July 2015

Bringing Mob Programming to Somerville with Code for America

Bringing Mob Programming to Somerville with Code for America

The phrase “mob programming” sounds intriguing: can coders simultaneously collaborate in a mob-like fashion to produce a working piece of code? During “Code for Boston’s” Tuesday hack-night, the Code For America Somerville team proved that “mob programming” is not only feasible, but also quite effective.

Mob programming works in a two-step fashion. First, one coder “drives” the operation: this person is in charge of physically writing the code. The newly written variables, arrays and functions then appear on a large screen that the entire room can see. The “mob”, or room of participants, can then chime in and redirect how the code progresses and how the next building blocks should be assembled.

It was from the mob that the Somerville Fellows wanted to extract ideas about how to improve upon a platform they were building for teachers in the Somerville Public School System. The catalyst for building this tool came from a common plight of the teachers: the public school system did not have one comprehensive database they could use to analyze the behavioral and academic tendencies of their students before the semester began. For instance, a teacher could preemptively change the classroom environment if she knew certain students struggled, or excelled, when taught with specific methods.

The Somerville Fellows’ “teachers’ platform” is the paradigm of a Code for America (CFA) Project. Annually, CFA partners with 8-10 local governments to produce innovative solutions to delivering key public services across three sectors: health, economic development and safety and justice. The CFA Fellowship Program then partners with the cities and deploys a team of experienced technologists into the chosen local government to work full-time for a year. While the Somerville Fellows seamlessly executed a collaborative mob-programming session this past Tuesday night, they moreover had begun an important collaborative process between the local education system and the tech community.

When explaining the beneficent nature of the platform, the Somerville Fellows noted that they had fully integrated themselves into the City of Somerville to understand the needs of not only the teachers, but also the students and their parents. Specifically, the Fellows met with the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative (SFLC), Parent Information Center (PIC) and Healy School teacher team. Furthermore, the Fellows also wanted to streamline the process of identifying children in need of early intervention and connecting them to critical special education services.

CFA chose Somerville as a 2015 “City” because of the city’s incredible alignment around the theory of change and practice. Since 2004, Mayor Curtatone has led the way to support and promote innovation within his government and the country. Somerville boasts advanced data driven operations and inclusive community engagement initiatives.

Inspiring communities, innovating upon local government structures and coding for benevolent ends: meet the CFA Somerville team for 2015!

An Introduction to Microsoft Office for Local Government Users

Microsoft Office For Government

This is the first installment in a three-part series on the role of Microsoft Office in local government.

There is no shortage of evidence that we live in an increasingly digital world. You might find directions to dinner on your phone, track your workout on a fitness band, and turn to Bing for the day’s news. Technological developments have touched all of us, from the elementary school student who uses a tablet for his homework to the stock broker who turns to Excel for data analytics. The public sector is no exception.

Microsoft’s products have been vital resources for local governments across the United States. As part of our efforts to show more cities how these tools can work for their employees and citizens, I’ve created a series of orientation presentations geared towards public sector workers.

My presentations focus on the powerful role that Microsoft Office can play in cities of any size. Through my research, I’ve found that many city employees are familiar with the basic functions of the Office suite. Perhaps they’ve drafted documents on Word or created a spreadsheet with Excel. But they might not know about some of the latest features of Office—features which can help their city run more smoothly without burdening their budget:

Create an interactive 3D map of city data.

Power Map, a plugin for Excel, allows anybody to easily visualize data on an interactive 3D map. With just a few clicks, a city can gain new insights from its information and share these findings with citizens.

Ask your data a question—in natural English.

Microsoft Power BI, an extension of the Office 365 service, can make any employee a master of the city’s data. Forget about complex formulas: a Power BI user can type a question in natural English about any Excel spreadsheet. Ask, “What was the average police department salary in 2014?” and Power BI can return with an answer.

Collaborate seamlessly and securely.

Office 365 provides a secure platform for city employees to instantly collaborate on projects. Rest assured that your city’s sensitive data remains safe: Microsoft does not sell your private information to advertisers.

All of these features and more are available through Microsoft Office. No programming experience is required for cities to start harnessing these tools.

I invite you to view the first of my three presentations. This one offers an introduction to Microsoft Office and a few of its applications for municipal governments. Please stay tuned for future presentations on Excel and Power BI.

Download the full PDF here: Office 365 for Government

Windows 10 is here!


On July 29, Microsoft made Windows 10 available, across 190 countries, as a free upgrade. The launch of Windows 10 is being celebrated around the world with global fan celebrations and a new yearlong initiative to celebrate people and organizations making a difference around the world.

To learn more about Windows 10 and how you can upgrade, click here.

Boston’s innovation “secret sauce”: observations from the #JoinedUp Australia visit to the Boston innovation ecosystem

JoinedUp Boston

The idea hit the team late January this year. The first blizzard (of what would be many) had just struck, and the Civic Engagement team at Microsoft New England (MSNE) was hosting a colleague from sunny Australia. She had come to job shadow us, to see what ideas might be borrowed from the Boston innovation community. During her week here, we got a chance to introduce her to colleagues in local government, private sector and the startup space. The goal was to talk about innovation and what might be portable to Australia, which is grappling with pivoting their economy away from a dependency on natural resources and manufacturing, towards more innovation.

In spite of the bitter cold and increasing snow during her visit, our Australian colleague was inspired by the conversations she had here. There was an enthusiastic community in Boston, willing to share their insights. Could Microsoft find a way to bring together big thinkers from both the Boston and the Australian innovation communities to talk about innovation?

Seven months later, under significantly sunnier and warmer conditions, a 25-person group from Australian government, private sector and startups arrived in Boston to do just that. Under the joint auspices of Microsoft New England and Microsoft Australia, we convened a number of meetings to talk about the diverse facets of Boston innovation—the roles of government, urban planning, philanthropic organizations and place-making, as well as best practices like MassChallenge, CIC/Venture Café and District Hall. There were formal presentations, but also informal gatherings, tours and hands-on activities to fully immerse the group into the innovation space.

We got a chance to hear from the group about their key takeaways. Here’s what they observed:

  • Good innovation policy often means good urban planning. It’s important to think about the role of physical proximity, how it creates opportunities for face-to-face engagement, thus building trust that provides the glue for innovation.
  • There’s a sense of purpose to the work in Boston, where innovation is frequently aligned with social impact.
  • Cities appear to be the logical size when it comes to thinking about innovation places.
  • While there are large innovation initiatives, it’s good not to wait for a master plan, but rather, deliver smaller-scale innovation to help set tone and promote culture.
  • Innovation requires taking risks, and being comfortable that not every idea will lead to success.

Representing Boston as part of Microsoft New England, I was honored to be able to share such a rich ecosystem with key stakeholders from halfway around the world. Thank you to all of MSNE’s partners who came together to share their passion and insights in such a substantial fashion! I am grateful and humbled to work in a community of such generous and thoughtful people willing to contribute their time to foster international innovation.

Upcoming Event: How Do You Create an Innovation Culture in Cities?

How a community goes about building an innovative culture is unique. It often starts at the top, with leaders charged with governing who set the beliefs, expectations, a sense of purpose that underscores the importance of cultivating a culture of innovation and change, and who foster innovation by listening and supporting it in other community leaders and citizens. Join us for this upcoming event to hear from leaders and experts who are on the forefront of innovation in governance and technology:

Creating an Innovation Culture for the 21st Century City
Event Date: July 29, 2015, 5:00 pm – 8:00 p.m.
Location: Microsoft New England Research & Development Center, 1 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA

Speakers Include:



Program Agenda 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Welcome Remarks

Keynote Address, National League of Cities

Mayor’s Roundtable Led by The Director of the Working Cities Challenge, Boston Federal Reserve Bank

Technology for Communities: Microsoft Segment

Reception & Networking


This event is a joint effort by The Civic Innovation Project and The Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center, New England


The Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center aims for Microsoft to be “of” the community, not just exist within it. Through the Innovation and Policy Center we are extending beyond the tech community to: Connect stakeholders from tech to the broader business, academic and government communities; Catalyze important technology and public policy discussions, and; Contribute more directly with the health and vitality of greater New England.

The Civic Innovation Project is a national innovation and research platform focused on catalyzing government innovation. By expanding awareness and access to data and technology resources, our goal is to transform how leaders innovate in furtherance of government transparency and empower them with tools that have the potential to foster the creation of engaged and informed communities of citizens. Learn more about The Civic Innovation Project at www.civicinnovationproject.com and on Twitter @civinnovation.

LourdesLourdes German is the founder and director of the Civic Innovation Project, a national innovation and research platform intended to catalyze innovation among state and local government leaders and their citizens. Lourdes also serves as a fellow of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, where she is helping the institute launch an intellectual enterprise that will elevate the importance of municipal fiscal health as a national strategic priority, and is the author of the manuscript for the upcoming book, How Communities Finance America: A Guide to Government Public Finance. Prior to that, Lourdes spent the past decade working in the state and local government sector in various roles, including at Fidelity Investments where she helped create a new national business division focused on government public finance as a Vice President, at Breckinridge Capital Advisors where she served as General Counsel and Vice President of Research with respect to municipal government securities, and at Northeastern where she served as a Visiting Lecturer of Government Public Finance.

#JoinedUp — Celebrating Unity Between Australia and Boston

Last week, our team was honored to host a delegation from Australia to explore best practices in technology, city management, and innovation. Through visits to District Hall, MassChallenge, the Museum of Science, and more, we were able to share our pride in Cambridge and Boston and how we are working together as two cities in innovation.

We’ve gathered some of the best tweets from the visit below:

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Announces Jennifer Tour Chayes as the 2015 John von Neumann Lecturer

ChayesPhase transitions in discrete mathematics and computer science, structural and dynamical properties of self-engineered networks, graph algorithms, algorithmic game theory, and computational biology. Jennifer Chayes’ research career has spanned many areas. In recognition for her leadership in the research community, as well as her contributions to mathematical physics and the theory of computing, today, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) announced Jennifer as the 2015 John von Neumann Lecturer.  The Lecture is the highest honor awarded by SIAM, and was established in 1959 in honor of the Hungarian-American mathematician after whom the prize is named.

Jennifer is co-founder, Managing Director and Distinguished Scientist at Microsoft Research New England and Microsoft Research New York City. Jennifer co-founded Microsoft Research New England in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2008, and Microsoft Research New York City in 2012. Before joining Microsoft in 1997, she was for many years a professor of mathematics at University of California, Los Angeles.

Additional details about the award and Jennifer’s research background can be found in SIAM’s press release.

Microsoft New England Picks: 5 Not-To-Miss Events This Week

Microsoft New England Picks: 5 Not-To-Miss Events This Week

The summer’s still heating up — and with plenty of tech events happening in Boston and Cambridge, there’s no cooling down in sight! Here are our top five picks for events you don’t want to miss this week:

1) Interaction Design Foundation Boston/Wakefield Mash-Up Monthly
Tuesday, July 21, 6:30pm – 9pm
Microsoft New England R&D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge

The Interaction Design Foundation – the IDF – is a ten year old transformative non-profit enterprise focused on educating, informing and stimulating the global design community. IDF -Boston and IDF-Wakefieild are local chapters that get together on a monthly basis focusing on providing providing stimulating but fun discussions, insightful information, and face-to-face networking opportunities.

Boston Python2) Boston Python Presentation Night
Tuesday, July 21, 6:30pm – 9pm
Microsoft New England R&D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge
Twitter: @bostonpython

Boston Python presentation nights are a chance for Python developers to explore new topics in depth. Members or outside experts prepare presentations at a variety of levels, on any number of Python-related topics. By giving Python developers a chance to expand and hone their skills, Boston Python is enriching and strengthening the Python community.

Boston Public Library3) Intro to the Boston Startup Community at the Boston Public Library
Tuesday, July 21, 6:30pm – 8pm
Boston Public Library (Commonwealth Salon) | 700 Boylston Street | Boston
Twitter: @GA_boston | @BPLBoston

This summer the Boston Public Library will open its doors to General Assembly on the 3rd Tuesday of each month. We will host some of our most popular classes at the Central Library’s Commonwealth Salon – from Web Development to Digital Marketing – to give you the practical, hands-on training you need to pursue work you love.

Robby Bitting, Director of Marketing at MassChallenge, the world’s largest startup accelerator and competition, gives an orientation to help newcomers to the startup scene get acquainted with the exciting tech world in Boston. We will give you the inside scoop on key events and meetups to attend, people, companies, venture capital, blogs, incubators, programs, hot issues, and more.

Intelligent.ly EMERGE4) Intelligent.ly EMERGE
Wednesday, July 22, 8:30am – 7:30pm
Microsoft New England R&D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge
Twitter: @Intelligent_ly

Intelligent.ly helps high-growth startups across Boston develop their talent into highly effective leaders. To develop behaviors and networks that last, every Intelligent.ly program is grounded in expert facilitation, peer collaboration, and practical application.

The Intelligent.ly EMERGE conference is a one-day interactive workshop that brings together high-potential individual contributors from companies across Boston to learn fundamental leadership skills. The event enables emerging leaders to connect with peers in a collaborative environment, while developing core business skills.

Connect. Collaborate. Emerge.

#EndALZ Hackathon5) #EndALZ Hackathon
Saturday, July 25, 9am – 9pm
Hult International Business School | 1 Education Street | Cambridge
Twitter: @AlzheimersMANH | #ENDALZ

For The Longest Day, we’re organizing the first ever #ENDALZ Hackathon, hosted by Hult International Business School. We’ll be working hard to create tech-driven solutions in Alzheimer’s care, while raising funds and awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association.
At the #ENDALZ Hackathon, we’ll be working towards solutions in care and support for individuals living with the disease and their caregivers.

Fellow Profile: Jackie Lender

Jackie LenderHometown: Lynnfield, MA

College: Harvard, Senior

Major: Government

Minor: Slavic Studies

Language Citation: Russian Language

Last Thing I Searched on Bing: Minecraft Education Opportunities

Why Did you Choose Microsoft’s Fellowship Program? From afar, I admired the work that Microsoft started in conjunction with The City of Boston and New Urban Mechanics. My senior thesis in the Government Department at Harvard is about civic technology and the roles that different actors (public, private, academics, etc.) have in shaping the tech ecosystem of a city.  In my opinion, civic tech is the crossroads between “innovation” and “government” and is a truly collaborative process. I wanted to better understand the vantage point from which Microsoft explored this field.

What Projects are you working on for your position as tech fellow for MSNE? Right now I’m helping the Community Engagement team plan for a visit from an Australian delegation comprised of government officials, start-ups and VCs. This delegation is journeying to Boston to learn about what makes Boston such an innovative city. As a native Bostonian, I often take for granted local nuances like “District Hall”, “The Cambridge Innovation Center”, “Venture Café” and “Code for Boston Hack Nights”. I’m excited to see how the Australians will view this start-up ecosystem that emphasizes a strong partnership between government and tech.

What Excites You About Civic Tech? As a high school student, I worked as a Page in Congress and fell in love with American Politics. However, I’ve always been frustrated with the pace of writing legislation. Civic tech reminds me more of the private sector in the sense that (1) governments can respond to problems much more succinctly and (2) governments can collect data to better understand whether or not their initiative was successful. I think civic tech is going to redefine the standards by which we evaluate local, and ultimately federal, governments.

What’s One Problem You Hope Civic Tech Will Solve for Cities? In my ideal scenario, civic tech would improve the current DMV system!

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

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

The work week is back in full swing and we’re itching for August to show up. While our team is out and about welcoming Australian delegates into our community, we’ve gathered three tech events you don’t want to miss this week:

Boston TechBreakfast

1) Boston TechBreakfast
Tuesday, July 14, 8am – 10am
Microsoft New England R&D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge
Twitter: @techbreakfast

Based on the popular TechBreakfast format, the Boston TechBreakfast is a “show and tell” format event where up to five different technologists will demo their technologies from a wide range of industries ranging from software to hardware, IT to Biotech, robotics to space tech. The event is “triple agnostic”. We don’t care if the technology is from a start up, a large company, a university, a government agency, or someone’s hobby. We are also agnostic as to the industry of the tech – it could be IT, biotech, robotics, aerospace, materials sciences, anything tech and innovative is cool. And we’re also region agnostic – even if you’re not from where we’re hosting, we want to see you and your technology!

TDRR: Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll2) TDRR: Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll
Tuesday, July 14, 4pm – 8pm
Metcalf Hall, George Sherman Union | 775 Commonwealth Avenue | Boston
Twitter: @OTDatBU

Tech, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll (TDRR) is a networking event that started in 2010, which was designed to connect scientists and engineers with entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators. The event highlights emerging technologies from Boston University’s research programs in the fields of life sciences, physical sciences, medical technology, new ventures, and student-based ventures, with the additional presence of participating applied and translational research centers.

Talent Hackers Boston - Hacking the Diversity Challenge3) Talent Hackers Boston – Hacking the Diversity Challenge
Wednesday, July 15, 6pm-8pm
Microsoft New England R&D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge

Join us for an open discussion on how we can start to prioritize diversity in our hiring & company culture.

How does having a diverse team impact my business goals?

What sourcing methods can I use to build a more diverse talent pipeline?

How can I attract a diverse pool of qualified candidates?

How can I create a more inclusive company culture?

These are just some of the topics that our panelists will be diving into as they share their own advice and experiences.


Anik Das, Talent Acquisition @ RaziLabs

Vinay Gidwaney, Cofounder @ Maxwell Health

Carlie Smith, Talent Manager @ OpenView Ventures

Jibran Malek, Marketing Manager @ MassChallenge

Kate Morgan, CEO @ Boston Human Capital Partners