March 2015

Women Forward — Civic Tech Changemaker Alicia Barton of Massachusetts Clean Energy Center

In my job as Civic Engagement Manager, I have the distinct pleasure of interacting with many amazing women who are influencing civic engagement and fueling innovation in Boston.  In honor of Women’s History Month, Microsoft New England asked a number of inspiring women what empowers them. Check on their responses below and don’t forget to share and tweet these posts to spread the word about the great work these women are driving in Boston! 

— Aimee Sprung, Civic Engagement Manager, Microsoft New England

Alicia Barton

The Massachusetts clean energy sector is thriving, but women are being left behind.

More than 8,000 clean energy jobs were created across the Commonwealth last year, but just 26 percent of those hired during this time were women. Though an improvement over previous years, this is a far cry from the 51 percent of the overall Massachusetts workforce that is women.

Across the globe we’re witnessing the serious consequences of climate change. We need to recruit the best and brightest minds to develop clean energy solutions to address these challenges. We must do all we can to make sure women play a bigger role. In order to be competitive, we’ll need everyone at the table working together on this challenge and how to address it.

Tasked with helping to grow the Commonwealth’s clean energy sector, MassCEC works to accelerate the success of clean energy technologies, companies and projects across the state. As we grow this industry, we’re keeping in mind that the growth should be for all – growth that crosses race, income and gender lines.

In an effort to address the gender gap, this year, MassCEC launched its new “Successful Women in Clean Energy” initiative with the goal of doing our part to address the gender disparity in our industry. This program will fund $125,000 in training for up 12 low- and moderate-income women earners to build sales careers in clean energy.

Women who enter the program will receive hands-on training in career readiness, financial literacy, work preparedness, and how to succeed in a male-dominated industry. Upon completion of the program, they will be placed in a six-month fellowship at a clean energy company in order to jump-start their careers.

The clean energy sector is dynamic, innovative and forward-thinking. Employers are looking for job candidates who share these traits. Through our “Successful Women in Clean Energy” initiative, MassCEC aims to foster collaboration between the businesses of tomorrow and the women who are energized to join them.

We work closely with the New England Women in Energy and Environment, a group focused on events and initiatives – like mentoring and networking – that promote women working in the energy and environmental fields. Their annual gala is on April 16 in Boston and features keynote address by Dr. Cheryl Martin, the former acting director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s technology investment arm, ARPA-E.

On Jan. 29, we hosted more than 100 students and women clean energy professionals at our offices for a networking event. The event sold out and student from across the state and as far as Vermont traveled to Boston to meet women working in the field and to learn how to advance their careers.

These are small steps but important ones. We hope they all serve as strong signals to employers that this is a critical challenge to address. Most importantly, we hope these efforts will inspire women to break into this growing space.

P.S. It’s a great time to be looking for a clean energy career in Massachusetts (visit our jobs board at The sector has grown by 47 percent since 2010 and employing more than 88,000 across the Commonwealth.

Recap — #YouthSpark Live with Year Up at Microsoft New England


We had a blast with Year Up Boston members last Friday at our annual #YouthSpark Live event at Microsoft New England. 200+ aspiring young adults poured into the building filled with vigor and poised for learning all they could about how to shape their future — and we welcome that kind of drive with open arms here at Microsoft. Truth be told, when the day was done, Year Up had inspired us.

Cambridge Mayor David Maher kicked off the day with a moving welcome about Year Up members having the chance to change the future of our city and the world, and reminding all that some of the most important drivers of success are staying focused and setting goals. Next, CEO and co-founder of QONQR Scott Davis gave an awesome keynote about what it takes it be an entrepreneur. His main advice? Work hard and “get stuff done.” We then had the pleasure of hearing from Eric Oddleifson, Director of Assistive Technology & Employment Services for Microsoft partner Easter Seals Massachusetts. Eric has used technology to help countless people with disabilities over the past 15 years.

The Year Up Boston group then split up and headed out to a series of rotating workshops, including:

Here are some social media posts from the day, and we can’t wait to see what careers these passionate Year Up members create for themselves!


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To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to youth and education, visit our YouthSpark Hub or follow us on twitter at @msftcitizenship.

Microsoft New England Picks: 3 Not-To-Miss Events This Week


Cambridge Mayor Maher and YearUp Boston members at our #YouthSpark Live event last week!

Spring is here! As the snow slowly melts away,  get inside for some awesome events. Here are three not to miss this week:

Tech In Motion1) Women in Tech: Panel Discussion
Tuesday, March 31, 6:00pm – 9:00pm
@ Microsoft New England
Twitter: @Tech_In_Motion

Join us on March 31st at Tech in Motion Boston’s “Women in Tech” panel discussion. During this event, we will be profiling some amazing women currently making their mark on the local tech community. These trailblazing women in tech will share their stories and experiences from different fields within the industry. Afterwards, we’ll open up the floor for a Q&A session. Attendees will have the opportunity to connect with others interested in this topic!

Meet us at the Microsoft NERD Center for cocktails, light snacks provided by KIND, the perfect opportunity to network, and the chance to win an exciting prize from Lumosity! This is one Tech in Motion event you wont want to miss.


msft2) Civic Innovation for the Neighborhoods — A Conversation on Civic Tech
Wednesday, April 1, 5:00pm – 8:30am
@ District Hall | 5 Northern Ave | Boston
Twitter: @MSNewEngland @VentureCafe @bostonfdn @FutureBoston @YouthCITIES @TSNetwork_

Our urban neighborhoods provide the foundation of our personal and work based communities. Lively, interactive neighborhoods foster healthy lives and innovative new businesses.

Our April Civic Innovation Conversation will focus on what new approaches can be taken to create a richer community experience in our neighborhoods.  We will have six speakers provide five-minute perspectives on how to augment neighborhood activities, spaces and lives.  We will then follow with a breakout sessions where small groups can brainstorm on initiatives that they would like to see pursued, and perhaps lead the efforts.


5:30 – 6:00   Registration and networking
6:00 – 6:45   Short Intro followed by six speakers at five minutes each
6:45 – 7:30   Breakout into six small discussion groups
7:30 – 7:45   Group readouts
7:45 – 9:30   Post event networking

We are bringing together people from various parts of the public and private communities to kick off the conversation.

Invited speakers include:

  • Kevin Wiant – Venture Cafe Foundation
  • Malia Lazu – Future Boston
  • Vicky Wu Davis – Youth Cities
  • Milton Irving – Timothy Smith Network
  • Damon Cox – The Boston Foundation
  • Gillian Pressman – Generation Citizen

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.19.51 PM3) HubHacks  2 Closing Session
Saturday, March 4, 1pm
Faneuil Hall | Boston
Twitter: @DoITBoston #hubhacks

Winners from the second HubHacks Challenge will be awarded this Saturday at Faneuil Hall.

You’re Invited — EdVestors 13th Annual Urban Education Showcase

logoIn the fall, I had the distinct honor to serve on the review panel for the new EdVestors Seed Fund. The seed fund allows the people closest to our students – teachers, administrators, and school leaders – to propose solutions and ideas to improve education opportunities in Boston Public Schools. This fund embodies the innovative spirit I see in Boston every day: identify a need and pilot a solution, start small so you can tweak and adjust it to really scale.

10 BPS projects received $10,000 from the EdVestors Seed Fund and on April 14, 2015 you can see how the solutions are developing. Please join us for the for EdVestors’ 13th Annual Showcase at District Hall. Register Online

I’m particularly excited to see all of the innovative applications of technology in the classroom! Some of the solutions recognized by the Seed Fund include:

  • Charlestown High School: Teacher observation and reflection through video
  • Edison K-8 School: Blending technology in the classroom to personalize student learning
  • Joseph Lee K-8 School: Individualized approaches to instruction to reach all students
  • KIPP Academy Boston Elementary: Problem-solving with Kindergarten engineering and robotics
  • New Mission High School: Supporting and empowering young men of color

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About the EdVestors Seed Fund

EdVestors’ new and nimble Seed Fund (the next generation of our Urban Education Investment Portfolio) offers educators an open call for problem-solving, experimentation and innovation in Boston schools. From technology in the classroom, to supporting teachers as learners, to meeting the needs of a wide range of students, Seed Fund projects are the solutions that teachers and school leaders have designed to solve the challenges they face every day in their classrooms. Some promising projects will earn larger, longer-term investment from EdVestors. And all will help us learn about new approaches to common problems so that more schools improve faster for more students.

Learn more about EdVestors here:

Women Forward — Civic Tech Changemaker Amy Quigley of MITX

In my job as Civic Engagement Manager, I have the distinct pleasure of interacting with many amazing women who are influencing civic engagement and fueling innovation in Boston.  In honor of Women’s History Month, Microsoft New England asked a number of inspiring women what empowers them. Check on their responses below and don’t forget to share and tweet these posts to spread the word about the great work these women are driving in Boston! 

— Aimee Sprung, Civic Engagement Manager, Microsoft New England


The most rewarding moments in my role as President of MITX happen spontaneously. Most recently, I remember being introduced to a young woman who had moved her start-up from Chicago to Boston. I was impressed with her passion and bravery for diving into the start-up scene in Boston with barely a compass in hand. Talking to her I realized that we could provide her with some additional touch points for her journey. I introduced her to three new connections and soon afterwards had her participating in our MITX Up program, which pairs start-ups with marketing mentors for an evening of pizza, beer and limitless ideas. When I saw her a week later she was more radiant – excited by the potential partnership with one of her new connections and a handful of ideas from her evening at MITX Up. I am inspired by her journey and look forward to advocating for the resources that she, other entrepreneurs, and businesses in the technology, marketing and design community need to be successful in the Commonwealth.

For 20 years I have been a student and steward of the corporate business environment. As a CMO I’ve helped CEOs launch companies, partnered with finance teams and with sales to build business. In the process I’ve learned: the power in finding a good mentor; and no tweet or email replaces the value of a connection made over coffee.

These lessons and others have fueled me in my bold new adventure at MITX. Today I am charged with being an ambassador and connector for 7,500 technology, marketing and design professionals both large and small across New England, ensuring we give them access to current and relevant thought leadership, and help establish networks that might not be possible in the frenetic pace of their daily lives. A role which brings me happiness and satisfaction every day.

The transition from corporate executive to president of a non-profit association has been rewarding and empowering. Now my contributions have impact on every facet of our business, from the future path and vision of the organization, to operations and company culture. Joining MITX, I knew the sense of community would be rewarding, but I had no idea of just how much. Boston is home to many successful companies that serve as leaders in the industry and has a vibrant and energetic entrepreneurial scene.

Although my civic journey is nascent, it’s been transformative. I relish the opportunities I have to help organizations in technology, marketing and design gain access to national level thought leaders, make valuable new connections and be recognized for their success!


Microsoft New England Picks: 3 Not-To-Miss Events This Week

Microsoft Feature Events

Spring is here! As the snow slowly melts away,  get inside for some awesome events. Here are three not to miss this week:

NDC1) National Diversity Council: Second Annual Greater Boston Women in Leadership Symposium
Tuesday, March 24, 8:00am – 11:30am
@ Microsoft New England
Twitter, Speaker Handles: @JackieGlenn_ @KarenSpilka @ChandaGuth  

The purpose of this annual event is to bring together a diverse mix of successful women leaders who – by discussing topics that pertain to today’s workforce – will educate, inspire, and encourage attendees to reflect on their own goals and status as they strive to advance within their organizations. For more info and list of speakers, please visit the event website.

golden shoe2) WalkBoston’s 25th Anniversary Celebration
Wednesday, March 25, 5:00pm – 8:30am
@ Microsoft New England
Twitter: @walkboston

WalkBoston is celebrating 25 years of helping to make Massachusetts more walkable. WalkBoston was the nation’s first pedestrian advocacy organization. Please join us on Wednesday, March 25th to celebrate and thank the many people who have advocated and contributed to 25 years of progress.

What: WalkBoston Annual Party (our 25th Anniversary!)
When: Wednesday, March 25, 2015, 5-8PM
Cost: $25 – Beer, wine + food included with your ticket

This year’s Golden Shoe Awards:
Mayor Joseph Curtatone + Somerville community partners who have transformed Somerville into a livable walkable city; the mayor will also be our keynote speaker!
Tom DiPaolo + Bonnie Polin MassDOT catalysts of change
25 years of Golden Shoe winners A special recognition

entrepalooza3) Entrepalooza @ MassChallenge
Wednesday, March 25, 6:30pm – 9:30pm
@ Royale | 279 Tremont Street | Boston
Twitter: @MassChallenge 

Want to learn how to access organizations dedicated to supporting startups & entrepreneurs? Come to Entrepalooza 2015! The Innovation Community’s Largest Showcase. MassChallenge has teamed up with the highest-value entrepreneurial organizations across the Commonwealth to showcase how they aimto support startups. We encourage entrepreneurs to explore how they can get the help their ventures need to succeed!

This is a great opportunity to discover the robust market of startup-focused organizations in Massachusetts and how they can help you accelerate!

Meet Me at Generation Citizen’s Trivia for ChangeMakers!

995394_10151965467362741_373264265_nI recently joined the board of Generation Citizen — a dynamic non-profit empowering young people to lead community change. Generation Citizen (GC) works to ensure that every student in the United States receives an effective action civics education, which provides them with the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in our democracy as active citizens.  GC’s core program is an innovative in-class curriculum in which students work with community leaders to fix our community’s biggest problems.  Through this real-world experience, our teens are building an active democracy.

A GC student project was highlighted just last week as Mayor Walsh and BPS announced a new pilot program — Too Good For Drugs — a school-based substance abuse prevention program for seventh graders that was initiated and driven by a GC team of seventh graders. It was launched at the McCormick and will be installed in seventh grade courses across the district to promote positive social skills and character. Here are links to the press release and piece.

How can you help?

GC is hosting a trivia night on April 9 – you can participate as an individual or bring a team.

“Trivia for ChangeMakers is a great way to test your trivia chops and learn more about GC at the same time. It is also trivia with a twist – your team will get a chance to help out real GC students as a part of the event,” said Gillian Pressman, Greater Boston Site Director at Generation Citizen.

Here are some details:

TRIVIA FOR CHANGEMAKERS: Thursday, April 9th, 6:30pm-9:00pm, The Wild Rover (61 Chatham Street, Faneuil Hall) It’s trivia… that goes beyond the trivial. Every point you earn at Trivia for ChangeMakers will help a local classroom of Generation Citizen young people create change on a pressing community problem. Gather your friends and colleagues and test your trivia mettle against 20 teams representing Boston’s brainiest companies. Can your company earn the ChangeMaker’s Cup?

For details, click here.

Microsoft is bringing a team – hope to see you there!

gen citizen

Women Forward — Civic Tech Changemaker Sarah Rahman of MassTech’s Innovation Institute

In my job as Civic Engagement Manager, I have the distinct pleasure of interacting with many amazing women who are influencing civic engagement and fueling innovation in Boston.  In honor of Women’s History Month, Microsoft New England asked a number of inspiring women what empowers them. Check on their responses below and don’t forget to share and tweet these posts to spread the word about the great work these women are driving in Boston! 

— Aimee Sprung, Civic Engagement Manager, Microsoft New England

Sarah-Rahman-2In economic development, civic and community innovation often comes into play in the form of novel approaches, different partnerships, and new models and platforms to spur growth and prosperity in localities and regions. Part of my job at the Innovation Institute at MassTech is to help enable and support these innovations, and I have taken away some key observations along the way. These include, but are not limited to:

1. Technology is not everything all the time. Tech is indisputably an important driver of the future economy, and an important lens for multiple aspects of economic development. However, a sole tech focus may not always benefit every purpose or community every time. The success of EforAll programming in Merrimack Valley, for example, has shown the importance of embracing entrepreneurs and startups of all kinds. EforAll’s work is strengthening that region’s ecosystem for entrepreneurship and building a foundation for future capacity for startups across all sectors, including tech and other advanced industries.

2. Success is often led bottom-up. Local and regional leaders who are on-the-ground are often in the best position to advise on how any particular idea may be best defined and applied to address needs in their own communities of interest. The concept of mentorship, for example, is understood in any number of different ways across the Commonwealth and well-executed initiatives can successfully serve a range of purposes. For example, the Cape Cod Mentor Network aims to retain the region’s young talent, and Interise guides business planning at targeted existing small business to expand sales and jobs growth in local economies, such as New Bedford/Fall River.

3. One size does NOT fit all. Good intentions sometime seek to duplicate a well-known model, such as the MassChallenge startup accelerator, to achieve the same desired outcomes for a different geography. Instead, Valley Venture Mentors in Springfield shows that its success in running a growing startup accelerator comes not from copying the established model but identifying and adapting key learnings to best suit its own unique character and external and internal conditions.

The few examples cited above help to explain why there is no single, easy “formula” for the best way to enable civic and community innovation in economic development. Each new engagement opportunity brings its own set of specific inputs and challenges in terms of resources, leadership, and capacity, among others. And so, each necessarily involves collaborating and iterating with partners to assess and plan how elements could and should come together.

The end results are pilots or experiments that have the chance of solving recognized problems in new ways and becoming the next inspirational examples for civic innovators. Being in a position where my work can contribute to these future possibilities – that’s empowering.

Sarah Rahman is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

“e” inc. – Teaching 4,500 Kids/Year and Counting That “A Sustainable Earth Begins with Me”


Somewhere in Mattapan, a group of teens is making reusable bags out of t-shirts. As they apply fabric paint, the old shirts become bright blue like the ocean on a clear day. On every bag they write, “A Sustainable Earth Begins with Me.” They head to a nearby urban adult community center and hand out the bags to every person there. Now, they’re tracking how often the bags are used.

“They got into the amount of detritus, or marine debris, there is in the oceans,” “e” inc. Founder and Executive Director Dr. Ricky Stern told MSNE. “A very serious issue. They wanted to do something about it.”

“Doing something about it” is at the heart of “e” inc., a nonprofit that strives to teach thousands of children, teens and adults how to protect the planet and live sustainably — by actually going into schools and hosting events where they give them real-life examples of how to have a positive effect on the climate. Like shutting off lights when you leave the room, or powering down your laptop when you’re not doing work. We had the opportunity to learn more about “e” inc. straight from Dr. Stern herself:

Dr. Ricky SternWhat is your role at “e” inc. and can you explain its mission in your own words?

My role is Founder and Executive Director. I started the organization in ’02 in the basement of my apartment in Jamaica Plain. “e” inc was created for two reasons. To help kids understand the environment. And then to help them understand what they can do about it. They themselves take on tasks and become personally responsible.

We feel, not only that children aren’t getting enough of a chance to be in the natural world, but that the natural world needs their protection.

How did “e” inc. come to be?

There was a guy at Harvard who I went to see through my doctoral studies, and we got into this discussion. He’s a climate guy, really a botanist. He had just given a talk about climate data. And we got to talking about how there’s nothing, nothing, nothing this is unrelated to — when it comes to the climate. It’s all a circle of interrelated things. If you’re teaching about the climate, you’re really teaching deforestation. Over population. Capitalism. It’s all interwoven.

He was telling me story about how McDonald’s was cutting down the forests in South America for cows. Then the high school kids got all incensed and picketed McDonald’s.

That just struck me—that you could inspire kids in such a way. That they really care about the issue–and I could turn around and make a nonprofit to get them to understand the science behind it!

Then there’s the other piece: how do you unleash activists? And really have them make a difference? That was the goal.

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So how do you unleash activists? How do you make it not just talk, but action when it comes to changing the environment?

The underlying piece of all of our projects is hands on science wedded to action. If you see a great science project with no action, it’s not us. Teaching action means teaching how YOU can make a difference in the world.

We’re an outreach site. We go to other people’s sites. We work with kids after school, then we go to public schools, and that is very much about sustainability. We have a teen team in Mattapan, this is our 5th 6th year – that’s based on a leadership model and involves community service and teaching science. Then we have summer projects: two field projects. One by Fort Point Channel and one in Roxbury’s Allandale Woods. Kids go out in different groups and go out and learn in these different areas. Now we have 3500 square feet in the Charlestown Navy Yard and are hoping to make it a learning center.

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Can you give an example of a hands-on lesson you teach at schools?

All of our curriculum has very strong active programs. Every kid in the building gets six lessons, all about energy.

  1. e inc.What is energy? We use Rube Goldberg devices to show them how each thing pushes another—to show energy having an effect and the transfer of energy. Then we’ll show them what energy actually is: the sun and the effect of the sun as the source of energy that we use.
  2. What is a fossil fuel? We get a cup and fill it with different sweets that stand for the process of creating a fossil fuel, gummy bears as leaves and such, then the kids get to eat it after they can recount the layers. Then they do remember!
  3. What is global warming? We teach them about carbon dioxide, CO2. We make a green house with them so they see how it works. What things give off CO2? How does it get captured?
  4. Electricity – We have them make a congo line to show how electricity is created and generated. They all move in a row that shows the system of electricity generation that moves from water to your home. The phone rings. They’re moving as the electricity is being used. We ask them, “Is the computer on? Is she doing work? Is this wasted energy?” YES IT IS.
  5. Renewables – We tech them how solar, water and wind can be sources of renewable energy.

Then we teach them practical things they can do, like unplugging at night and re-plugging in the morning. And always turning off the lights when you leave the room. We explain how if every classroom does this in the building, they will see a lowered energy use in building. The conservation of energy will be noticeable. My staff goes back to the schools for three hours every week, and goes door to door to check in on how it’s going. It becomes a contest that the kids win by working together to conserve energy.

We award an Urban Green Prize for schools that make a consistent, documented effort. It’s a banner they hang up that says, “This year we saved electricity,” or “This year we saved electricity and water,” or “This year we had zero waste.”

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How can other people contribute to e inc.’s efforts?

The best thing people can do for us: help us raise money and awareness. You can sign up to volunteer: to help us administratively or be an extra pair of hands at a site. People are more than welcome to let us know through our online contact sheet if you want to work with kids or help us in any way!

Also come to our events!

Join “e” inc. for Weekends in March: Science Saturdays for Kids every Saturday morning at their Navy Yard Site in Charlestown! Info:

Science Sat flier V2[1]

Announcing the Cambridge Arts Challenge, March 14 – 31


Twenty-two leading Cambridge arts organizations have teamed together to present the Cambridge Arts Challenge, March 14-31. The Arts Challenge pits companies against one another in a friendly competition to see which team can attend the most arts events during the two week contest. The competition culminates with a celebration to crown the Cambridge Arts Champion sponsored by the art-centric Beat Brasserie in Harvard Square on April 2, 2015.

Will Microsoft Take the Crown?
Team Microsoft competes against teams from the Cambridge offices of Twitter, Google, Facebook and Cambridge Innovation Center in the battle to support the arts in our community. Points are tallied via social media activity using the hashtags #TeamMicrosoft and #ArtsChallenge. Team standings can be tracked on the Challenge’s real-time leader board (link to Prizes will be awarded to individuals throughout the Arts Challenge. Up for grabs this weekend is a fabulous package of theater tickets for the first person to make the leader board on March 14.

How to Play

  1. Sign up to receive Arts Challenge emails highlighting select events.
  2. Attend oodles of Cambridge arts and culture events between March 14-31
  3. Claim points for your team! Post to either Twitter, Instagram or Facebook ONCE for each event you attend. Be sure to use BOTH #ArtsChallenge and #TeamMicrosoft in your posts to be counted in the Challenge leader board.

For Facebook, post directly to our page,, to get your points tallied.

  1. Have fun and see the city of Cambridge in a new light!

Molly Akin is the Director of Marketing at Cambridge Arts Council, a city agency that funds, promotes, and presents high-quality, community-based arts programs for the benefit of artists, residents, and visitors. Active since 1974, Cambridge Arts is one of the most dynamic local arts agencies in the county.