was able to carry out this mission through spearheading recruitment and managing the civic tech movement CUTGroup Detroit, creating informative visual reports through data analysis of some of Detroit’s most critical issues using Microsoft’s powerful data processing tool PowerBI, authoring several blogs about insights from my data analysis, instructing students throughout Detroit at Hour of Code workshops, serving as the technical partner for a data collaborative with the Census Bureau, and so much more.

What has been your favorite project with the Technology and Civic Engagement Team? I had the privilege of being a part of so many great projects during my time as a fellow that I can’t say I have one particular favorite. Two that I really enjoyed were the CUTGroup Detroit project and teaching students at the Hour of Code classes. Both of these projects were driven by making a positive impact on the community, which is something I strive to do every day. Being able to voyage throughout Detroit and interact with the people that make this city so great with CUTGroup Detroit recruitment was an amazing experience. Being able to inspire students through instructing coding classes was equally gratifying.

Where is civic tech taking you next? My next step in the world of civic tech will be at Data Driven Detroit (D3) where I will serve as a full-time Microsoft Civic Tech fellow for the city of Detroit. D3 has been a gracious host to me over the past year as a Microsoft Fellow and I look forward making an even greater impact on the city of Detroit as I step into the full time role.

What advice do you have for future fellows? My advice to all future fellows is to never lose sight of the mission that propels you. Stay focused on making the community a better place for all of those around you whether it be through Civic Engagement, Civic Technology, serving others, or simply being a voice for the voiceless. Don’t let the fact that you’re working for the world’s greatest company or the clout that can come from being in a position of influence distract you from the mission of impacting the community.

Civic Tech in Chicago — June’s Top Events

Summer in Chicago is our brief respite from the Chicago chill — with plenty of plans on deck to enjoy the good weather while it lasts, we’ve gathered some of June’s top events to keep you on track with civic tech:

June 6, 13, 20, 27

Chi Hack Night
6pm—10pm
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!

June 7

Chicago City Data User Group
6:00pm—7:30pm
The Microsoft Technology Center Chicago
Aon Center 200 E. Randolph Ste 200, Chicago

You don’t have to be a developer to use Chicago’s rich sets of data! The Chicago City Data users group is for end users, business users, enthusiasts, students, entrepreneurs, anyone interested in how to use City Data. Our goal to promote civic engagement, innovation, and economic opportunity leveraging The City of Chicago’s data.

2017 Chicago Forum on Global Cities Pre-reception and Opening Night
5:00pm—9:00pm
Art Institute of Chicago 230 S Columbus Avenue, Chicago

Save the date for opening night of the 2017 Chicago Forum on Global Cities, hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Financial Times.

Ahead of the program, join us for a special discussion with other business, civic and public sector leaders on the role of global cities in addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including through IMPACT 2030 – the only private sector-led initiative with the UN to unite companies in their corporate volunteering efforts to help advance the global goals.

June 7-8

Chicago Forum on Global Cities
130 E. Randolph Dr., Chicago

The inaugural Chicago Forum on Global Cities, hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Financial Times, convened in Chicago May 27-29, 2015. Each year, the forum brings together global leaders in business, education, civics, and the arts for an integrated, cross-sector dialogue on the power and limitations of global cities to shape the world’s future. The role of global cities in our world will be defined by the mayors and maestros, the scholars and CEOs, who attend and participate in this unique annual global forum in a unique global city.

June 14

Chicago’s Big Challenge: Neighborhood Safety
12pm—1:30pm
Standard Club 320 S Plymouth Ct, Chicago

On Wednesday, June 14th, ICPR will host a luncheon titled, “Chicago’s Big Challenge: Neighborhood Safety” from Noon – 1:30pm at The Standard Club in Chicago.

The event will feature local experts sharing their perspectives on how to increase safety in Chicago neighborhoods.

June 19-23

Techweek Chicago 2017
Weeklong
Various locations downtown Chicago

Techweek is an integrated media company creating and curating engaging media, dynamic events and disruptive content on web, digital and interactive technology, bringing together diverse communities of entrepreneurs, corporate professionals and thought leaders.

June 24

Chicago Cares Serve-a-Thon

We’re a city of 77 diverse neighborhoods, each with its own unique assets. And while we’re North Siders, South Siders and West Siders, we’re also Chicagoans.

That’s why on June 24, we’ll gather 5,000 Chicagoans to volunteer side by side at Chicago Cares’ Serve-a-thon, the city’s largest day of service.

What You Can Do to Empower the Public and Nonprofit Sectors with Data and Technology

At Microsoft, we partner with civic organizations and governments to create new ways to leverage data and technology to tackle local priorities.  We see first-hand both the opportunity for these capabilities to help groups achieve more effective outcomes and the challenges facing busy non-profit and public sector staff in gaining the skills they need to strategically select, design and use key tools such as data analytics, visualizations, and tech infrastructure.  That is why we joined with the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) at the Urban Institute to study the landscape of Training on Data and Technology to Improve Communities.  Today, we welcome Kathy Pettit of the Urban Institute as a guest blogger to describe the project and the newly-released resources and recommendations for how we all can work together to extend and expand these sorts of impactful training opportunities.  

— Elizabeth Grossman, Director of Civic Projects, Microsoft

CivTech St. Louis, a collaboration of nonprofits, local governments, universities, and local technologists, launched a new open source website and text reminder system enabling residents to look up their own municipal tickets and warrants and easily access information about how to resolve or contest them. In Boston, the City of Boston’s Division of Youth Engagement and Employment in partnership with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council revamped the city’s algorithm for matching students to summer jobs incorporating applicant job preferences developed by youth and alternatives for youth living farther from job opportunities.

These are just two examples among many efforts around the country to apply data and technology in innovative ways. But we need to equip all our local nonprofits and governments with the knowledge and confidence to use data and technology to identify community priorities and design effective responses. The National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) and Microsoft’s Civic Technology Engagement Group believe training is a critical part of the efforts to accomplish this goal. Based on the lessons from our year-long joint project, we now offer a new set of resources to help local communities expand training on data and technology for local governments and nonprofits, including a brief summarizing the study results, a guide on designing and executing training, and a catalog of training materials.

A wide variety of organizations are well suited to providing training: libraries, applied university centers, local government agencies, coalition leaders, nonprofit support organizations, and civic technology groups. But many other players –  government agency and elected leaders, nonprofit executives, and funders – also have a role in ensuring that the people working to improve our communities have the skills they need to perform their jobs successfully. We suggest four ways that local and national actors can improve the quality and quantity of training and thus increase the application of data and technology in public and nonprofit planning and programs.

  • Expand the training available to government and nonprofit staff: More organizations – libraries, university centers, nonprofit support organizations, civic technologist volunteers, public agencies, or local data intermediaries like NNIP partners – should provide training. In-person classes enable participants to gain hands-on experience with data and technology while connecting with others interested in continuous learning. Our new guide for organizations interested in providing training offers steps for getting started.
  • Foster opportunities for sharing training materials and lessons: We need to encourage more regular exchange among trainers within a community and across the country. We have created a catalog with descriptions and materials from selected trainings. Other networks and interest groups should curate tailored materials for specific audiences. To advance the field of training, we also need to foster more interaction among trainers through virtual and face-to-face gatherings.
  • Identify allies who can enhance and support local training efforts: Even organizations that do not provide training directly have critical parts to play in expanding training opportunities and participation. For example, foundations should provide financial support and encouragement for developing and attending training for their grantees. Government and nonprofit leaders can create work environments that value efforts to improve staff data and technology capabilities. Changing Culture by the Johns Hopkins Center for Government Excellence shares ways to influence a government agency’s culture to have staff become more adept with using data. Collected Voices from the Nonprofit Technology Network offers guidance to nonprofits on building a culture of using data.
  • Assess the local landscape of data and technology training: Local actors across sectors should understand their community’s capacity to employ data and technology, including gaps in training on these skills. This information can help localities prioritize the audiences and topics for training. Our guide offers suggestions and a sample interview protocol on how to assess training opportunities and needs based on the experiences of the NNIP partners.

Today’s communities are facing many challenges with the prospect of more limited resources from the state and federal government. Leveraging data and technology can help our public and nonprofit sectors make more informed decisions and adapt to changing circumstances. Progress on this can be made more quickly and in more places if we invest in training development and implementation and create opportunities to share promising practices from around the country.

Our project highlights how community training delivered in person helps to ensure it is tailored for local audiences and context. Over the next month, you will hear from NNIP partner organizations in Detroit, Oakland, and Pittsburgh on how they are helping to meet the need for training on data and technology in their communities.