January 2016

Public Space Invitational: Reflections & Information Session

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 4.14.36 PMFor millennia, public spaces have been key to civic life, as places where society comes together to debate, learn, heal and celebrate collectively. Last year’s inaugural Public Space Invitational (PSI) in Boston made us all think about how public space can be used in ways befitting the 21st Century, by leveraging new models of engagement, lightweight hacks and technology.  Examples as diverse as Lightwell, the City Hall Stairs of Fabulousness, and the exciting additions to the Greenway last summer demonstrated that the community has creative ideas that can make public space more functional and intuitive, as well as generally improve civic engagement.

Join us to discuss the role of public space in civic innovation, hear about this year’s Public Space Invitational, and dig into specifics of last year’s results from some of the inaugural PSI winners.


    • Sam and Leslie Davol of Uni
    • Michelle Laboy of LightWell
    • Liz LaManche of Stairs of Fabulousness

In coordination with the Venture Café Foundation, the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center will convene a conversation on Civic Tech on February 10, 2016, 5:30PM – 7:30PM at District Hall.

Register today: click here.

About 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.

About Venture Café Foundation
The Venture Café Foundation is a non-profit whose mission consists of three pillars:

        • Building and connecting communities of innovation
        • Expanding the definition of innovation and entrepreneurship
        • Building a more inclusive innovation economy

The Venture Café Foundation enhances and accelerates the innovation process through:

      • Spaces for individuals and organizations to gather, tell stories, and build relationships, such as Venture Café at CIC in Cambridge, District Hall and soon the Roxbury Innovation Center.
      • Programs that create connections, such as Captains of Innovation and the Innovation Visitor Bureau.
      • Conversations and events that expand an understanding of innovation and entrepreneurship, such as the Innovation and the City conference and Civic Innovation Series.

What Matters to Teachers and School Leaders? Supporting Students and Preparing Them For Success


image001 (1)In fall 2014, EdVestors launched the School Solutions Seed Fund issuing an open call to educators seeking funding to support problem-solving, experimentation, and innovation in schools.  The beauty of the Seed Fund is that through this fund, EdVestors and its granting partners hear from the experts we value most – teachers and school leaders. Matched with flexible resources and tactical support from EdVestors, these educators are empowered to put their plans into action, to experiment, and to share their struggles and successes with a community of like-minded educators.

The Seed Fund also provides a window into the common challenges faced by schools that slow their progress. This year two issues stood out: the need to better address social emotional learning and the importance of preparing high school students for post-secondary success.

Social Emotional Learning and Support: The prevalence of childhood trauma is alarming, often cited at affecting more than 50 percent of children, and likely higher in urban areas. Programs that teach social emotional skills and problem-solving to students are showing promising results. Through the Seed Fund this year, EdVestors is supporting approaches aimed at equipping students with skills to make positive choices in the face of challenges, and teachers with skills to understand and holistically support students’ learning and development:

This issue has become more visible recently thanks to federal and state policies, efforts by organizations like the Rennie Center, CASEL, and Transforming Education, and the hiring of Boston Public Schools’ new Assistant Superintendent of Social Emotional Learning. These efforts will provide on-the-ground evidence of what works and what challenges emerge in implementation.


Preparing Students For Post-Secondary Success: Despite rising high school graduation rates, students are arriving at colleges unprepared for the coursework. National estimates suggest between 28 and 40 percent of college students are required to enroll remedial courses. EdVestors’ Seed Fund is supporting the Margarita Muniz Academy, in partnership with the Boston HERC, in designing supports for Latino students to be successful in their post-secondary pursuits. Creating and strengthening career pathways for students at Madison Park Vocational Technical High School and the English High School will allow students to graduate with industry-certified credentials prepared to enter the workforce or continue their education.

Mayor Marty Walsh, with the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Opportunity Agenda, has a broad high school redesign process underway in Boston. Our hope is that the piloting and testing of models at these schools will inform Boston’s high schools of the future.

Please join us at the School Solutions Seed Fund Showcase on April 11 at District Hall to listen directly to school leaders and teachers about these issues as well other innovative efforts underway in schools in Boston.

Alison Headshot 2013Alison Stevens is Senior Director of School-Based Investments at EdVestors, a school improvement nonprofit working to increase the number of schools in Boston delivering dramatically improved educational outcomes for all students. For more info about the School Solutions Seed Fund, contact EdVestors at info@edvestors.org, check the website at www.edvestors.org or follow @EdVestors.

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

Events 1-25-16

The first month of the year always seems to fly by — and when you’re invested in your local tech scene, that’s a guarantee. Help us wrap up January with our top picks for events not to miss this week:

tech-sandbox1) StartUp LinkUp
Monday, January 25, 6pm
TechSandBox | 105B South Street | Hopkinton
Twitter: @TechSandBox1

What happens when you combine Crowdsourcing, LinkedIn and Pitching? You get Startup LinkUp: a Forum where Entrepreneurs pitch to find Mentors (and other help).

capital-network2) Boston Accelerators: Navigating Your Options
Monday, January 25, 6pm — 8pm
Morgan Lewis | 1 Federal Street | Boston
Twitter: @TCNupdate | 

You might be interested in getting your startup into an accelerator – and rest assured Boston has no shortage of options – but it’s hard to know exactly what the best options for your stage and industry are. From business support, mentorship and desk space, to equity vs non-equity, marketing, and even prize money – accelerators offer a whole lot and can really help you develop your product, brand, and network. At this panel, you will hear from different types of accelerators about their selection process and programming so that you can make the right choice for your startup. Join us for a panel discussion, drinks and post discussion mingling with speakers from Techstars, MassChallenge, RevUp by Betaspring, Clean Tech Open & InnoLoft by Constant Contact. With our panel you’ll get to learn about National, Non-equity, Revenue Model, Industry Specific and Corporate Accelerators.

ga_datasci3) Data Science Career Panel
Monday, January 25, 6:30pm — 8:30pm
WeWork South Station | 745 Atlantic Ave. | Boston
Twitter: @GA_boston

Great Data Scientists come from all different backgrounds. Hear from leaders in the field about how their careers lead them to data science, and how their past experiences apply to the work they do currently.
ChallengeCup-Local-Logo_wDates_color14) 1776 Challenge Cup: Boston
Tuesday, January 26, 5:30pm — 9pm
Greentown Labs | 28 Dane Street | Somerville
Twitter: @1776 | #1776ChallengeGlobal startup incubator and seed fund 1776 and local new product showcase MassInnovation Nights are bringing the 2016 Challenge Cup to Boston. The global startup competition is designed to identify and support startups focused on solving the world’s most fundamental challenges in sectors such as: civic tech, education, energy, food, health, money, security or transportation.

thinkKids5) Think:Kids Tier 1 Intensive Training – Winter 2016
Wednesday, January 27 — Friday, January 29
Microsoft New England R & D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge
Twitter: @thinkkids

This winter Think:Kids and the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) are pleased to offer our Tier 1 Intensive Training featuring Dr. Stuart Ablon and Think:Kids staff.  Think:Kids promotes an innovative and evidence-based approach to understanding and helping children and adolescents with behavioral challenges called Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS). This two and a half day intensive training is intended for parents, mental health clinicians and educators who have some prior exposure and are interested in becoming more proficient in the CPS approach

Fellow Profile: Kevin Yang

kevin-yang_MSNEWhere are you from? Orange County, California

School/grade/major: Harvard, Junior, Computer Science and Statistics

Last thing you searched on Bing: Best Sushi in NYC

Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program? Previously, I led a nonprofit called the Digital Literacy Project, which brings undergraduates into middle schools to teach an introduction to computer science. From these experiences, I naturally became interested in understanding how to magnify my impact on communities and how communities function. As a leader in the Civic Tech space, Microsoft seemed like a great way to continue exploring my passions.

What’s the most exciting tech venture the City of Boston is working on? Naming the most exciting tech venture in Boston is particularly difficult. Boston has an unparalleled ecosystem of innovation with startup accelerators like Mass Challenge, spaces for entrepreneurship like the Cambridge Innovation Center, and partnerships between companies and policy makers like the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. These organizations help innovative tech ventures thrive in Boston and make me particularly excited to work on civic tech in Boston.

Who is your civic tech mentor? I find Hadi Partovi’s mission to demonstrate the transformative power of technology through Code.org particularly inspiring. Over the past two years since its inception, Code.org has engaged over one hundred million people to learn how to code.

What excites you about civic tech? Within the civic tech space, there are plenty of opportunities to make meaningful and lasting improvements to the lives of community members. As shown by the uptake of applications like Microsoft Pulse and OpenGov, local governments enhanced with technology can be transparent and responsive.

What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities? Through new civic tech services where governments can connect with citizens, I hope communities will become more involved with their local governments.

Microsoft’s New England SMSG Organization Moving to Burlington


Microsoft Burlington Office, 5 Wayside Road

Later this year, Microsoft’s New England Sales, Marketing and Services Group (SMSG) will move to Nokia’s former offices in Burlington, Massachusetts, from our current Kendall Square location.

Let me be clear, Microsoft is not leaving Kendall Square! Microsoft will continue to have a large presence here. Microsoft research and development teams will remain in Cambridge where they can easily collaborate with leading, nearby academic institutions and the broader technology community. Debi Mishra, Partner Director of Engineering for Azure Machine Learning, and site leader for this Microsoft Global Development Center, will continue to focus on growing our research and development presence here, and our conference center at NERD will continue its mission of hosting industry meetings and meet-ups.


Microsoft New England Research & Development Center

In fact, the plan is to renovate the more than 150,000 sq. feet we occupy at One Memorial Drive, providing more collaborative work spaces for our research and development teams and giving us room for business growth.

As for my SMSG team, our footprint in the Northeast continues to grow, and Burlington places us in a centralized location close to Boston, but with easier access to all the surrounding states in our sales region.

The move will see all SMSG employees at Microsoft’s 255 Main Street, Kendall Square office, including those in our world-class Microsoft Technology Center (MTC), relocate to 5 Wayside Road in Burlington. The Burlington office will complement our New England satellite offices in Hartford, CT and Rochester, NY. It’s also just two miles from our Microsoft Store at the Burlington Mall.

This move will allow SMSG to truly capitalize on our company’s mobile-first strategy and provide an easily accessible, state-of-the-art hub where we can work more effectively with customers, partners, developers and user groups throughout our Northeast territory.

As I indicated at the outset, this move won’t occur until later this year, but I want our New England customers, partners, employees and friends to be aware of our intentions. We’re looking forward our new Burlington home, but in the meantime we’ll continue to meet your needs from our current Kendall Square offices.

Robert Davy is general manager of Microsoft’s Northeast Enterprise and Partner Group.

MLK Day: Service & Education

EdV_Prize_033In recent years, MLK Day has become a day of service, and as MLK Day approaches it always makes me consider the volunteer opportunities I my life. I am fortunate to be able to volunteer at my kids’ school and my synagogue’s religious school. I even coach my 7 year old son’s soccer team in the Fall and Spring – and as a non-soccer player, that one is pretty funny!  But with two school age children and a husband who is an Elementary School principal, my personal passion to enhance education with technology leads to me often centering my volunteer time around education.

With so many amazing non-profit orgs in Boston, sometimes it is difficult to find just one meaningful volunteer opportunities that can also take advantage of my skills, but I feel lucky to have connected with a few groups that I can contribute to and that leave me feeling very fulfilled — and I’d like to highlight a few:

  1. Generation Citizen– Providing all students with an education in Action Civics. Action Civics provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in our democracy as active citizens. GC envisions a country of young people working as active and effective citizens to collectively rebuild our American democracy.
    • VOLUNTEER to speak to a class, judge at Civics Day or attend the Civic Tech Challenge.
  2. Museum of Science– Ensuring students receive science and engineering education through innovative exhibits and events like the recent Science Behind Pixar exhibit.
    • VOLUNTEER at a special event like Computer Science Education Week or support the museum with your expertise through a task force focused on Technology, Food, etc.
  3. Youth Cities– Teaching students about entrepreneurship by engaging local startup founders, venture capitalists and other entrepreneurs in our community and teaching them how to build a business.
    • VOLUNTEER by becoming a mentor or attending the March to May bootcamp concluding event to hear more about the student projects.
  4. EdVestors– Improving urban education with a focus on Boston Public Schools.  The work of EdVestors focuses on delivering dramatically improved educational outcomes for all students.
    • VOLUNTEER by attending the Seed Fund Showcase or School on the Move event to support the org and the innovative schools in their network.
  5. Resilient Coders– Teaching young people from traditionally underserved communities to code, creating skilled workers, increasing diversity in the tech industry and filling the pipeline for the tech industry.
    • VOLUNTEER as a mentor to RC students or to speak to a cohort of students during a bootcamp.  You can also hire Resilient Coders to for technical projects like building web sites or apps.

This list is just a start.  I hope you will share your favorite organizations where you spend your time @asprung or in the comments below.  Happy volunteering!

Major News Broadcasters to use Microsoft Pulse during the 2016 State of the Union


Microsoft Pulse, a tool that enables anyone, anywhere, on any device to vote and engage in a live event or broadcast, is partnering with CNN, MSNBC, NBC Universo and Telemundo to allow Americans to participate and give real-time feedback to President Obama’s final State of the Union address. To participate and make your voice heard during the State of the Union address, watch CNN or NBC Universo at 9pm EST tonight and vote at cnn.com/pulse or telemundo.com/pulse. You can also stream the speech and vote on Msnbc.com or Telemundo.com.

Want to hear more? Visit the Microsoft Pulse blog and follow @MicrosoftPulse on Twitter.

Microsoft New England Picks: 4 Not-To-Miss Events This Week

Events 1-11-16

We’ve got a cold front coming our way, but that won’t stop Bostonians and Cantabrigians from taking over tech. Here are our top picks for events you can’t miss this week:

boston-new-tech1) Boston New Technology January 2016 Product Showcase
Monday, January 11, 6pm — 9pm
Microsoft New England R & D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge
Twitter: @BostonNewTech | #BNT61

Free event! Come learn about 6 innovative and exciting technology products and network with the Boston/Cambridge startup community!  Each presenter gets 5 minutes for product demonstration and 5 minutes for Q&A.

incite-health_Harvard2) Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care Pitch Night
Wednesday, January 13, 6:30pm
Microsoft New England R & D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge
Twitter: @InciteHealthHMS | @HMSPrimaryCare | #PCPitch

Join us for a night of innovation and entrepreneurship as the HMS Center for Primary Care InciteHealth Fellows pitch their innovative ideas to an investor panel for a grand prize of $25,000.

nav_ksa_logo3) Kendall Square Association Lunch & Learn: Get the Most Out of Your Membership
Thursday, January 14, 12pm — 1pm

Kendall Square Association | 510 Kendall Street | Cambridge
Twitter: @kendallnow

Join us for a brief presentation on Kendall Square Association Membership. We encourage staff from all member organizations to attend, as well as those considering membership. Learn more about how the KSA connects you with neighbors, tells your story, and convenes the community! Not sure if you’re a member? Check the KSA Directory, or contact Membership Director, Tracy Wax (wax@kendallsq.org).

boston-FIG4) BostonFIG Talks
Saturday, January 16, 8am — 6pm
Microsoft New England R & D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge
Twitter: @BostonFIG

The Boston Festival of Indie Games is expanding our event to help better serve and educate the game community. FIG Talks comprises a day of talks from experts in the fields of game design, development, education, business, and more.

The goal of the day is to provide useful, actionable information for independent game developers and designers across both digital, tabletop, and live action games.

Generation Citizen Civics Day: Empowering Massachusetts’ Young Changemakers


Twice each year, Generation Citizen hosts Civics Day at the Massachusetts State House. Civics Day is an opportunity for all of the GC students to showcase their work from the semester, demonstrate how they learned to identify the root cause of a civic issue, establish a plan and take action. It was at Civics Day in 2014 that I first discovered how GC is empowering young people to speak up and be heard.  From cafeteria food to youth violence, the GC students are learning how to explain their view point and motivate all of us to influence change in the community.

Now, as a member of the Boston Board of GC, I was honored to serve as a judge at the December 2015 Civics Day. Aliyah Jackson was named GC Student Changemaker and delivered an inspirational closing speech about her experience with GC and encouraging all students to engage:

“…we are never too young to fight for what we believe in. The future of our society is in our voices. We have the power to make a difference each and everyday. So what are we afraid of? We should work together as a whole and mold our future for the better. Our journey doesn’t stop here with Generation Citizen, it’s only just the beginning to the future we wish to see.”

Aliyah’s complete speech is posted here (video) and below:

Want more? Here are some highlights from the most recent GC Civics Day:

What will inspire us at Generation Citizen’s 2016 Civics Days? I can’t wait to see.

Promoting Financial Security With Beldwell


Pop quiz. Which of these experiences do you find more mortifying?

  • Finally, at age 30, moving to the big city but only being able to afford housing options that include four housemates
  • Having your credit card declined in front of all your friends
  • Over drafting your bank account
  • Learning your car has been repossessed

If any of these scenarios hit too close to home as plausible, I completely understand. All of these humbling experiences were mine. Why? Because, like most, I learned about finances through the school of hard knocks.

Full disclosure: my parents set me up with a great academic foundation – private school education that culminated into Ivy League graduation – but zero financial literacy.

The reality of an entry-level salary plus student loan debt minus basic cost of living expenses didn’t leave room for error. Hello self-sufficient adulthood. Never mind, this version of adulthood included living paycheck to paycheck and “nuisances” like overdraft fees and making minimum payments on credit cards. Not looking at your bank account balance equals blissful ignorance, right?

Wrong. The day my relationship with my finances changed is still crystal clear. At the age of 24, after a missed loan payment, my car was repossessed. That was it; the wake-up call that there had to be a better way to handle my money.

So where does one go to learn health financial habits when turning to family is not an option? Traditional sources like banks, financial advisors, and other financial institutions can be perceived as intimidating and often assume even a basic level of financial literacy. Antiquated approaches to financial literacy have a way of repelling those of the ‘I cringe when I look at my bank account persuasion’. Recognizing emergency savings is a critical factor in financial health, we sought to reimagine how might we change individuals’ experience with money in a relevant and beautiful way and created Beldwell.

Beldwell is dedicated to helping people build happier, more financially secure lives through beautiful physical artifacts that connect to, and reflect, your financial progress. We believe that every person should have the opportunity to achieve financial independence and understand the solutions offered should keep up with the times. Think Fitbit for saving money, minus the wearable part. Beldwell is designed to fit in with the décor of your home or office. We value a non-invasive approach. Beldwell is simply there to genuinely encourage your progress.

Follow our blog at https://medium.com/@beldwell to learn about the meaning of our company’s name.