It feels like just yesterday that I arrived in Boston, having taken on a new role for the company at Microsoft New England. The loosely-defined role of “civic engagement” was not just new to me—it was a net-new role to the company and I was the first to take on this job. Where would the job go? Where would we focus? What could we accomplish?
A year in, it’s hard to imagine not having a civic engagement team in the city. There’s a thirst in the community to determine the role that technology can play in areas like education, citizen services, as well as government transparency and efficiency. At the same point, it’s been crucial to thoughtfully consider all potential solutions to civic challenges, which may—or may not—include a technology option.
You may recall from our introductory post announcing the MIPC-NE and my role that we had three goals:
- Connecting the region’s tech/business/academic/government stakeholders in ways that complement and extend the work of others;
- Catalyzing important technology and public policy discussions about issues that have a direct impact on this region’s economy; and
- Contributing more directly to the health and vitality of the local technology community and broader regional economic development opportunities.
We’ve kept busy this last year, trying to remain true to the “three C’s”, as the team calls them. To that end, here are some highlights of our work:
- As part of our MIPC-NE forum, we’ve convened the broader tech community on a number of topics: STEM education, the gubernatorial election, and our Conversations in Civic Technology series (First Event | Transportation | Education Data | Upcoming on Dec. 3: Urban Infrastructures for Public Health)
- We’ve been deeply involved in the civic technology space this year, including:
- Staking a new MassChallenge Sidecar Award in Civic Engagement
- Contributing to a number of open data and civic tech events, including the Late Night T Challenge (put on by the Mass Tech Collaborative) and Code for Boston’s Code Across America day.
- Hosting Generation Citizen’s Civic Tech Challenge
- Sending developers to the HubHacks hackathon, which sought to hack the city’s permitting process.
- We were also asked to contribute to a number of events demonstrating Microsoft’s role—and responsibilities—at the intersection of technology, business and policy, including:
- Participating in District Hall’s Innovation and the City event as an “anchor institution”.
- Discussing the role of big data in government services in events at the State House and as part of Rapid Miner World 2014
- Leading a conversation on the relationship between national security and personal privacy with our General Counsel, Brad Smith.
- As the city continues to heal from the tragic events of the Boston Marathon Bombing, we contributed technology that could support an innovative at-scale treatment for tinnitus victims, specifically Surface Pro 2s.
- Expanding our YouthSpark TEALS program (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools) this year in Massachusetts, bringing computer science into more classrooms thanks to volunteers from the field.
With all this work, we’ve been fortunate to partner with a great number of organizations, government entities and individuals during this year, all of whom share a desire to make this a great place to live, work and connect.
What’s next for the Civic Engagement team in Boston? We’ll continue to stock of what we’ve done, what worked (and didn’t); we’ll keep the conversation going with our constituents and partners to see where Microsoft can best contribute, and we’ll keep you involved as well. Thank you for your engagement and feedback—we look forward to the next year!