Civic Tech

Postcard from India: Do You Live Near Toxic Waste?

This is the second in a series of discussions about my recent trip to India with the University of Chicago’s Civic Leadership Academy. This article will focus on Environmental Sustainability and a remarkable NGO in India, which is working hard to bring information on toxins to the public domain. Microsoft has a deep commitment to environmental sustainability, for our planet, our utilization of energy, and for our legacy. Please read about our policy and programs at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/about/corporate-responsibility/planet.

via Time Magazine

Like many Chicagoans, I hadn’t thought too much about the disposal of toxic waste. My focus on Environmental Sustainability was usually focused on carbon footprint, ice caps melting, endangered animals and wondering how paying 7 cents for a plastic bag was really going to make a difference for my great-grandchildren. A few weeks ago, Time Magazine had a small article that caught my attention. Time Labs mapped all the 1,317 so-called Superfund sites—the most toxic locations in the US, as tracked by the federal government. The density of toxic waste centered around Illinois and my home state of Michigan really surprised me.

Then I spent an afternoon in Delhi, India with the remarkable Ravi Agarwal, Founder and Director of Toxics Link. Ravi is changing the urban waste management system in India by involving local communities and the informal sector of “waste pickers” in waste disposal. He also is a strong advocate for a cleaner materials policy in industry. His work crosses boundaries locally, nationally and internationally. Toxics Link is an environmental NGO dedicated to bringing toxics-related information into the public domain. They span the struggles at the grass roots levels as well as provide global information to the local levels in India. Their focus is on articulating the issues related to toxic waste.

Ravi Agarwal, Director at Toxics Link

Toxic Links addresses the areas of hazardous and medical waste management, as well as food safety. They work in “networks”, utilizing community outreach and education, coupled with policy analysis, research training and program development. Their goal is to create the right solutions, as driven by the needs of the people. Working both in Delhi and through the country, Toxic Links also acts as part of a coalition of NGOs. An acknowledged expert in hazardous, medical and municipal wastes, Toxic Links is now addressing the emerging issues of pesticides and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), as well as e-waste scenarios in major metropolitan areas in India. They have a nationwide network of over 5000 members.

When you hear Ravi speak, he is so gentle, erudite and has such as smile on his face, that you need to balance his demeanor with his leadership mantra: “If you don’t engage, you don’t change”. His team collaborates widely with academic institutions and they engage directly “on the ground” with stakeholders. They started out working with “waste pickers” often considered to be the lowest form of work in India. Today, they also focus on electronic waste and wrote the first report in 2003 from a developing country on this topic. Here are some of the accomplishments of Toxic Links:

  • Toxics Link Has Been Awarded the Research & Development Award 2016 for Its Outstanding Contribution in Lead Related Research.
  • Toxics Link has been organizing school awareness programs across india. Around 4,221 schools, 4,50,000 students and 13,000 teachers have been covered in 19 states.
  • “We are a group of people working together for environmental justice and freedom from toxins. We have taken it upon ourselves to collect and share information about the sources and dangers of poisons in our environment and bodies, as well as clean and sustainable alternatives for India and the rest of the world.”
  • They have even created games on e-waste to make the topic more fun for school children.

So, how can we relate the amazing work that Ravi and Toxic Links are doing to Environmental Sustainability in Chicago and the US? My perspective is that we can learn from Ravi’s leadership style and his relentless focus on pursuing and communicating the truth. As he said in our meeting:

“We come with a smile,

We come in peace,

We can wait,

We are firm and we don’t compromise”.

His team doesn’t see the environment as separate from social justice, as it’s often the poorest and most underprivileged among the Indian population that have the closet connection to toxic waste from a geographical (living) perspective. Ravi urged us to “mobilize our work at home to address the least empowered”. Because if you start there, your role as a leader becomes a position of humility, not power.

He sees systemic reform as the “north star goal”, but the reality is that he focuses on specific issues for the present, in order to actually change policy and make real improvements. He gave us the following advice as leaders to bring home to our work in Chicago:

  1. Be at the table every day!
  2. Be in the conversation every day!
  3. Commit to long term, persistent leadership, which hold the values and the culture of your organization.

As we spent considerable time discussing values, Ravi believes that “values are there because you hold onto them”. You will know when your work is respected, and it helps to provide your team members very clear responsibilities. Values are held in systems…the way you respect and reward people is a demonstration of your values. It’s probably not a surprise that Ravi is also an accomplished artist, as he believes Art helps you lead a team in several ways. It helps you look at things differently, look at nature and ecology and the planet with a sense of wonderment and respect. It is this lens of leadership, this focus on values, and the ability to wait and not compromise that are lessons we can bring home and use every day.

Managing Sustainability Below the Earth’s Surface

An Underground Infrastructure Mapping Scan, via UI Labs

This being Earth Week, I would like to take you just slightly below the Earth’s surface. Under our city, as a matter of fact. Why? Because the infrastructure that resides underground impacts the output of carbon above ground. To understand how this works, let’s do a little exploration down below.

Beneath the streets and alleys of our city lies a labyrinth that supports daily life and commerce. Underground assets include water pipes, fiber optic lines, gas pipes, electrical lines, cable and telco lines. It also includes legacy infrastructure (think telegraph cables…yes telegraph…and conduit).

We don’t think about the underground infrastructure because we don’t see it. We take it for granted until something needs repair, or new infrastructure needs to be added. When we are inconvenienced by the lane closures associated with the opening of a street, we see it and curse it. Car, bicycle, and foot traffic are routed around the construction. In the best of circumstances, the street is sealed back up and traffic resumes as normal. Except when it doesn’t.

Too often, when a crew is working on, say, repairing underground cable lines, they may run into unexpected assets such as electrical lines. They must stop their work, seal the street, move, and the process starts again. That means that the time that traffic is inconvenienced is effectively doubled. How often is too often? According to City Digital, In the US, an underground infrastructure is hit on average of every 60 seconds at a cost of $1.6B annually).

How does this keep happening so frequently? Don’t we know what is underground? Not exactly. Today, underground coordination prior to construction is based on looking at maps (sometimes non-digital). And those maps are often two dimensional (meaning that you do not know the depth of the assets they are mapping). Further complicating the situation, the maps can be inaccurate, incomplete, or outdated.

So how does what happens underground impact the carbon output above ground in our city? Run through this (not uncommon) scenario again where a project needs to be re-started because of interfering existing infrastructure:

  • The street or lane is blocked off, and slowed or stalled traffic idles (carbon)
  • Big machines come in and rip up the street (more carbon)
  • Shoot! Something is in the way. Big machines seal up the street (more carbon)
  • Block off another section of street and continue to idle congested traffic (much more carbon)
  • Repeat until mad

So, much of the impact on the environment comes from unnecessary idling, which produces climate damaging greenhouse gases. You might think “big deal, so I idle for a minute or two while waiting to maneuver around underground street construction”. Think about this: according to Natural Resources Canada, idling for just 3 minutes every day adds 1.4M tons of CO2 emissions. Removing that is equivalent to taking 320,000 cars off the road for the entire year.

The impact on climate change is such that some countries have created policies and guidelines for reducing idling. In the US, the EPA posted guidelines that recommend turning the engine off if you are idling more than 30 seconds. Reducing the need to idle is even a better solution.

Enter City Digital’s Underground Infrastructure Mapping pilot. Last fall, City Digital kicked off a pilot to create an underground infrastructure mapping (UIM) platform that is designed to reduce the expensive need to restart these intrusive projects. The platform generates, organizes, visualizes, and stores 3D underground infrastructure data that can be securely shared by those who have assets underground.

An Underground Infrastructure Visualization, via UI Labs

Using the City of Chicago as a testbed for the platform’s development, City Digital members are deploying this new technology to create accurate 3D maps of underground assets. An engineering-grade, cloud-based data platform ensures that critical infrastructure information is securely stored and shared at the right level with the right people. The result: having accurate information prior to breaking ground not only reduces carbon output, it saves cities and utilities millions of dollars in the construction and planning processes. It is a modern take on the “measure twice, cut once” approach to reducing carbon emission.

Microsoft is proud to partner with City Digital as we build on the success of the Smart Green Infrastructure Monitoring (SGIM) project, and move our focus to what underground. As underground infrastructure becomes more familiar to us, we’re looking forward to the next steps of reducing emissions and helping save the earth, little by little.

To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to environmental sustainability, head to the Microsoft Green Blog.

Postcard from India: An Array of Themes

This is the first in a series of blogs about my recent trip to India with the University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy. It’s taken me some time  to simply digest everything that we saw and experienced, and to think through the “big themes” and how those themes either relate to Civic Engagement in Chicago. Today’s discussion will focus on the “Array of Themes” that India kindles and I’ll share a few early highlights of our visits so you can see the diversity of the country.

Future blogs will focus on a few of the inspiring leaders we visited, and how their leadership skills can be translated to the challenges here in Chicago.

Let’s start with a quote which graces the wall of the Microsoft Delhi office which I visited on my second to last day in India. We’ll talk more about the office at a later time, but I felt this was a great summary of the values of every leader and every place we visited:

In Sanskrit:
Vipadi dhairyam atha abhyudaye kshamaa sadasi vaakpatutaa yudhi vikramaha
Yashasi cha abhiratihi vyasanam shrutau prakriti siddham idam hi mahaatmanaam

In English :
Courage in trouble, forbearance in prosperity, eloquence in the assembly, valour in battle, eagerness in gaining fame, attention to the holy scriptures – all these are natural to great ones.

Over the course of the trip, several themes emerged and are summed up by a comment from Rashish Nanda, the Chief Executive Office of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, India: “India lives in many centuries at the same time”. How perfectly this helps describe the beauty, the cultural mash-up, the digitization of India living right next to extreme poverty. Each morning we started our program at the modern campus of the University of Chicago Center in Delhi. We met with noted senior executives and NGO leaders who fought for change and human rights.

Following are the themes that I observed during our visit:

  1. The scale of the challenges in India are massive. Delhi has nearly 20 million people and the scope of trying to impact that range of people is enormous. I found the leaders we met tackled their challenges “one person at a time”, always moving forward and the scope didn’t diminish their energy or optimism.
  2. Women’s rights are also a key issue and the mountain that the NGO female leaders climbed were clearly higher than for male NGO leaders. Which made the impact and the focus of the women we met with all the more impressive. We’ll hear more about Ruma Roka, Founder and Chief Executive, Noida Deaf Society in a future blog.
  3. Society itself is in a self-discovery process. It’s both evolving to catch up with the 21st Century and keeping true to its heritage and culture at the same time. Think about Chicago, “born” in 1837 and how we are building a global tech hub. Now think about Delhi: The Indian capital city of Delhi has a long history, and has been an important political center of India as the capital of several empires. Much of Delhi’s ancient history finds no record and this may be regarded as a lost period of its history. Extensive coverage of Delhi’s history begins with the onset of the Delhi Sultanate in the 12th century. Since then, Delhi has been the center of a succession of mighty empires and powerful kingdoms, making Delhi one of the longest serving Capitals and one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world.
  4. The sounds! The senses! The colors! The creative expression! India expresses its cultural heritage through dress, colors, spices, deep faith and horns honking. The call to worship, the vibrant colors literally everywhere and the constant collision of 21st Century traffic with people selling their wares as they have been sold for generations. The presence of TV screens at the magnificent Golden Temple is a great example.
  5. Leadership is everywhere in India. It’s with the mother who is changing her child’s life through sending her to the School for the Deaf. It’s with the engineers and scientists who focus on toxic waste and work tirelessly to change policies to improve the health of the country. It’s with the Foundation leaders who focus on preserving the green space and the heritage of Humayun’s Tomb through an urban renewal initiative, similar to the urban renewal in Bronzeville, Englewood or along 63rd Street.

The leaders we met with put the spark of human dignity back into people who had been defeated by life. They were faced with leading across boundaries (ethnic, caste, government/private sector). They faced challenges of public sectors everywhere: how do you motivate and energize bureaucracy? How do you battle corruption? How do you do urban planning in a geography that originally had 50,000 citizens and now has nearly 20 million people to house, feed, and educate. They face the challenges of managing multiple stakeholders (imagine the challenges of restoration, culture and funding for Humayun’s Tomb! But then again, Humayun managed to be buried with both of his wives….). The leaders we met with felt that community ownership was key to success (sound familiar, Chicago?). Leadership qualities include the ability to look deeper and create customized solutions, being nimble, being analytical and using data to evaluate success through pre and post assessment, and above all, being passionate.

In our next blog, we’ll learn more about the remarkable Noida Deaf Society and how one women literally brought children who had no education nor means of communication into a school, where those children are now the teachers.

Civic Chat — Networking Our Neighborhoods: Gabrielle Lyon, Chicago Architecture Foundation and Heather Van Benthuysen, Chicago Public Schools

Civic education has always been a priority in Chicago, as a city that prides itself in its political involvement and civic engagement. Yet it has only recently become a requirement for Chicago’s students. Heather Van Benthuysen, Civic Education Manager at Chicago Public Schools, has changed this, and is working to inspire Chicago students to become active participants in their communities through experiential civic education.

Remember the Wacker’s Manual of the Plan of Chicago? Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has partnered with the Chicago Architecture Foundation for No Small Plans, a graphic novel inspired by and built for CPS teens based on the Wacker’s Manual. The 144-page novel follows the adventures of teens in Chicago’s past (1928), present (2017), and future (2211) in Chicago’s individual neighborhoods.

In Shelley Stern Grach’s latest Civic Chat: Networking Our Neighborhoods, she sits down with Heather Van Benthuysen and Gabrielle Lyon, Vice President of Education and Experience at Chicago Architecture Foundation, to explore No Small Plans and civic education in Chicago.

Watch Shelley’s chat with Heather and Gabrielle live on Advisor.tv.

Support No Small Plans — purchase or donate a copy in advance here.

Chicago City Data User Group — The Impact Genome: Predicting Social Impact

The government and the social sector in philanthropy are the only places in the economy that measure impact only after a program has been funded.  Every other business uses data to predict the impact. The Impact Genome is a universal evidence base to research, evaluate and predict what works in social change. The Genome spans 132 common outcomes across 11 areas of social impact.

The idea is to apply the same concept used in the music genome (think of how Pandora figures out what you like) to a decision-support platform for civic funders and policymakers. It will allow practitioners to build programs using evidence “decoded” by pulling in unstructured data from academic research studies together with existing social policy.  They then use that data to estimate the impact of the programs (and standardize the reporting).  Among other benefits , this project will also allow  for benchmarking and rationalize how resources are allocated.

This short video explains it. And on April 5th, as part of our Chicago City Data User Group, we got to hear Mission Measurement founder Jason Saul talk about the genesis of this project, the data it uses, and the data it will create.

Miss our meetup? Have no fear — we meet on the first Wednesday of each month. You can catch up on what you missed in the Twitter moment below:

Civic Tech in Chicago — April’s Top Events

Spring has sprung! We’re ready to shed our extra layers, head out of the underground, and enjoy the (almost) warm weather. Plus, this month is officially Information Technology Month in Illinois — there’s so much to celebrate!

Embrace the season with us with these top events this month:

All Month

Innovate Lake Erie
Cleveland Water Alliance

The Erie Hack is a data and engineering competition that unites coders, developers, engineers, and water experts to generate enduring solutions to Lake Erie’s biggest challenges. The competition includes $100,000 in prizes for the most creative and effective hacks. Working from challenge statements derived from ideation sessions with NASA representatives and regional stakeholders, teams are charged with creating innovative digital tools, hardware innovations, and engineering solutions that build “the Blue Economy”: the emergent economic sector dedicated to the sustainable stewardship of bodies of freshwater around the globe. The Erie Hack provides regional high school students, college students, and professionals the opportunity to combine their own expertise with solid mentoring to create technologies with the potential to invigorate Lake Erie’s environment and economy.

ITA Tech Challenge Teaser

​In conjunction with the Illinois Governor’s new proclamation that April is Information Technology month, and to provide an additional opportunity to practice your coding and programming skills before the fall Tech Challenge, ITA has launched the Tech Challenge Teaser. This challenge is similar to the Tech Challenge in the fall, but on a smaller scale and is administered 100% virtually between April 3rd and April 14th.

April 4

Chi Hack Night — Smart Green Infrastructure Monitoring
6:00pm
Braintree office 222 W Merchandise Mart Plz 8th Floor, Chicago

Flooding in the Chicagoland area due to excess stormwater has resulted in over 182,000 claims of property damage with a total estimated cost of $735 million over the last five years. This damage is the result of combined sewer system backups into homes and waterbodies.

To alleviate this, the City of Chicago has allocated $50M to augment the combined sewer system with green infrastructure. The program has focused on implementing a combination of traditional and green stormwater infrastructure.

Last year City Digital, part of UI Labs, kicked-off their Smart Green Infrastructure Monitoring pilot that brought together a team including Microsoft, Opti, Senformatics, West Monroe Partners, and AECOM to develop a new collection of technologies to remotely monitor the performance of green infrastructure.

With the City of Chicago, the monitoring technology has been deployed at four green infrastructure sites across the City to monitor the performance of a variety of green infrastructure types, including a bioswale, permeable pavers, infiltration planters, and tree grates.

Adam Hecktman, Microsoft’s Director of Technology & Civic Innovation Chicago, Dana Al-Qadi, Engineer at AECOM and Tom Schenk, Chief Data Officer at the City of Chicago will present details on the pilot formation, solution deployed, and initial findings from this effort.

April 5

The Impact Genome: Predicting Social Impact
6:00pm – 7:00pm
Microsoft Technology Center, Chicago | Aon Center 200 E. Randolph Ste 200, Chicago

Join us on April 5th to hear Mission Measurement founder Jason Saul talk about the genesis of this project, the data it uses, and the data it will create. 6:00pm at the Microsoft Technology Center Chicago.

April 7

ADA Diabetes Innovation Summit
​12:00pm – 5:30pm
MATTER 222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza #1230, Chicago

The American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Innovation Summit promises a unique, interactive and immersive experience focused on building a network of those committed to exploring investable opportunities that will accelerate and catalyze the Association’s mission.  Feedback from the diabetes community will fuel conversations about daily challenges facing individuals living with diabetes.
April 10
Roosevelt @ UIC & ICPR: Who Writes the Rules Matters
11:00am – 12:30pm
UIC Student Services Building 1200 W Harrison, Chicago

Roosevelters know that Who Writes the Rules Matters, so we’re bringing together students and legislators in partnership with the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform to figure out how everyone can have a seat at the table. Join us for a panel discussion followed by a collaborative workshop as we seek to understand structural and practical barriers to democratic access for young people.

April 12

April 2017 Chicago International Student Career Fair – Employer RSVP
10:30 AM – 3:30 PM
DeVry University 3300 North Campbell Avenue, Chicago

The Chicago International Student Career Fair will provide a platform for your company to meet hundreds of talented, skilled professionals, students and alumni.

Connect with international professionals and talent from universities. We are confident that this event will provide you with unique access to our talented international students in greater Chicago specializing in business, technology, health sciences, fine arts, architecture, engineering and more.

April 19

Celebrating Hon. Adlai and Nancy Stevenson
The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform 500 N Dearborn St, Suite 518, Chicago

On Wednesday, April 19th, ICPR will honor Hon. Adlai and Nancy Stevenson with the Mikva Legacy Award for Truth and Justice at Noon at Petterino’s in Chicago

Judge Mary Mikva will join ICPR to present the Stevensons with this honor for their extensive work in Illinois through advocacy, public service, and the Stevenson Center on Democracy

April 27

Microsoft – Adapting Experiences for Virtual and Mixed Reality
5:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Tech Nexus (Conference Room C/D) 20 N. Wacker Drive, Suite 1200, Chicago

The principles used for building a standard 3D experience fundamentally change when considering virtual and mixed reality. New devices such as the Microsoft HoloLens lets users interact with digital content in relation to the real world, disrupting the way we build experiences. This session will explain how to consider these concepts during development as well as introduce the new medium of building 3D Mixed Reality applications and games using C#, Visual Studio, and Unity. Whether itching to build your own applications or enthusiastic about designing for these ever-changing virtual mediums, you’ll walk away with the tools to build your own.

Big Shoulders: Charles Adler, Founder at the Center for Lost Arts

Meet Charles Adler. Charles has a storied history of enabling creatives to pursue their passions. In co-founding Kickstarter, Charles enabled creatives gain access to the capital required to turn those passions into businesses and real assets. The birth of Kickstarter was a watershed moment in the history of funding.

Wanting to do more for this group, he has now created a physical space for creatives in Chicago called Lost Arts. Located on Goose Island, it is really four physical spaces: a design studio, prototyping lab, workshop and an event space. Charles has gone from something very global (Kickstarter) to something very local. However, two ventures aren’t quite as different as they at first seem. After all, this is no ordinary “maker space.”

Billed as part lab, part workshop, part atelier, part incubator, part school and part playground, it provides access to the tools that you would expect to see (3D printers, soldering irons, sewing machines, etc.). But that is not what makes Lost Arts special. The secret sauce is the way it empowers creatives with access to “community and, by virtue of the community, knowledge.” How did he discover that this community was required and that it would lead to knowledge? He opened the space, invited some friends, and… he watched.

See what happened next in this interview with Charles, my latest segment of Big Shoulders, on Advisor.tv:

Civic Chat — Networking Our Neighborhoods: Ricardo Estrada, President and CEO, Metropolitan Family Services

Since 1857, Metropolitan Family Services (MFS) has been the engine of change that empowers Chicago-area families to reach their greatest potential and positively impact their communities. MFS empowers families to learn, earn, heal and thrive. The nonprofit’s 900 employees (and another 900 volunteers) help 72,000 people yearly — 81 percent of which belong to the working poor or lower-middle class.

In Shelley Stern Grach’s latest Civic Chat: Networking Our Neighborhoods, she sits down Ricardo Estrada, President and CEO of MFS. He details the organization’s goals (the four Es): Education, Economic Stability, Emotional Wellness, and Empowerment.

Watch Shelley’s chat with Ricardo live on Advisor.tv.

A Letter to Dorri McWhorter (From Dorri McWhorter)

As part of Microsoft’s commitment to diversity and empowerment, we’re thrilled to celebrate Women’s History Month with our newest spotlight series. We’ve asked local women leaders to write a letter to their teenage and college-aged selves to recall a moment in time when they felt empowered by technology. Throughout the month of March, we’ll be spotlighting this series on our blog. We hope these stories uplift you and inspire you to #MakeWhatsNext.

Dear Dorri:

Being 17 years old is such an interesting time as you try to reconcile all that you know that you are to what people believe they want you to be! I’m so happy that you found the letter that you wrote when you were 11 years old. You know the one…your note to Santa. You wrote:

“Dear Santa, How are you? You’ll never believe what I want for X-mas. Just 3 simple things: 1) to make everyone alive today be ok; 2) To give me a little something like a picture of you to show people you are real. (if you have a picture with you now, please give me one) if possible; 3) This is a big one! What I want is for you to ask my parents if I could be there accountant for 1 month. It won’t cost them a thing! (well maybe a few $100.00s! ha-ha) I just know I could do it. They can trust me. I just know I can do it! Please ask them for me! If they say no. Please ask them to give me an explanation why or why not.  I could start January 1st, 1985. Please have them see me for more info. Thanks, Santa. Love your friend, Dorri McGee. PS I left you a sucker! Write back please.”

Wow, you were so naïve and hopeful then AND you still are!

Somehow you have managed to still hold on to the hope for a better world! I remember when you were a senior in high school and you were so involved in everything including cheerleading and Future Business Leader of America (FBLA). You were actually selected by your senior class as most likely to succeed and most school spirit (no, those things don’t typically go together)! You still work hard and play hard, but I know you are often misunderstood, as people think you’re way too nice and cheerful to have the deep reflective intellect you that you have. People actually think they are complimenting you when they say, “you don’t seem like an accountant,” when you just want them to appreciate all that you are!

I’m so glad that you were able to participate in the FBLA Work Program. Being able to spend half-days in a corporate finance department really solidified your love for business! I know you were so proud of the spreadsheets that you created for the finance team. You really took to all the computer applications that allowed you to do financial analysis but create graphs and charts. You were so proud and felt you really found a way to show how valuable you could be through your use of computers. You were even selected by your school to present at the annual Work Program luncheon your accomplishments! This was great as you were also selected to represent your school at Badger Girls State, where you participated in mock government and was elected State Treasurer! Not many other seventeen-year-olds at the time could reference your experience with computers!

I’m happy to say that you have been able to combine your business skills and desire to make the world a better place! You have recognized how valuable computer skills can be and have ensured that you support other youth to gain greater skills through your work at the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, including TechGYRLS, which aims to encourage girls in science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) and Developing Digital Diversity (3D), a program targeting STEAM and leadership training for boys and girls.

There is so much more to do and your experiences along the way have definitely prepared you! So go forth and show up boldly, my dear! I want you to always hold the words of author Marianne Williamson close to your heart. She says, “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you…as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same” So with those words, Shine bright and dream bigger my darling!

With much love and appreciation,

Dorri

Dorri McWhorter became the CEO of the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago in March 2013. She has embarked upon a journey to transform the 140 year old social service agency to a 21st century social enterprise. Dorri is moving the agency into the digital age by re-launching the TechGYRLS program, which focuses on developing STEM awareness for girls ages 9 through 14 and introducing 3D: Developing Digital Diversity, which provides web and mobile application development training to adult women. Dorri was included in the inaugural list of “The Blue Network”, comprised of the top 100 innovators in Chicago, by Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovation.  In Spring of 2015, the YWCA launched its own e-commerce site, YShop.org, which provides carefully curated goods and services from businesses that support the mission of the YWCA.  In 2016, McWhorter was recognized by Good City Chicago receiving its Innovative Leader Award.

A proven leader in the corporate and social change sectors, Dorri prides herself on being a socially-conscious business leader throughout her career.

Learning About Civic Leadership in India

We’ve written several articles about our partnership with the University of Chicago’s Civic Leadership Academy (CLA). The University launched the Civic Leadership Academy in 2015 to develop a pipeline of talented leaders to help nonprofits and city and county government agencies in Chicago thrive. The interdisciplinary leadership development program is a key component of a broad set of UChicago initiatives to foster leadership and strengthen capacity among individuals and organizations in Chicago. The Civic Leadership Academy was developed by the University’s Office of Civic Engagement in partnership with LISC Chicago and the Civic Consulting Alliance,with funding from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, and McCormick Foundation. The program is designed to develop a pipeline of talented leaders to help nonprofits and government agencies thrive.

In January 2017, the 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, fellows will receive a certificate in civic leadership from Chicago Harris. I’m thrilled to let you know that I’m going with them to India!

Our program in Delhi is being curated by Common Purpose, a leadership development organization that specialized in cross-boundary leadership, running programs in over 70 countries worldwide. Founded in 1989, over 4,000 people become Common Purpose Alumni every year. The program is designed to inspire and equip leaders to work “across boundaries”, thereby enabling them to solve complex problems in organizations and society. In India, Common Purpose connects with the Dishaa Venture, which expands, enriches and energizes relations between India and the UK; and through CSCLeaders-in partnership with HRH Duke of Edinburgh Study Commonwealth Study Conferences.

We’ll be spending five days in New Delhi, the capital of India. Along with its neighboring cities/suburbs, this has been given a special status of National Capital Region (NCR). Delhi’s population is about 18,686,902 in 2016. Delhi is a city that bridges two different worlds. Old Delhi, once the capital of Islamic India, is a labyrinth of narrow lanes lined with crumbling structures and formidable mosques. In contract, the city of New Delhi, created by the British Raj, is composed of spacious, tree-lined avenues and imposing government buildings. For about a millennium, Delhi has been the seat of power for several rulers and many empires. The city’s importance lies not just in its past and present glory, but also in its rich and diverse cultures. It’s sprinkled with dazzling architectural wonders, a strong performing arts scene, fabulous food and bustling markets. It also has the major challenges ….and innovations…of an extremely large urban city. Here are some of the issues we will be addressing and some of the organizations we will be visiting:

Advancing Goals with Limited Resources: How do you increase social innovation and achieve more with less?

  • We’ll be visiting Mobile Creches, Gurgaon Ki Awaaz Samudayik Radio and Dilli Haat

Navigating Social Barriers to build inclusive Leadership

  • We’ll be visiting Protsahan, Noida Deaf Society, Lemon Tree Hotels, Swechha and Goonj

Building Support to bring about Change

  • We’ll be visiting Centre for Equity Studies, Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal Project, Humayun’s Tomb at Lodi Gardens as an example of community participation, and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture

Leading Across Boundaries-what skills do Leaders need to work across perceived boundaries between the public, private and NGO sectors?

  • We’ll be visiting Toxic Links, CEQUIN (Centre for Equity and Inclusion)

And then we arrive at the US Embassy in New Delhi to meet Minister Counsellor Jeffrey Sexton for a discussion and dinner at Mr. Sexton’s residence.

So, what have I done to get ready?

  • First, bought two giant books on India and highlighter in hand, I’ve underlined and put sticky notes all over the books
  • Immunizations
  • Malaria medication, heavy DEET coverage, Cipro
  • Special Power adaptor
  • Visa
  • Appointment with the Microsoft India office-check and SO excited to meet Madhu and Ashu who have been so supportive

I’ll try to tweet “live from India” and will provide a recap of my observations when I return.

A look at Shelley’s trip to India so far: