Microsoft New England is Thankful!

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Thanksgiving is a time of year where we ideally slow down from our daily pace, and reflect on what is important to us: family, friends, health, goodwill towards others. I’ve always appreciated the fact that the focus of Thanksgiving is celebrating connections between people near and far.

As part of our civic engagement work for Microsoft New England, we are fortunate to work with a breadth of passionate, compassionate and thoughtful people who work in a number of ways towards building a stronger community. In the spirit of the season, we thought it would be a good time to express our gratitude to some of the people who devote their energies, brainpower and resources towards the greater civic good. We are grateful for:

  • The civic technologists who look closely at community challenges and thoughtfully pursue solutions. There are so many organizations in this space for which we are appreciative: from Code for Boston, to startups like Agora and CoUrbanize, to the City of Boston’s Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics.
  • The people and organizations who support said civic technologists, by providing resources, funding, space, ideas and support. From the venture capitalists who take a chance on a civic technology startup, accelerators like MassChallenge that kickstart a civic startup’s growth, to District Hall and Venture Café who create the space for ideas and community networks to flourish—many people contribute towards the support of the civic space.
  • The government entities who both remind the tech community of its societal priorities as well as support civic innovation. We are so fortunate to have thought leadership at the city, regional and state level in the civic technology space, who represent the opportunities that technology can address, sponsor civic technology activities, and lead as talented practitioners.
  • The educators and educational institutions who teach the skills needed for civic innovation, whether that’s coding, the civic process, or the steps to citizenship.
  • The citizens who are willing to take an evening, or set of evenings, to share their knowledge, give input, write code for a worthy civic cause.

By no means is this an exhaustive list. There are people who, by their daily actions, demonstrate civic affiliation, whether it’s voting, picking up a piece of trash, or volunteering their time. Whether your civic activities are public or private, professional or personal: we are grateful for what you do!

Is there an organization we should add to our list? Let us know — tweet to us at @MSNewEngland or by using our #civictechbos hashtag.

Microsoft’s Day of Caring to support the Northeast Give Campaign


Microsoft New England held its annual Day of Caring on Monday, November 16 to support our Give Campaign that runs each fall. 50 Microsoft employees participated in this event, reading to 6-11 year old children that attend 1st-5th grade at the King Open School in Cambridge. Before the event, Principal Darrell Williams explained to employees the importance of mentoring and literacy skills to underserved urban elementary school students.

Microsoft partnered with READ TO A CHILD to organize this special event. READ TO A CHLD is a national non-profit that inspires adults to regularly read aloud to underserved children in order to improve a child’s success in school and life. Microsoft employees read age appropriate books to groups of five elementary students as well as explained what they did at Microsoft and answered work-related questions. As READ TO A CHILD explains, having a caring adult spend time with young students provides benefits to youth self-esteem and self-confidence. Being read aloud to improves literacy skills and develops a love of reading. Students also benefit from hearing what Microsoft employees do for work, enabling them to envision careers in the technology field.

Honoring Veterans Every Day

Every November, we pause for a day to honor our veterans who have served overseas and returned home to us. After a day filled with parades, ceremonies, and banquets, it can be hard to remember that our veterans need support year-round. From returning to the civilian workforce to receiving proper healthcare to simply finding a home, we can work around the clock to give back to our veterans who have served so bravely for our freedoms.

As part of Microsoft’s commitment to community, we take the time to serve our veterans the way they served for us. After months to years of service, these veterans must take on the jarring task of returning immediately to civilian life — and that’s where we can help.

This year, we were proud to sponsor Team Red White & Blue in their second annual Old Glory Relay, a two-month, 3,540-mile journey across the continental U.S to shine a light on our nation’s veterans:

And every year, we help open doors for our service members by providing training and career opportunities in the tech industry. After all, a veteran’s spirit lies within innovation and entrepreneurship. This year, we’re excited to announce an expansion to our Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) from three regions to nine, bringing our coverage to a total of 12 bases nationwide. Read more here.

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And our work has just begun. This Veterans Day, we encourage you to honor our service members and challenge you to keep them in mind year-round.

#HUBweek 2015 — Told in Tweets!


Photo via 617 Images

The first annual HUBweek took Boston and Cambridge by storm from October 3-10, 2015. A storm of creativity — each day marked a new celebration of art, science and technology in our city. Our city is full of the top scientists, teachers, doctors, data scientists, artists, and musicians, and it’s very important that we collaborate across fields to ask questions and build our own answers together. HUBweek this year was something to be proud of. We’re proud to be in a city that cultivates such inclusive innovation, where all neighborhoods and all fields participate in creating the future.

Here are some top moments from the hundreds of tweets!

Interview: Linda Henry, Co-Founder of HUBweek


Linda Henry wears many hats in Greater Boston, from her work as Managing Director at The Boston Globe to heading up the John W. Henry Family Foundation. In her capacity as co-founder of the HUBweek festival, she has been a thought leader and convener of diverse organizations, all coming together to celebrate the big ideas, innovative solutions, and creativity of Greater Boston. We were honored and thrilled to interview Linda about HUBweek, what it means to her, and her aspirations for the festival moving forward.

How would you describe your role in HUBweek?

I am a co-founder of HUBweek, a partnership between The Boston Globe, Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and MIT; I am also proud to serve as the chair of the HUBweek Executive Committee.  This role has given me the opportunity to help facilitate and convene conversations among a wide spectrum of businesses, including academic and healthcare institutions, non-profits and community groups, and cultural organizations.


What was your inspiration for HUBweek?

The inspiration for HUBweek came during a conversation with several venture capitalists who expressed concern that while Boston and Cambridge attract some of the best and brightest students out there, there is trouble retaining them and the new startup companies they create upon graduation.   The startups and graduates are often lured to other cities or to the West Coast during their junior and senior years for internships at major corporations and startups that offer unique perks and opportunities. We, as a community, do not do enough to boast about and promote all that this vibrant and thriving city has to offer — it stands at the forefront of American history; it has world renowned medical, educational, and cultural institutions; it has champion sports franchises and it has a reputation as a leader in biomed, life sciences, innovation and technology. Boston needs to proclaim its greatness.

We are well positioned to be a leader in this next great wave of the digital revolution. There is a unique confluence of art, science, and technology that is colliding here to create the future. The innovations created here are exported to the world. We need to tell our story, collaborate, and invite more ideas in to strengthen, grow, and continue to make progress.


ILLUMINUS | Free nighttime festival on October 10th:

What do you hope HUBweek will do for Boston? 

It is my hope — and that of the HUBweek founders — that we will have the opportunity to showcase and spark innovation, ideas, progress, and solutions for the future. By promoting the art, science, and technology that is here, we will strengthen it for the future. People who work in these fields or who are building companies with these areas of expertise will be inspired by and help further the exciting work being done here.

During the multitude of events, conversations will be generated among a wide and diverse audience that might not have connected without HUBweek; collaborations and partnerships will be created between the old guard and up-and-coming trendsetters;  HUBweek offers us the chance to celebrate Boston and everything this great city has to offer — and to create meaningful connections across different industries, neighborhoods and institutions.


What role do you see companies and institutions playing in HUBweek?

About half of HUBweek’s 80+ events have been built by our collaborators — a community of organizations, non-profits, startups, community organizers, and artists.  There is an amazing intellectual energy amongst this group, dedicated to showcasing the work they are doing in the community and for the world; HUBweek presents opportunities to create meaningful connections — to pull back the curtain on the work that is happening here — working together to change the narrative of our city.  And there are a number of opportunities for those companies and institutions to benefit from what’s happening:

  • Opportunities to showcase mission, work force, talents, goals;
  •  Opportunities to celebrate accomplishments — to brainstorm ideas and solutions;
  •  Opportunities to facilitate conversations between companies and institutions and smaller non-profits, startups, and community groups

How can people get involved in HUBweek? 

First and foremost, they can attend an event. If what we’re trying to do sounds interesting, then come be a part of it.

If you really want to be a part of what we’re building, you can be a HUBweek ambassador or volunteer and help us make this all happen.  You can get more info on our website,, or send us a note at

There are a limited number of sponsorship opportunities still available for 2015. While we are not adding any more events this year, we also  look forward to welcoming more companies and collaborators into HUBweek 2016.

How do you see HUBweek’s future after Oct 10th?

Ideally, people are walking away from HUBweek with inspiration — a spark, an idea, a question — and feeling connected to what is happening in our region.  We want to build on that inspiration and connection for HUBweek 2016.

Our vision moving forward from October 10th is that Boston and Cambridge become the place where anyone can come to solve problems — big and small.  HUBweek will continue to evolve over time.  We expect to learn from our successes and incorporate feedback on how we can do better during this inaugural year.  We expect to build off the energy that has been created.  We want to create a feeling that something big happened in October, and we want to create a desire for more, bigger, better for HUBweek 2016.

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


Don’t let the rainy start to the week slow you down!  Here are our top picks for this week.

Tuesday, June 2: 8am – 10am
@ Microsoft New England | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge, MA 
Twitter: @techbreakfast

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

civic media dayBoston Civic Media Twitter Chat
Tuesday, June 2: 1pm – 2pm
Twitter: @CivicMediaProj | #civicmediachat

In preparation for and in conjunction with the upcoming Boston Civic Media: Metrics and Methods meeting, we’ll be hosting a Twitter chat on June 2nd at 1pm!
This will be a fantastic opportunity to begin the conversation and to connect with others doing civic media research.
@CivicMediaProj will be tweeting out questions including “How do you continue to keep the subjects (communities) engaged after the project is finished? What do you owe them?” and “What is the interplay between quantitative and qualitative methods? How do you determine the best fit?”  Be sure to include #civicmediachat in your tweets to be part of the conversation!


Whitehead-Institute-LogoWhitehead Connects with Amy Schulman: “How to Cross the Street: Lessons I’ve Learned from a Noisy Intersection”
Tuesday, June 2: 5:30pm – 7:30pm
@ McGovern Auditorium | 9 Cambridge Center | Cambridge, MA 
Twitter: @WhiteheadInst

Whitehead Connects is an initiative that brings renowned biology and biotech leaders to Whitehead Institute for an engaging presentation and dynamic networking opportunity for participants.  Following the free, public lecture, participants will have the opportunity to meet Whitehead postdoctoral fellows and learn about their latest discoveries.

417323_10150669099006730_1856349906_nPersonal Democracy Forum 2015
Thursday, June 4 – Friday, June 5th
@ NYU Skirball Center | 566 LaGuardia Place | New York City

Since 2004, Personal Democracy Media has helped nurture a world-wide conversation about technology’s impact on government and politics, and society – providing a place to meet the people who are making that change happen, discover the tools powering the new civic conversation, spot the early trends, and to share in understanding and embracing this dynamic new force. Many of those who are challenging the status quo, learned what they know, or found people to collaborate with, by being a part of Personal Democracy Media.

civic hackingNational Day of Civic Hacking
Saturday, June 6 – Sunday, June 7th
@ Various Locations 
Twitter: #hackforchange

On June 6, 2015, thousands of people from across the United States will come together for National Day of Civic Hacking. The event will bring together urbanists, civic hackers, government staff, developers, designers, community organizers and anyone with the passion to make their city better. They will collaboratively build new solutions using publicly-released data, technology, and design processes to improve our communities and the governments that serve them. Anyone can participate; you don’t have to be an expert in technology, you just have to care about your neighborhood and community.




Citizinvestor funds PB projects in the community


As civic innovation grows throughout the Boston area, participatory budgeting is an excellent example of how technology can improve government transparency and quite literally engage citizens in an online process to determine how a city’s budget is spent.  As defined by Wikipedia, participatory budgeting (PB) is a process of democratic deliberation and decision-making, and a type of participatory democracy, in which ordinary people decide how to allocate part of a municipal or public budget. Participatory budgeting allows citizens to identify, discuss, and prioritize public spending projects, and gives them the power to make real decisions about how money is spent. When PB is taken seriously and is based on mutual trust local governments and citizen can benefit equally. In some cases PB even raised people’s willingness to pay taxes.

I’ve observed successful participatory budgeting processes in Chicago, Boston, Somerville and recently Central Falls in Rhode Island.  The entire process was powered by a Microsoft partner: Citizenvestor.  (Great name too, right?).  I recently sat down with Tony DeSisto, Co-founder of Citizinvestor to learn more about the company and their work in participatory budgeting.  Our conversation is summarized below.

  1.       What is Participatory budgeting?

We funded this project in Boston in 2012, it was our first successfully funded project on the site. We also built the participatory budgeting site for last year’s Youth Lead the Change program in the City. We funded two projects in San Mateo County in 2013: 3 Months of Bicycle Sunday and Restore the Thornmint . We did a number of projects around Chicago, including our largest to date, Spirit of the American Navy, but nothing with the City of Chicago.  I would categorize what we do, civic crowdfunding, as one of the new and innovative funding methods, like participatory budgeting, that democratizes the budget process and allows people to invest in their community.

  1.       Tell us about a successful (local) project?

One local project that we love to highlight is Central Falls, Rhode Island. This is a small one-square mile city that went bankrupt in 2010 and elected a 26 year old Mayor in 2012 to help bring the City back. We were one of their first partners and helped them fund permanent trash cans and recycle bins for their main park. The project had arisen after the Mayor met with middle school students who equated the trash in the park with a lower sense of self worth and lack of pride in the City. Not only were the funds raised, but during the project, a cleanup was organized through the site and over 100 people showed up. Central Falls is now a customer for our new product, Citizinvestor Connect, a custom white label site for civic engagement and crowdfunding. Here are two stories about the project, Boston Globe and CNBC.

  1.       How does Citizinvestor help?

Citizinvestor helps by providing a platform and the tools necessary for our local government partners to successfully raise the funds they need. We also provide a best practices guide and some templates to help them with the marketing of their project. Our Connect product not only helps our partners raise funds, but also emphasizes input from the community and increases engagement.

  1.       How can technology help drive civic engagement?

Technology is a key component in driving engagement. Today more than ever people have the tools and forums to let their voice be heard and participate in the decision-making and governing process.

For more information about Citizinvestor, visit their website or on Twitter at @citizinvestor.

Join the ever-growing community of Kendall Square!

Join the ever-growing community of Kendall Square!

What’s next for Kendall Square after its amazing 5-year run? Scott Kirsner, BostonGlobe columnist, BetaBoston blogger, and editor of InnoLead asks this question in his most recent piece for BetaBoston. In the article, he discusses the exponential growth of the Kendall Square area in the past 5 years, from tech moguls to internet commerce, social media firms and startups dominating the area.

We established our presence here in Kendall Square here in 2007.  We now have nearly 800 employees in two, separate offices, and nearly 900 employees in Massachusetts, including our store locations.

We are proud to be part of this ever-growing community and are always looking for more innovators to join our team. Think you can make a difference in the next five years? We invite you to take a look at our job openings and help us make an impact in Kendall Square and beyond.

Read Scott’s piece in the Boston Globe here.

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

Microsoft New England Picks: 4 Not-To-Miss Events This WeekIt’s (un)officially summer! Join us for these cool events as the weather heats up!

bvMotion Tracking for Medical VR with Polhemus
Wednesday, May 27: 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm
@ Venture Cafe | 1 Broadway | Cambridge, MA
Twitter: @BostonVRMeetup

Motion tracking technology allows the position of real world objects, including you, to be represented in virtual worlds. Precisely registering the position and orientation of your head, body, limbs and even fingers gives you a sense of self called proprioception that is key to making your mind believe that your body is present in another place. Motion tracking is also key for VR because it allows one to naturally move through and interact with virtual worlds in the same manner that you do in the real world. This month, Boston VR Meetup focuses on healthcare applications for precise tracking technology for training surgeons.

unnamed (1)KSA Lunch & Learn: Good News on Transportation
Thursday, May 28: 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
@ KSA Office | 510 Kendall Street | Cambridge, MA 
Twitter: @kendallnow

Kendall Square continues to be the epicenter of innovation and success, as evidenced in the highlights below to be discussed by City of Cambridge and Cambridge Redevelopment Authority staff.

  • The paradox of good development: more people and less traffic: 20 years of the Kendall Square Annual Traffic Report
  • It’s obvious that more and more people are choosing to get around by pedaling – but how many more?  The new Eco Totem will provide real-time data, 24/7
  • Bike to the Future: what’s envisioned for making our streets available to all: The Cambridge Bicycle Network Plan & some highlights for Kendall Square
  • Kendall Square Eco District and Transportation
  • Update on Kendall Square Mobility Task Force

The format will include a brief presentation with a question and answer period to follow.

onein3GA + ONEin3 Present: Creating a Culture of Innovation – How Boston’s Biggest Brands Are Staying Entrepreneurial
Thursday, May 28: 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

@ GA Boston | 51 Melcher Street | Boston, MA 
Twitter:  @GA_boston | @ONEin3

Some of Boston’s biggest companies are playing in the innovation space and making some big waves. Working for an entrepreneurial and creative organization doesn’t have to mean working for a startup – many large institutions value new ideas and are doing cool things right here in Boston.

Learn from the people inside these institutions who are leading the charge and pick up some tips on cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset in your career.

Join in for an interactive panel discussion with plenty of time for networking over drinks with fellow young leaders in Boston.

unnamedOpen Data Sci Con
Saturday, May 30 – Sunday, May 31st
@ Boston Convention Center | 415 Summer Street | Boston, MA
Twitter: @OpenDataSci

The Open Data Science Conference brings together the most influential practitioners, innovators, and thought leaders in the open source and data science fields in an effort to encourage the development and use of open source in data science.

Girls from New England head to Technovation Finals

technovation-logo-300x137On the first Friday in May, Microsoft was packed with girls. Yes, GIRLS! The 10th floor was filled to capacity with young women interested in technology and proud to show off the amazing apps they developed for a national competition called Technovation. I was honored serve among a truly stellar panel of judges:  Julia Austin (formerly Akamai), Kara Shurmantine (MassChallenge), Tracy Rosenthal-Newsom, (formerly Harmonix) and Pamela Aldsworth (Silicon Valley Bank).

Rachel Nicoll of Mass Tech Leadership Council’s Education Foundation shared that some of our finalists will be heading to California to pitch in the Technovation Finals for the chance to win $10,000!  She sat down to answer a few questions about Technovation and the interview is included below.

Share Technovation with a young woman you know today!

  1. What is Technovation?

Technovation is an international program that teaches mobile app development, entrepreneurship, and community engagement. High school and middle school female students work in teams of up to 5 to develop mobile apps to solve a problem in their local community. Teams work with a classroom teacher or coach at their school and a female mentor/role model as project manager from the technology or related industry. The program is free and open to all girls age 10-18 with any level of experience (“beginners welcome”).

  1. What kind of participation did we see from Massachusetts?

There were 40 teams from 18 schools signed up at the start of the season; 28 teams finished. A bit of attrition is normal, but the numerous blizzards and school closings really hit the teams hard. We are looking at ways to address the Technovation schedule and get the students in “Technovation-mode” earlier so this is less of an issue in the future. Let’s get 40 to finish next year!

  1. Tell us about the apps that won the MA regional competition.

Five teams  – 4 high school and 1 middle school – from the Massachusetts Regional Showcase progressed to the Semifinal round. There are 18 teams representing US/Canada at the high school level – our 4 Massachusetts teams represent almost 1/4 of that region!

AMEKA (Winchester High School) addresses the issue of impaired driving via their Safe Guard Driving app. Through a series of tests, users can ascertain whether or not their vision, reaction times, balance & cognitive ability are impaired or not. In the future, the app has the potential to be connected to ignition interlock technologies if partnered with an automobile company.

Seventh (Phillips Academy) created The Pack: Safety in Numbers, a comprehensive safety app intended for teenagers and young adults that addresses the problems of sexual assault, hazing, and substance abuse in unfamiliar situations. The Pack is an expanded, digitized version of the time tested buddy system, including a friend-compass and check-in code among its features.

Techtonic’s (Winchester High School) application, ENKI, is intended to serve as a bridge between members of the school community. Teachers are able to post assignments, students are able to communicate with their peers and advisors, users can interact with teachers and classmates using the messaging capabilities, and all users receive automatic updates. Students are able to interact with their peers as well as interact with their teachers in a scholastic environment. The academic atmosphere of ENKI ensures that these communications will solely be scholarly.

WoCo (Phillips Academy) designed PraisePop as an interactive, social, and positive way to engage with the community. Too often people feel alone, excluded and unacknowledged due to negativity; PraisePop counteracts this by providing a method to spread positivity and inclusivity in communities by anonymously sharing uplifting posts.

Appily Ever After (Blake Middle School) created OpportuniTeens to connect non-profit organizations with teen volunteers. Using this app, teens can fulfill volunteer opportunities within local communities, organizations have a place to spread the word about these opportunities, and high school students can acquire community service hours to graduate.

  1. What’s next for the Technovation competitors?

Two of the MA semifinalists, AMEKA and WoCo, have been selected for the World Pitch Event in San Francisco on June 24th. They will pitch their apps live in front of a panel of judges at Yelp’s headquarters, competing against 4 other teams in the high school division for the top prize of $10,000.

Last year’s regional winning team, SKARA, competed in the Boston TechJam Pitch Contest and came in 2nd. They got a lot of great exposure and Constant Contact’s Small Business Innoloft hosted them over the summer to continue to work on their app. I wouldn’t be surprised if a Technovation team or two pop up on the roster for this year’s TechJam Pitch.