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PLAY NYC, New York’s Premier Games Convention, Launches Summer 2017 at Terminal 5

Dan Butchko, CEO and founder of Playcrafting, has announced Play NYC, the premier convention dedicated to video games in New York City. Connecting players with creators alike, this family­ friendly event will take place Aug. 19­ & 20. It features three floors of games, over 100 developers and 20 presentations from industry leaders (including Microsoft).

“Basically, what we are doing is putting together New York’s version of PAX meets GDC,” said event organizer Dan Butchko. “We’re going to finally give New York the dedicated games convention it deserves.”

Video games and the art that comes along with them have invaded other conventions, making up 20 percent of New York Comic Con each year.

“We’ve been doing Playcrafting expos for about four years now,” said Butchko. “What started as originally ten developers sitting in a room and showing their games to each other has exploded. It’s a huge indicator that this is the kind of event the New York community needs.”

Nationwide, Playcrafting has contributed to the professional advancement of over 25,000 developers by hosting more than 200 classes and courses generating over 150 new games annually. Their quarterly expos are attended by over 1,000 gamers and developers. Play NYC is the next step in its mission to provide developers the tools to get a leg up by impressing the industry and bringing their games to a whole new level.

Play NYC events will run Aug. 19­—20 from 10 am to 6 pm at Terminal 5. Devs and Pros passes are available starting at $50 for both days and allow entry to two days of talks and panels. Tickets can be purchased online at play­nyc.com.

The Future of Coworking in NYC — From Microsoft to Beyond

As real-estate prices in urban centers continue to climb across the nation, companies like WeWork have stepped in to offer start-ups, non-profits, and other ventures affordable co-working spaces. However, a number of groups have reimagined coworking spaces as more than just an efficient solution to expensive city office space. Organizations like Civic Hall, Prime Produce, and Cornell Tech have embraced coworking spaces as a means through which distinct organizations can achieve beyond their individual capacities. From co-ops to accelerators, collaboration spaces have started to focus on strategically selecting companies with a shared value set, development phase, or industry focus. Building a community of similarly oriented ventures across sectors and functions allows for both informal and formal collaborations that amplify each organization’s effectiveness and reach.

One such co-working space, Civic Hall, has an application process and requires that its members be working on projects related to civic technology. A core tenet of the space is that no endeavor can succeed without at least some degree of cross-sector collaboration. The diverse set of members at Civic Hall, from Microsoft to small start-ups, mingle at weekly lunch events on civic tech related topics, network over coffee in the shared kitchen, and ultimately leverage one another’s unique skill-set and talents.

Other coworking spaces are more focused on members having a shared process or phase of development. For example, Prime Produce, a co-op that describes itself as a “guild for social good,” is committed to serving as a shared working environment and community for organizations focused on decelerating their growth trajectory to focus on supply-chain, process, and quality. By working with a diverse set of companies, the team at Prime Produce hopes they will identify shareable insights and a consistent framework for both their members and non-members.

The insights on collaboration that places like Prime Produce and Civic Hall are working to codify are already being embraced by larger institutions. The much awaited Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, for example, is designed to intentionally foster run-ins between researchers, students, and industry leaders. One campus center is made of two separate wings, one for students and one for researchers, connected by a giant glass bridge that serves as a cafeteria and shared space. A lead designer on the project, Michael Manfredi, explains, “it’s about making connections between someone who might be working at Microsoft and some doctoral student who is working on ways of assembling information.”

In each case, coworking spaces, have begun to shift from a reaction to the realities of city-living to intentional forums where the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts! We can’t wait to see how coworking develops and expands in the future.

Fulfilling the Promise of Open Data through Data Literacy Training

In June, the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) at the Urban Institute and Microsoft released a collection of resources and recommendations on extending and expanding training opportunities for staff at civic organizations and governments to help them leverage data and technology to tackle local priorities.  To illustrate the foundations, learnings, and impacts that informed the NNIP study, we are delighted to have NNIP partners from around the U.S. sharing their experiences in developing and operating their local training programs in a series of guest blogs.  Below is one of these experiences. Other posts in this series are available from the Urban Institute and the DetroitOakland, and Seattle partner organizations.

— Elizabeth Grossman, Director of Civic Projects, Microsoft

Working together, the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center (WPRDC) and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) have discovered that providing data and technology training to Pittsburgh-area residents advances our common interests in supporting resident learning, informed decision making, and community engagement. Our two organizations have complementary missions. WPRDC maintains Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh’s open data portal, provides services to help with publishing and using data, and organizes events to connect publishers and users. CLP launched a major initiative last year focusing on open data, data literacy, and the ways that data might inform sound decision making.

Motivators for the Training

When participants at a 2016 WPRDC User Group meeting asked for more support around using data on the website, the opportunity to partner on data and technology training became clear. Together we designed Data 101 — an introductory series of workshops designed to increase data literacy regardless of past experience.

Hosting Data 101 was an ideal opportunity for the library to reinforce core data concepts and help residents overcome the barriers to using open data. Open data only becomes public data when other critical elements are in place, such as equitable access to technology, opportunities for learning, and community relationships. Public libraries are well positioned to connect people to these pieces that are often missing.

How Training Has Impacted Participants’ Community Work

Data 101 participants came from a variety of organizations, including city and county government staff, foundation program officers, non-profit staff, students and library system staff.  The CLP lead for Digitization and Special Projects was one of ten Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh participants. She attended to learn more about how data could intersect with her life, both personally and professionally. “I am a visual learner and [as a result of attending Data 101] I’ve found myself actually creating data visualizations to better understand data I’ve either accumulated or been given. The best thing I took away from the series is identifying what data is and how it can tell a story.”

The non-profit staff were often looking for support in grant writing, service outreach, and program evaluation. One grant writer from a local community center first came to the training at the request of her organization’s CEO. She found herself dealing with data often — presenting them to managers, directors and funders — but wasn’t confident about her technical skills. She attended all 4 of the workshops in the initial series and learned to think about how to present and explain data in new ways. Because of the trainings, she has used her new skills to help her organization focus their efforts geographically by identifying municipalities with lower income and higher unemployment rates and also which of their partner agencies served those areas. This helped her organization target career development services where it was needed most.

“I liked that the series encouraged everyone to think about the concepts of visualizing data, before learning about the tools that are available. These activities also gave us opportunities to work with others and share ideas, rather than just working separately on laptops. As a result, I learned how others use data in their jobs, from those who work directly with clients, and record data points, to those looking at the big picture with data to make programming decisions.”

New Toolkit to Share Lessons and Empower More Libraries to Train

We keep trying new things and learning along the way. We discovered quickly that it is better to teach concepts separately from tools. We have taught concepts with paper-based activities so we can democratize the workshop, allowing all participants to participate equally regardless of their technical skills. Using paper also allows participants to work together more easily, making our workshops highly collaborative. While the series was designed for people starting at the very beginning, more advanced users also found the interactive format appealing and learned something new.

We will be finalizing a Toolkit for Public Librarians later this summer — which will offer a variety of training activities that public librarians can use in their own work around data literacy. We tested an early version of the toolkit at a National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) meeting to get feedback from other practitioners who may want to facilitate similar trainings in their communities. The NNIP network and its training catalog help nurture, develop, and propagate structures and trainings — such as Data 101 — that ultimately help ensure data are used in service of communities. We encourage all organizations, especially public libraries and open data providers, to consider providing local data and technology training and joining us in this cause.

About the Authors

Elizabeth Monk (Liz) is a Research Specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Social and Urban Research where she manages the Southwestern Pennsylvania Community Profiles and contributes to the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center. Liz also contributes to University research reports and community outreach.  

Eleanor Tutt is the open data and knowledge manager at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. By opening library data, connecting library measures to community impacts, and supporting residents as they build their skills and confidence using data in the civic realm, she hopes to contribute to a more equitable and accessible open data space. Eleanor joined the public library world after serving as a data analyst and mapmaker for a regional community development nonprofit in St. Louis.

Changing the Course with Girls Who Code — Meet Sydney

Each year, we’re honored to join Girls Who Code (GWC) for their Summer Immersion Program, a free 7-week coding camp where girls across the country are hosted at local tech companies to learn coding, professionalism, and network with each other. And each year, we’re in awe of the camaraderie, innovation, and growth of each of these students.

One such student is Sydney H, a 16-year-old from Cornwall High School in NY who is part of our summer program here at Microsoft New York. Sydney is a bright, dedicated student planning on going to an elite college after high school, with her eyes set on either computer science or biomedical engineering. She’s interested in the convergence of art and tech that engineering provides, calling it the “best of best worlds.”

We sat down with Sydney to explore her Girls Who Code experience:

What brought you to Girls Who Code?

My school doesn’t offer that many computer science classes, or tech opportunities in general. I was really interested in learning how to code. The future is all technology, and if I want to go into engineering or STEM in general, I’ll have to know how to code to work with new inventions and innovations.

What kind of coding experience did you have before the summer immersion program?

I did the Hour of Code — they came to our school my freshman and sophomore year. We used Scratch for a day, but the event wasn’t really promoted. If we wanted to do it, we had to go during our free period. When I went to the library, there were about five students there. I went home and showed my younger sister the website, and she was so excited — she wasn’t exposed to that yet in middle school. It was cool to see how everything comes together.

How does coding empower you?

I think that coding empowers me because it gives me the ability to transform the world. As the years go on, technology is becoming bigger and bigger. Through tech, you have the power to help millions of people with their everyday needs. If you have the ability to code you have access to technology. If you have that, you have access to help the world.

What’s the best thing you’ve learned this summer?

The best thing is probably all the languages — there’s so many different ones. We went to visit LinkedIn and one of the employees there told us, “If you know JavaScript and Python, you can work at LinkedIn.” We had just learned Python the day before! It made me realize that knowing those languages can really help you get a job, because you can use coding in different elements.

“We have the ability to be just as powerful as men, if not more, and throughout this cooperation we can do great things.”

What are some highlights from the SIP so far?

Meeting a whole bunch of girls who are just as motivated and inspired as me. A lot of time in school it’s co-ed, and you can feel like the guys are overpowering you sometimes. Here, it’s all girls — you feel the whole sisterhood thing. You know they’re going to be here for you no matter what, and later in life we’ll need each other to get through the STEM field and process it as a woman. We have the ability to be just as powerful as men, if not more, and throughout this cooperation we can do great things.

Has GWC changed your path at all?

I’m definitely interested more in Computer Science. Before the program, I was really set on biomedical engineering, but now, I’m just like, “Whoa — this is really cool!” We even made our own game. I’ve played Flappy Bird before and this summer I made my own version, and it wasn’t as hard as i thought it was.

What advice do you have for future Girls Who Code?

Tell them to tell their friends to join. The more the merrier! I really want girls to feel like they have the power to do whatever they set their minds to. In the STEM field right now, that’s really not the case. We can change that. Bring a friend!

AINow Symposium Recap: Addressing the Social Implications of AI

As artificial intelligence gains exposure in media and public discourse, so too does the demand for spaces focused on studying its systems and their ramifications. Last weekend, one such space was brought to the ground through AINow, a research initiative (and soon-to-be NY-based research center!) Co-Founded by Kate Crawford and Meredith Whittaker and dedicated to addressing the social implications of machine learning and artificial intelligence. This year, the symposium was hosted at the an equally forward-thinking MIT Media Lab. Attendance alone wasn’t sufficient, each guest came with the instruction to think about the proposed prompt: “What issue does this community most need to address within the next 12 months”?

Discussion was curated through the organization of an Experts Workshop, an “invite-only, interdisciplinary convening of top practitioners and researchers on the near-term social and economic implications of artificial intelligence.” Attendees presented brief flash talks around four previously-defined focus areas: Bias and inclusion, labor and automation, rights and liberties, and ethics and governance. Quickly, conversation shifted towards the need to recognize the uneven distribution of power when designing AI systems and design for full-spectrum community inclusion. Discrepancies within standardization were discussed as well, including the need to define malpractice and calls to better understand the processes involved in measuring, collecting, and sampling data. Researchers examined the notions of biased training data, disparity in accuracy rates, false reinforcement bias, cumulative disadvantage of background predictions, and need to create mechanisms that correct for historical injustice. Actionable suggestions for reshaping governance and countering economic displacement were debated.

A group discussion followed, organized to stimulate catalyzing questions and comments around AI’s interactivity with research, industry, and activism. Some of the resulting statements are as follows:

  • What does it look like to build an algorithmically-mediated public space?
  • How do we democratize the AI space?
  • We need to establish more transparency around defined goals & penalty for errors
  • How can we increase social knowledge around AI nationally & trans-nationally?
  • We need to move from power thinking to design thinking, as well as from what is to be done to what is already happening
  • We need to address the community segregation: If we want AI for the world, the world needs to be part of the conversation
  • We need for more discussion around different definitions of bias
  • How is law channeling AI in the US and how do we create important accountability?
  • There’s no silver bullet or perfect fairness — we need to make things more fair and equal. We should be looking at who is least included, not designing for the most included. We need to normalize admissions for self-guilt

In the evening, the space opened up for the general public symposium, which hosted three panels around Bias Traps in AI, Governance Gaps, and Rights and Liberties in an Automated World. A lot of the above topics were discussed at large, each with Q&A from participants.

AI isn’t new (It’s existed since the 50’s), but recent sensationalism around its discussion validates its ever-increasing prominence in public life. Though the AINow community is new and developing, it is strongly backed. Organizations like the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund were recently founded to support the humanities, social sciences, and other disciplines in the development of AI. See here to view the Experts Workshop, here to view the public symposium, or here to subscribe to AINow’s updates.

Vision Zero Labs: Using Data Science to Improve Traffic Safety

The central idea behind the global Vision Zero movement is that traffic crashes are preventable.

At Microsoft, we believe that data science and complex machine learning can aid cities in their life-saving Vision Zero commitment. That’s why we partnered with Datakind in 2015, and since then, we’ve worked with them to use city-specific data to identify where traffic safety conditions could be improved to ease traffic and protect citizens.

Today, we are releasing this video case study to showcase the project, its learnings, and its future potential. Take a look below:

As you can see in the video, the project was initially focused on New York, Seattle, and New Orleans. This allowed us to consider each city’s unique needs and tailor our analysis accordingly. By utilizing new and existing data from each city, we built an exposure model to determine block-by-block traffic congestion levels. This exposure model is an essential tool for city decision makers tasked with targeting policy and projects to meet their Vision Zero goal.

Ultimately, this collaborative project provided municipal transportation departments with resources that they would not have had access to otherwise and helped bring Microsoft together with community organizations and local governments in a public-private partnership model that has the potential to be utilized in other cities across the globe.

Learn more about our work with DataKind and Vision Zero and follow-up activities:

Meet the Eight Data Science Summer School (DS3) Students!

This time last summer, I was part of Microsoft’s Data Science Summer School (DS3) and now I have the pleasure of introducing you to this summer’s incoming class. This is the fourth annual class of the DS3 program, which is an intense eight-week journey into the wild world of data science that culminates in students writing an original research paper. Keep reading to learn more about them!

Read more >

A Summer of STEM at Microsoft Store

Launch into summer with skills-based training at the Microsoft Store!

Our Flagship Microsoft Store at Fifth Avenue is bringing STEM skills to students with a series of FREE YouthSpark summer camps for students aged 6 and up.

This summer series kicks off with an 8-hour hackathon called B-STEM: We Hack Too. We Hack Too is an 8-day virtual hackathon that includes a FREE 1-day launch event inside our Microsoft Store on Friday, June 23. The 1-day event is a Business Development & Design Incubator where girls ages 8-13 attend 2 hours game design workshops (9 am, 12:30 pm and 5 pm).

In addition, high school and college level women collaborate with professional mentors to design products and develop business strategies (8:30am – 7:30 pm). Mentors, Speakers, Food, Swag, Tech Prizes and more. Pre-registration is now open and space is limited. To register and for more information visit www.wehacktoo.org.

Then, the Store starts its summer series with weekly camps for students:

For students aged 6-8:

Minecraft Hour of Code

Students ages 8 and older can save the day and program Minecraft mobs how to behave in our free 90 minute Minecraft Hour of Code. Participants will learn coding concepts such as randomness, entities, loops and events. No previous coding experience is required.

Students will also learn:

  • How computers perform instructions in a sequence
  • How to create a list of instructions to complete a task
  • How to iterate on solutions to complete a task

Make Your Own Story with PowerPoint and Word

In this free hands-on 2 hour camp, students ages 6 to 8 will learn how to create and tell a story using Microsoft PowerPoint and Word. They will explore using drawing tools, selecting and sizing images and icons, creating backgrounds and changing fonts. Activities will focus on learning through hands on guided experiences and collaborative learning in small groups.

At the end of the camp, participants will:

  • Be familiar with key tools in PowerPoint and Word
  • Feel confident using a Surface Device and Pen
  • Create an original story with text and images in a small group

For students aged 8-12:

Code and Create Games with Ozobot Robotics

In this free hands-on 2 hour camp, students ages 8–12 will learn to code and create games with Ozobot robotics. They’ll explore programming the Evo robot with block coding, from completing simple commands right through to creating a dance game. They’ll also learn how robotics are used in the 21st Century and be inspired with how they can be involved.

At the end of the camp, participants will:

  • Be familiar with how robots work
  • Have hands-on experience with block coding and how to program the Evo robot
  • Understand the importance of robotics

Code and Create with Collage Me

Learn how to code in this hands-on programming camp. During the free two-hour Camp, students ages 8 to 12 will work in a real software development environment, gaining experience with Touch Develop. Participants will use their creativity and imagination to develop a unique personal collage that can be shared with family and friends.

At the end of this camp, participants will:

  • Have increased confidence in their technical and coding skills
  • Improve their computational and creative thinking
  • Read and understand code in the Touch Develop environment
  • Create and publish a coded script containing a personal collage

It is recommended that your student bring their own set of headphones for an optimal experience.

Create Digital Art with Fresh Paint

In this free hands-on 2 hour camp, students ages 8 to 12 will learn to create and share their own digital art with the Fresh Paint app for Windows 10. They’ll explore the basics of Fresh Paint, using lifelike oil and watercolors, pastels, and more to craft their own creations. They’ll also get a sneak peek of advanced digital art skills like mixing paint and layering media.

At the end of the camp, participants will:

  • Be familiar with the creative possibilities of digital drawing and painting
  • Have experience with the Fresh Paint layout and tools
  • Create original artwork and share it with peers
  • Learn how to share their art with the swipe of a finger

Minecraft Hour of Code

Students ages 8 and older can save the day and program Minecraft mobs how to behave in our free 90 minute Minecraft Hour of Code. Participants will learn coding concepts such as randomness, entities, loops and events. No previous coding experience is required.

Students will also learn:

  • How computers perform instructions in a sequence
  • How to create a list of instructions to complete a task
  • How to iterate on solutions to complete a task

Kodu Makerspace Event

Create rich and exciting games with Kodu Game Lab in this free, beginner-level coding camp for students ages 8 to 12.

They’ll work on Kodu games like Boku’s Amazing Race, Flashy Fishbots, and Air Delivery. In the process, they learn how interesting and powerful games can be created with simple building blocks and techniques. Participants will: analyze and revise game character, write code to create game action, collaboratively plan and create a Kodu game, give and receive peer feedback, and explore the iterative design process. Some activities will be interactive tutorials, while others entail hands-on, open-ended game design. Every session will include collaborative design and development activities.

This four-day camp lasts two hours per day, and students must attend the days consecutively.

Get Creative with 3D in Windows 10 Camp

The world we live in is multidimensional, so shouldn’t our art be as well? Students ages 8-12 will bring their imagination to life by learning new Paint 3D in Windows 10. This free 2-hour field trip offers a high-energy, collaborative environment for participants to fuel their creativity and learn key tools and features of the 3D app.

At the end of the field trip, participants will have:

  • Learned the fundamentals of the Paint 3D app and all about Remix3D.com community
  • Learned how to express their ideas in three dimensions by creating their own 3D designs
  • Hands-on experience with Microsoft devices and software via a scavenger hunt through Microsoft Store

For students 13+:

Learn to Code with Flatverse

In this free coding camp, students ages 13 and over will use Touch Develop, an interactive programming environment website, to create and publish their own video game called Flatverse.

As they build their game, they learn about various computer programming and coding concepts, including screen coordinates, random numbers, objects and functions, and more. Throughout the camp series, they will take a deeper dive into these programming and coding concepts to gain more confidence and skill. The ultimate goal is for participants to gain an appreciation for coding’s role in the games they may play in their daily lives, and to provide an inspirational foundation for pursuing their interest in computer science.

This four-day camp lasts two hours per day, and students must attend the days consecutively.

Shoot Edit & Share with PicsArt 

Increase your photo shooting and editing creativity with this free YouthSpark Camp. During this camp series, students ages 13 and older will learn how to use PicsArt, an interactive editing, drawing, and collage app. This app, which is available on Windows 10 devices, includes numerous photo-editing features, customizable filters, text options, a collage maker, and a camera. Learn how to transform photos into works of art with just the tip of your finger.​​

At the end of this Workshop, participants will:​​

  • Know how to use a powerful photo-editing software​​
  • Understand composition and best practices for photography​​Learn to sketch and turn anything into a drawing
  • Create easy graphic design edits​​
  • Create amazing photo edits ​​
  • Leave with a certificate of completion and an image portfolio​​

Create Digital Art with Fresh Paint

Explore the freedom and power of creating original digital art with this free 2 hour camp on the Fresh Paint app for Windows 10. Students ages 13 and older will use an array of tools to create lifelike paintings, original drawings, collages, and so much more. They’ll take a tour of Fresh Paint basics, then explore more advanced skills like blending paint colors and layering mixed media to create their own unique works of art. Activities and experiences are a central part of the class, with opportunities to share artwork and to learn along with peers.

At the end of the camp, participants will:

  • Know some of the creative possibilities of digital art
  • Be familiar with brushes, mixing palettes, canvas options, and more
  • Explore features like switching tools, mixing colors, and importing pictures
  • Create meaningful artwork and share it with peers
  • Learn how to share art with the swipe of a finger

Start Your Own Business

Success has no boundaries. This free four-session camp series helps students ages 13 and older turn their passion into a great entrepreneurial business idea. Participants get guidance developing their ideas into a robust business plan and a polished pitch ready to share with the world.

Each two-hour session takes students through a series of engaging hands-on group activities to introduce key business concepts, including:

• How to create a product or service
• Marketing and promotion
• Pricing and costs
• Manufacturing and distribution

During the final session, participants will have the opportunity to present their complete business plan for feedback and insight.


Register today to reserve a camp spot at microsoft.com/youthsparkcamp.

Fellow Profile: Aasha Shaik

Where are you from? Plainsboro, New Jersey (in Central Jersey, near Princeton!)

School/grad year/major: I just finished my first year at Rutgers University, so I will be graduating in May of 2020. I am majoring in Political Science, Business Analytics & Information Technology, and Middle Eastern Studies, with a possible minor in International & Global Studies.

Last thing you searched on Bing: NJ Transit train schedule (boring, I know)

Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program? I have done gender equality advocacy work at the United Nations since my junior year of high school, and I actually met John Paul Farmer at a UN event I was asked to speak at back in September during the opening week of the UN General Assembly. He is the one who told me about the team and the fellowship, and it immediately interested me because most of my experience has been on the political science/international affairs side of things until now — so this seemed like an amazing opportunity to explore a multi-disciplinary field that intersects with both business and politics. Most important to me, it has a very real impact on communities.

What’s your favorite civic project in the New York area? I admire HeatSeek NYC a lot because it does important work that addresses a lot of overlooked groups of people who need it, and has a tangible effect in terms of aiding related legal work. Although not all strictly civic tech, I’m also a fan of the work that Elizabeth Demaray does; I did a winter course on STEAM (intersection of STEM and art) and we met with Elizabeth about her work. It includes the Hand Up Project, which involves 3D printing shells for crabs who are running out of natural homes. We also did a workshop relating to her upcoming Manhattan Tundra project, which has to do with the use of rooftops in NYC — I know there are other groups working on the idea as well, and I think the concept as a whole has an immense amount of potential. Many parts of the STEAM movement as a whole seem to overlap with civic tech.

Who is your civic tech mentor/idol? I work under John and Matt Stempeck, and I honestly would not have known very much about civic tech as a field at all if not for meeting John at that UN event. Now that I have joined the team, both of them have been amazing at helping introduce me to the civic tech space, and are also super inspiring with the work they do both within and outside of the team!

What projects are you working on for your position as tech fellow for Microsoft New York? So far I’ve been updating data on civicgraph.io, specifically researching more international entities. For the new projects we are working on this summer, we have decided to focus on two areas: the environment and women’s empowerment/gender inequality. Both are extremely relevant and critical given current events and are personally really important to me, especially women’s empowerment. I’m very excited to see where we can take them!

What excites you about civic tech? The immense amount of impact it can have, and the dedication of the people involved in the space to serving people and furthering good.

What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities? Definitely greater accountability of public officials, whether it be the police or government. As a whole, I hope it will help empower traditionally marginalized communities, whether through that accountability or access to tools and resources.

Looking Ahead to Personal Democracy Forum, June 8-9, 2017

As we gear up for #PDF17, we thought it would be a great time to revisit some of the highlights from last year’s Personal Democracy Forum! For background, the Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) is an annual conference that began in 2004. The conference aims to bring technologists, campaigners, hackers, journalists, academics, activists, and more together to focus on solving society’s biggest problems.

Last year, in the heat of the 2016 election, panels and workshops covered everything from “Government as a Digital Service” to how technology was being used by peer-to-peer organizing networks to support female candidates for office. A highlight of the event was the launch of Civic Hall Labs, the non-profit R&D branch of NYC’s Civic Hall, a center for civic tech innovation.

Get ready for PDF 2017 by watching a few of the talks below and be sure to take a look at the exciting line-up for this year’s conference, June 8-9.

Comedienne Luna Malbroux discusses her app and  how humor is a critical way to to broach heavy topics.

Jason Mogus, principal strategis at Communicopia explains “How Advocacy Campaign are Won in the 21st Century”

danah boyd of Microsoft Research cautions against the risks of bad coding from an environmental and social justice perspective

Follow along for updates from this year’s conference and join the conversation on social media using #PDF17 and @CivicHall.

Register for Personal Democracy Forum 2017 here.