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Boston Public Schools’ Transportation Challenge Brings Data to Buses

This year, we are partnering with the BPS Experience Lab, the education segment of New Urban Mechanics. This work has focused on visualizing data on student time on buses – length of trip, frequency of use, and conveying this information to headmasters through a dashboard using Power BI.  Through that work (and some recent Globe articles), we learned that 10% of the BPS budget is spent on Transportation. And as identified by the BPS Long Term Financial Planning Initiative and the 10 Big Ideas to Unlock Resources for Student Success, addressing these transportation costs can free up funds to invest in student success. 

BPS is hosting a challenge to better leverage technology to improve routes and bell times with the ultimate goal of reducing transportation costs. In TCE, we sit at the intersection of government, industry and non-profits and this kind of challenge is a terrific use of the data science capacity of the private sector to enable the public sector to better serve constituents and students.    

We are proud to welcome John Hanlon and Will Eger as guest bloggers to tell us more about this challenge. 

— Aimee Sprung, Civic Engagement Manager at Microsoft New England

Last Saturday, over fifty technologists, academics, and transportation industry leaders braved an early Spring snowstorm (only in Boston…) to join us to kick off the first-ever Boston Public Schools (BPS) Transportation Challenge — a data science competition, open to the public, aimed at improving Boston Public Schools’ bus routes and equitably and efficiently balancing our school start times.  We are excited that this innovative public-private hackathon will help us reach — as BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang put it — “a technical solution to a technical problem, using data science to transform our district” in a way that provides the best outcomes for students and families.  We are hopeful that this solution will come from one of the groups in attendance, including students from Northeastern, MIT, BU and Harvard, or from industry powerhouses like FedEx and Uber, but it could just as likely come from someone reading this blog! So… (shameless plug) if you have a knack for solving these kinds of problems then please roll up your sleeves with us and hack away!

The event helped remind us of a number of things. First, as our panelist Andy Rotherham — co-founder of Bellwether consulting — pointed out, “solving school district transportation problems is incredibly hard.” But as John’s remarks highlighted, it’s incredibly important not just for BPS but for Boston as a whole. Reducing the 45,000 miles our buses drive every day wouldn’t just allow us to reinvest in schools, it would also dramatically reduce our carbon footprint. Rebalancing our school start times could potentially free up funds for investment in the classroom while establishing school schedules that work better for families.

The event also illuminated the evolution of our bus routing system, something that is still a work in progress. Mike Hughes, the Assistant Director of BPS Transportation, reminded us of this when he said during the event’s panel discussion: “When Boston Public Schools began creating bus routes in the 1970s, we unrolled large and detailed maps of the city and used push-pins to mark bus stops and connected them with multi-colored string to form unique routes.” Needless to say, our routing and fleet management has evolved dramatically since then. Today, our 650 buses drive  45,000 miles a day and serve 25,000 riders at 231 public, charter, and Parochial schools.

Technology has played an increasing role in planning these routes. Push-pins and strings have been replaced by routing software and digital maps. However, our software still can’t solve this puzzle without placing a significant burden on our excellent drivers, who often have to operate on  inefficient routes, or on our talented transportation staff, who need to troubleshoot and fine-tune the computer-generated routes each summer.

And why is that such an issue? As research into the Traveling Salesman Problem has found, as the number of stops increases the permutations of possible routes grows on factorially (n! – that is, possible permutations increase faster than exponential growth). Therefore calculating the optimal solution by brute force becomes impractical after about 20 stops. And we have 5,000 unique stops, at which our buses stop about 20,000 times per day (the same stops often serve multiple buses).

Things get even more complicated when you factor in the many “rules of the road” that we have to consider when routing. These rules establishing ride-time maximums, bus-stop placement rules, and so on, quickly make this problem nearly impossible to solve.

But there’s hope! With the tremendous advances in digital mapping, the rebirth of the Traveling Salesman problem in academic circles, and the sheer growth in computing power, we believe that now is the time to try to solve this historically unsolvable problem. We think that there just might be someone out there who can develop an algorithm that creates a more optimal solution to both routes and school start times.

As we think about our wish list, we know that this algorithm must be adaptable. We want to better understand the true costs of our various policy choices regarding walk to stop distances, ride times, and student assignment. Given the interconnectedness of our system, we’ve learned that seemingly small changes can snowball into large cost changes. What we want in the end is a tool that not only reliably automates efficient bus routes but also acts as a calculator of sorts, quickly and agilely determining the system-wide impact or cost of various policy scenarios.

Lastly, this is a technical challenge – but one with a very real human component. For 25,000 students, their school day begins when they step on the bus. Therefore this challenge isn’t just about improving efficiency. It is also about ensuring that our students reach schools safely and on time. It is about ensuring that schools start and end at times that work for more families. It is about reinvesting in our schools.

We hope to see your entry in the our routing challenge – make sure you don’t miss the 4/30 deadline and visit our website to learn more!

John Hanlon has served as the Chief of Operations for Boston Public Schools since July of 2015. Prior to becoming COO, John worked for the City of Boston as the Commissioner of Property and Construction Management where he oversaw the management, maintenance, and operations of City Hall and other municipal facilities across Boston. He previously served as Chief Operating Officer for Scholar Athletes, a nonprofit that supports public high school athletes and was the longtime Executive Director at the Dorchester Educational Enrichment Program, a nonprofit that offers mentoring services for middle-school youths. John is a proud Boston Latin School graduate and Dorchester resident, where he lives with his wife and four children. He holds an MBA from Duke University and a BA in journalism from Boston University.

Will Eger is a Strategic Project Manager in Finance for Boston Public Schools, where he works on developing and implementing the district’s Long Term Financial Plan. Prior to this he was in Parthenon’s education practice and was a high school math teacher in Philadelphia. He has written on education for The Atlantic, Ed Week, the Huffington Post, and Higher Education in Review as well as a full length book on the Tea Party. He has an A.B. from Harvard College and a M.S.Ed from the University of Pennsylvania.

Microsoft New England Team NERDs Out at Generation Citizen Trivia for Changemakers

Being in Cambridge for ten years, we know just as well as any local that we’re housed in an area with some of the top minds in the world. With world-class hospitals, universities, politicians, industry leaders, and more surrounding us, it can sometimes be daunting to acknowledge how much intelligence is in every corner of the city.

Generation Citizen, a national organization (and Microsoft partner) that works to inspire civic participation and empower students through civic education, has recognized this bout of intellect and is working to use it for good. For the past four years, our local Generation Citizen (GC) chapter in Massachusetts has utilized this “intelligence problem” at an annual Trivia for Changemakers night. GC’s Trivia for Changemakers brings together teams from Boston industries, pitting them against each other in a night of trivia, where the winners claim the coveted ChangeMaker’s cup.

All proceeds from Trivia For ChangeMakers support Generation Citizen (GC), a 501(c)(3) education nonprofit serving over 3,000 students annually in Boston, Malden, Cambridge, Arlington, Melrose, Lowell, Brockton. GC provides action civics programming in which youth lead community change projects and develop the skills, knowledge, and motivation to become lifelong active citizens. The result is passionate, responsible civic participation that will revive our democracy and the Greater Boston community.

This year, as in years past, Microsoft employees at Microsoft New England R&D Center jumped at the opportunity to participate in GC’s Trivia for Changemakers. Alongside companies like OpenView, Trip Advisor, Bain Capital and ActBlue, Microsoft team members Aimee Sprung, Shannon Felton Spence, Christopher Scranton, Kavitha Scranton, Maggie Schmidt, Ken Danilla and Eric Sprung took on the challenge. Together, they tackled “common sense” questions like “Who is the current president of the Boston City Council?” (Michelle Wu), identified photos of lesser-known presidents, and dove head-first into challenging questions like What former NBA champion and all-star served in the Senate for 18 years and later ran for President? (Bill Bradley). And to our delightful surprise… our team won!

Thank you to Generation Citizen, OpenView, Trip Advisor, Bain Capital and ActBlue, and our amazing team for granting us this year’s bragging rights. See you next year!

PULSE@MassChallenge: A Finger on the Pulse of Healthcare Innovation

With healthcare remaining a top priority and concern for Americans, it’s up to us in the innovation industry to inspire change and bring solutions to some of the biggest challenges in the healthcare industry. MassChallenge’s latest venture, PULSE@MassChallenge is here to tackle those challenges. The innovation accelerator describes PULSE as a startup-friendly approach to digital health innovations–and we’re thrilled to be a part of it. 

For years, Microsoft has been a sponsor of MassChallenge, igniting innovations across the civic sector by supporting civic ventures within the accelerator. We’re excited to take that one step further, as we join the PULSE team in sponsorship and help accelerate digital solutions in healthcare. 

Microsoft is excited to work with PULSE@MassChallenge to support seven exciting health ventures, providing BizSpark support, mentorship, and research connections:

www.vrphysio.com

www.syncthink.com

www.spring.care

www.redoxengine.com

www.queuedr.com

www.neuroelectrics.com

www.gainlife.com

Innovators in PULSE@MassChallenge receive the following support to help their digital solutions grow:

  • Digital Healthcare Lab: Connecting entrepreneurs with world-class strategic partners in healthcare
  • Community Access: Join the world’s preeminent digital health community
  • Office Space: Free offices in the heart of Boston’s healthcare ecosystem
  • Health Challenges: Resources driven to specific, top opportunities in digital health
  • Champions & Advisors: Mutual matchmaking with corporate & institutional Champions, mentors & advocates ready to help startups achieve success.
  • Awards: $250,000 in awards, no equity taken. 

Healthcare is a major industry in Massachusetts, and a human priority. It can be challenging for startups to engage the hospitals and large healthcare institutions here, but PULSE is paving the way to make this connection possible.

We’re thrilled to join a growing list of top-tier stakeholders invested in PULSE, including the Mass Competitive Partnership, Mass General Hospital, Shire, and more. 

PULSE innovators convene monthly for PULSECHECK, a speaker series and workshop opportunity. Join the PULSE team on April 19 for PULSECHECK: How HACKATHONS Create Companies alongside MIT Hacking Medicine at Hatch Fenway.

Harvard Social Enterprise Conference: Leveraging Technology for Impact

A perennial question for social entrepreneurs is the question of scale. And perhaps the two greatest levers for scaling social enterprises are technology and government. So, it should come as little surprise that the topic of civic technology featured heavily at last month’s Social Enterprise Conference at Harvard! Here, I’d like to share some of the insights presented.

The Harvard Social Enterprise Conference, now in its 19th year, is an initiative of students at Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government, meant to bring together practitioners, students, and academics to discuss the most pressing issues of organizations and society. This year, topics spanned a wide range, and included a variety of panels regarding civic technology. Microsoft’s Aimee Sprung moderated a panel on “Pitching the Public Sector,” while others led panels on mobile technology in the developing world, education technology, and many other topics.

Nearly 1,000 practitioners, students, and academics were part of the 2017 Social Enterprise Conference.

Their conversations were wide-ranging, insightful, and eye-opening for those in the audience who have ever thought of leveraging technology to impact problems they care about. Here are just a few of the lessons they shared:

  • Technology is just a tool. It’s easy to get excited about all of the possible features and capabilities that technology can bring to bear on social issues; it can also be easy to lose track of the fact that technology is only one tool to address these challenges. In schools, even the most advanced learning platform won’t be useful without outstanding educators. Technologists should think of themselves as one part of a larger puzzle in addressing social issues like education, which includes other pieces like process improvements, human capital support, changes in resource use, and more.
  • Governments can be great clients. Governments often get a bad reputation as clients to technology companies and other service providers. But our panelists reminded us that the opposite can also be true: governments can be uniquely outstanding clients. Not only do governments offer unparalleled scale and opportunity to work on important social issues, but there are also marketing and sales advantages. While sales cycles to governments can be long, the turnover rate of existing government clients is very low. And although governments are often unwilling to try brand new solutions, leaders in government talk to one another frequently, making it easy to sell high-quality products that already have a few users.
  • Always keep iterating. Nothing is a substitute for talking to users, understanding their needs, and iterating your technology to meet those needs. This can be especially hard for new startups, who lack both resources and a large client base on which to test new ideas. Panelists offered some creative ways to gain access to those first clients, such as leveraging a university’s brand name (as a student). But mostly, they reiterated how important it is to choose to tackle a problem that you care about enough to get out of the office and into the field.

For more information about the conference, visit our website: www.socialenterpriseconference.org.

Daniel Goldberg is an MBA Candidate at Harvard Business School and an MPP Candidate at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where he focuses on performance improvement, innovation, and service delivery in the public sector. He is the Director of Marketing & Attendee Relations for the Social Enterprise Conference.

Recap: #CivicTechBos — Impact of New Media on Civic Initiatives

While social media began as a way for friends to connect online, its uses have transcended far beyond that original intent. Social media has become a tool for activists, reporters, and unheard populations to connect together and spark new change. And with it, new media has developed on the digital and social spheres to rapidly transform the way civic initiatives take place.

Last night, we hosted our quarterly #CivicTechBos Conversations in Civic Innovation with Venture Cafe, with a focus on how the rapid growth of new media has transformed civic initiatives.

Speakers included:

Miss the conversation? We’ve gathered some highlights from last night’s event on Twitter Moments to keep you up to speed. Join us at our next event this summer!

Microsoft New England Picks: Not-To-Miss Events, April 2017

Happy Spring!

Long nights at Fenway Park… long runs by the Charles River… and long days in civic tech!

Here’s the best of what April has to offer in the Boston Metro area:

April 4

Learn Lab Workshop: Troubleshoot Windows 10

In this workshop, we’ll discuss how Windows 10 integrates with your various devices and how
Windows 10 can help make them better. Then we’ll get our hands on Windows 10, so you can
learn how to explore and modify features that will help you get more done and have fun on your device.

April 5

Accelerate Your Business

Business owners from across the Boston area are invited to attend Microsofts’ Accelerate Your Business event on Wednesday, April 5th, 2017 at the Sheraton Boston Hotel located in the center of downtown Boston.

This complimentary event is a networking, education and best practice sharing experience designed for small and medium sized business owners.

NewCo Boston: Innovation as a Public Resource: The Importance of Placemaking and Community Building

Join us at District Hall, the world’s first free-standing public innovation center, as we discuss the importance of expanding access to entrepreneurial resources, building local innovation communities, and the role of physical spaces and networks in supporting a collaborative innovation ecosystem.

April 6

Talk Data to Me

Talk Data to Me is a monthly event series where we host thought-leaders from the Boston data community to discuss the possibilities that data brings to life.

In April we are partnering with the City of Boston as they launch Analyze Boston, a new open data hub where you can find facts, figures, and maps related to our lives within the city.

April 11

Demo Day Spring 2017: A Celebration of Student Innovation at Northeastern

Demo Day is the presentation of over 20 student ventures that have completed a 6-week program called the Husky Startup Challenge. These ventures have participated in five four-hour bootcamps, attended office hours with coaches, and worked with other Northeastern resources to develop their business plans. The Husky Startup Challenge serves to provide an exciting atmosphere where student-run ventures can engage with real world entrepreneurs to develop their business ideas and create something extremely unique.

Envisioning Holographic Experiences – Mike Pell

Designing for HoloLens is a new frontier for everyone, and definitely requires some experimentation to get right. In this interactive talk, Mike will cover how you can quickly conceptualize and rapidly prototype your holographic experience without using expensive software or needing a Designer’s skillset. You’ll learn some great shortcuts to create, test, and refine your overall holographic experience (with or without coding) to move your ideas forward. Mike Pell- Designer / Envisioneer, The Microsoft Garage

April 12

EdVestors Annual Showcase

EdVestors’ annual Showcase takes place in April and features innovative projects supported by the School Solutions Seed Fund. The event is an opportunity for frontline educators to share their work with a broader audience. Guests in attendance have an opportunity to take one-on-one with Seed Fund project leaders informally, and observe formal presentations from a smaller group of projects on what they’ve learned so far.

April 13

DigiGirlz Boston

DigiGirlz Burlington

This free, 2-hour DigiGirlz Workshop at your Microsoft Store is a fun way for girls in middle school and high school (ages 12-18) to understand why computer science is important, and to use computer science to enhance things they already love doing, both now and in the future. What’s more, they’ll get an inside peek at what it’s like to work in technology; learn how to pursue their passion; and see that a successful career in technology is within their reach. The Workshop includes an inspiring presentation from real, local women in the industry and a Q&A session.

During the second hour, the girls will also get hands-on with our Hour of Code session, which teaches coding fundamentals. At the end of the Workshop, they’ll see cool resources that can be used to learn how to make awesome stuff with computer science.

Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to meet new role models, get inspired by the pros, and get a hands-on introduction to the world of coding. To join us for our DigiGirlz Workshop, register today.

April 15

DigiGirlz Natick

This free, 2-hour DigiGirlz Workshop at your Microsoft Store is a fun way for girls in middle school and high school (ages 12-18) to understand why computer science is important, and to use computer science to enhance things they already love doing, both now and in the future. What’s more, they’ll get an inside peek at what it’s like to work in technology; learn how to pursue their passion; and see that a successful career in technology is within their reach. The Workshop includes an inspiring presentation from real, local women in the industry and a Q&A session.

During the second hour, the girls will also get hands-on with our Hour of Code session, which teaches coding fundamentals. At the end of the Workshop, they’ll see cool resources that can be used to learn how to make awesome stuff with computer science.

Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to meet new role models, get inspired by the pros, and get a hands-on introduction to the world of coding. To join us for our DigiGirlz Workshop, register today.

April 19

PULSECHECK: How HACKATHONS Create Companies

Hackathons are more than just a buzzword. These marathon events are the reason that many companies are out tackling the world’s greatest challenges right now.

Join us on April 19th in collaboration with MIT HACKING MEDICINE to hear firsthand how startups emerged from HACKATHONS with viable solutions that are forcing innovation in Healthcare. They’re here to talk about the good, the bad and the unexpected!

April 21-22

#Hack4Democracy

MIT GOV/LAB is organizing We the People/Hack for Democracy to demonstrate MIT’s deep commitment to core American (and human) values of fairness, equality, and openness. In this hackathon, creative and compassionate people from across MIT and the Boston area will come together to tackle the immediate challenges U.S. organizations are now facing to safeguard these values.

April 25

Roxbury Inno Cafe Night

The monthly Café Nights @ RIC are energetic and dynamic events where innovators and entrepreneurs can find one another and collaborate to bring their dreams to reality.

These regular gatherings provide a space for conversations and scheduled programs to inspire a wide range of attendees from different backgrounds and industries to connect, share ideas, and grow their ventures. The Café is open to all members of the innovation community.

April 28

MIT Scaling Development Ventures Conference 2017

The 2017 MIT Scaling Development Ventures conference will feature more than 30 speakers and panelists. Program sessions will include two keynote speakers, social entrepreneur vision talks, a curated conversation, a showcase of MIT Social Ventures, and six afternoon breakout sessions.

Microsoft’s MassChallenge Scholarship for Civic Innovation Helps Donii Give

Four years ago, Microsoft partnered with the MassChallenge to identify startups with innovative solutions fostering citizen engagement and transparency between government and constituents. The Microsoft Scholarship for Civic Innovation supports up to five civically-focused startups with a cash grant to help grow their business as they apply to the accelerator. To date, the scholarship has benefited nearly 20 startups with innovated civic solutions, such as leveraging big data for automating parking management (FetchPark), using IoT and mobile money solution to bring running water to every urban home (CityTaps), and an online town-hall platform (Agora).

The truth, is we hope that the Civic Innovation Scholarship is only the beginning of our partnership with these startups. In fact, we hope that our collaboration is deepened as the startup continues to grow. This has been the case with Donii – a 2016 scholarship recipient.

Donii is the social enterprise that makes sure your donated goods make it to people in your community that need it most. Founder & CEO Angie Janssen works with local charities like homeless shelters and youth welfare programs to match the organization’s immediate materials needs with potential donors. This eliminates the hopeful guess-work of donating goods.

Have a set of pots and pans to donate? Simply log-on to Donii’s online portal and select from a list of local organizations that need pots and pans. Donii then picks up the donation and delivers back a tax receipt with a personal note detailing how the goods will be used. Each organization on the Donii platform has been vetted to guarantee that the items will indeed go to individuals in their program.

Beyond the Civic Tech Scholarship, Microsoft was one of the very first corporate partners to sign up to host a Donii drop-off in their office.

This idea was introduced after Donii’s time in the MassChallenge helped Angie think more deeply about addressing the needs and challenges of potential donors. The corporate partner model allows employees to bring goods to their office. By having a box in the office with regularly scheduled pickup days, potential donors don’t have to find the extra time in their day to find a drop-box somewhere else in town. Corporate partners receive ongoing impact metrics about how their employees’ donations helped the community. Microsoft now uses Donii in its New England offices to empower year-round employee giving and to build meaningful connections with nonprofit organizations throughout the city.

Earlier this year, Donii introduced tablets and printer kiosks to eliminate the time between giving a donation and knowing its impact. Donors are now able to check-in their donation and print a label for easy delivery right on-the-spot. The new streamlined system also notifies the organization that the ask has been filled in real time.

Once again, Microsoft was there to support Donii in its growth goals. We provided the organization with five Surface Pro 4 tablets – four which will be attached to new drop-off boxes and one for Angie to use for demos.

Donii Founder & CEO Angie Janssen

Angie is quick to note that a year ago the $5,000 Donii received from the 2016 Civic Tech Scholarship went a long way in building out the “bootstrapping young start-up.” However, the ongoing collaboration with Microsoft has provided far beyond a monetary or hardware donation. She notes that businesses are more comfortable and inclined to become corporate partners when they know Microsoft has done the same. The intangible benefits of credibility and access are often the most difficult for startups to overcome. Microsoft is happy to help our Civic Tech Scholarship recipients however we can.

Another round of MassChallenge accelerator applications is now upon us! Applications are now closed and the first round of judging is underway. We can’t wait to see all the innovative civic solutions this year’s entrepreneurs have dreamt up!

Microsoft is excited to once again support civically-focused startups with the 2017 Scholarship for Civic Innovation. We hope the recipients will lean on Microsoft — as Donii has — in a collaborative partner as their startup continues to grow.

NewCo Boston: A Day to See and Be Seen

There are some 300 colleges and universities within 90 miles of Boston, Massachusetts. Our region has the most educated population in the nation, and the state is regularly ranked as number one in innovation capacity.

Massachusetts is poised to lead the next major innovation wave–one characterized by smart, connected machines and devices. Yet, despite a critical mass of education and innovative organizations we are still, paradoxically, coming up short in one critical component: talent. We need to find new ways to get people together to experience what is happening here and to fill them with the kind of pride and enthusiasm that convinces them to keep their talents here upon graduation.

NewCo Boston, April 4-6, can help accomplish this goal. Founded by six-time media and tech entrepreneur John Battelle, NewCo sets out to identify, celebrate, and connect the engines of positive change in our society while fostering trust, storytelling, and true connection between the people driving a new kind of global capitalism. Through intimate sessions, NewCo festivals create lasting engagement and deep, critical connections.

NewCo Boston will feature 80+ innovative companies from across the region opening their doors and inviting the public in for a behind-the-scenes look at companies and conversations with the founders, CEOs and other drivers of innovation in their native habitats. With more than 750,000 possible combinations, each journey can be unique. Each day of this two-day festival concludes with hundreds of fellow NewCo attendees getting together at some of the best networking “meetups” in the region.

What makes NewCo so perfect for Massachusetts?

Tech in Massachusetts has an opportunity to welcome executives, investors, engineers, entrepreneurs, students, media, and generally curious people to come see what’s happening behinds the doors of tech. Whether looking for that new idea or new position, broadening your network and your view of what’s happening across the industry is a smart move.

NewCo is an opportunity to attract and retain more talent, and , as we showcase our amazing local companies on the global NewCo media platform, more people across the 16+ other NewCo cities – from Istanbul to Barcelona to San Francisco – will learn about the great inventors and inventions here, thereby elevating our innovation brand and drawing additional attention and talent to the region.

Finally, NewCo gives us a glimpse into the future. What is being developed today will be the products and services of tomorrow. If you’re looking to network, to find a better job, or to just get a few new ideas, it’s a day worth checking out. Learn more, and join 1,000+ others for the inaugural NewCo Boston festival, by visiting bos.newco.co.

Tom Hopcroft is President & CEO of the Mass Technology Leadership Council, organizer of NewCo Boston. He can be reached at tom@Masstlc.org. 

Tom Hopcroft is President & CEO of the Mass Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC), the region’s leading technology association and the premier network for tech executives, entrepreneurs, investors and policy-makers. A Massachusetts attorney and former adjunct professor at Northeastern University’s College of Business Administration, Mr. Hopcroft founded and led the New England Business and Technology Association which merged with the Mass Software Council in 2005 and later the Mass Network Communications Council in 2009 to form what is today the largest technology organization in the New England with member companies ranging from early stage start-up to global enterprise across the entire tech ecosystem. Hopcroft serves as Chairman of the Fiscal Affairs and Administrative Policy Committee on the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. He is also on the boards of the MassTLC Education Foundation, MassRobotics, and the Technology Councils of North America. Mr. Hopcroft lives in Winchester, MA, with his wife and two boys.

Make Data Matter — 2017 Hubway Data Challenge

Happy Spring!

How are you celebrating the new season? Spring cleaning? Planning your garden? Getting ready to bike in the warm weather?

How about creating new projects with data?

We’re jumping into spring with Hubway to help launch their 2017 Hubway Data Challenge. First held in 2012, the Hubway Data Challenge is a call for local data enthusiasts to bring Hubway’s trip data to life. Entrants can use trip data from across the Hubway system in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline to create unique, analytical, and creative visualizations or other projects that reveal new user patterns about commuting via Hubway.

Where do Hubway users ride? When do they ride? How far do they go? Which stations are most popular? On what days of the week are most rides taken? How do user patterns differ between members and casual riders? How does weather affect usage? These and many other questions can be answered by the ride data.

Entries will be considered for six different categories. Each category will have one winner selected.

Over $7,500 worth of prizes will be awarded. The winning entry in each category will receive this package worth over $1,200, including prizes from Microsoft, General Assembly, b.good restaurant, Cleverhood, Passim, and $250 cash!

How to Enter

Enter your name, email address, phone number, project title, description (up to 600 characters), screenshot, and a self-hosted URL of your visualization or other data-based creation into our online entry form.

And the fun doesn’t stop there — we’ve partnered with Hubway beyond the data challenge for some exciting surprises. Stay posted to our blog and our Twitter to find out more!

Entries must be completed by April 10, 2017, 11:59 PM EST. View the official rules of the 2017 Hubway Data Challenge. Entrants must be at least 18 years old.

Introducing the Public Engagement Roadmap: Creative Resources for Meaningful Civic Participation

Originally published on Medium by the Engagement Lab @ Emerson College.

We’re thrilled to announce the launch of the Public Engagement Roadmap, a new suite of creative resources aimed at supporting all stages of planning public engagement for non-profits and governments on local, state, and national levels.

Designed and created by the Engagement Lab in partnership with Living Cities and with support from the Citi Foundation, the Roadmap provides an actionable, step-by-step breakdown for creative and effective public engagement. Emphasizing the model of co-production, where citizens collaborate at all stages of decision-making on public issues, the Roadmap balances digital and in-person strategies to help practitioners navigate the ever-shifting landscape of engagement in the 21st Century.

The Roadmap is based on practical findings summarized in Accelerating Public Engagement, a report written by Eric Gordon, Executive Director of the Engagement Lab and Associate Professor at Emerson College, about real-life examples from public engagement during the second cohort of Living Cities’ City Accelerator program. Over the course of 18-months, Gordon and the Engagement Lab team provided technical assistance and guidance to city officials in the program from Albuquerque, Atlanta, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Seattle as they implemented projects to engage lower income residents on issues ranging from post-incarceration re-entry services to public health campaigns.

“The roadmap is a story of what it takes for organizations to actually partner with communities, well beyond checking the box,” said Eric Gordon. “Its focus is on creative methods, where relationships are put before efficiencies. Understanding how to use media and technology to enhance the human part of public engagement is more important now than ever before. That’s the focus of the report, and indeed, that’s the focus of all the Engagement Lab’s work.”

In all, the Roadmap comprises four resources grounded in design-thinking to help organizations map meaningful public engagement:

  • The Toolkit, a dynamic, online assessment that helps gauge where you are with your plan, what your plan’s strengths are, and where you might benefit from some additional guidance, and then gets you started with a series of strategic exercises and practical activities to improve your engagement plan.
  • The Guide, a comprehensive report called, Accelerating Public Engagement, which provides background on public engagement and offers practical, detailed approaches to use when planning on- and offline processes.
  • The Case Studies, a closer look at the stories from participant cities in the City Accelerator program and how they embraced the model of co-production to discover new ways to engage more deeply with the communities they serve.
  • The Game, a tabletop game called, “Chart the Course” that guides players through an entire public engagement planning process and gives teams an opportunity to explore different engagement tactics, role-play possible outcomes with stakeholders, and reflect on the implications of their actions.

“This Roadmap is intended for cities around the country who recognize that the solutions for today’s toughest problems aren’t found in some hidden corner of city hall,” wrote Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities, “but rather are co-developed through partnerships with residents, community colleges and universities, nonprofits, philanthropic organizations, and the business community.”

Explore the Public Engagement Roadmap here, and learn more about the work of the City Accelerator program here. If you would like to schedule a consultation about the Roadmap, please email info@elab.emerson.edu.