Microsoft and City Year: A Shared Belief in the Power of Young People

Microsoft and City Year: A Shared Belief in the Power of Young People

City Year’s founding was fueled by the energy, ideas and resources of the private sector. Today City Year is a public private partnership—supported by grants from the Corporation for National and Community service, school district partnerships, and private philanthropy from individuals and families, foundations, and corporations. Our corporate partners continue to play a critical role in City Year’s ability to help students and schools succeed, and Microsoft is at the heart of this work.

City Year recruits talented, idealistic young adults for a year of full-time service in urban, high-poverty schools to help students stay in school and on track to graduate from high school, ready for college and career success. Diverse teams of City Year AmeriCorps members partner with public schools to directly support academic achievement and student engagement in and outside of the classroom—tutoring students one-on-one, serving as an additional resource for teachers, and leading after school programs and school wide initiatives to improve student achievement and build a positive school culture.

We are proud that Microsoft has been partnering with us on this work for more than 15 years. Just like Microsoft, we seek to achieve results that are supported by data. It is because of these results that we know that we are making a difference. Our corps provides our students and schools multiple, consecutive years of support to help students catch up and keep up. We’re helping to accelerate student learning. For example, City Year analyzed national Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) data, and found that last year students City Year worked with in grades 3-9 had an average growth rate of 1.4 times what was expected in literacy and math. This would not have been possible without the commitment of sponsors including Microsoft, one of our original in-kind partners.

Microsoft began partnering with City Year in 1999, generously donating $5 million in software and helping to build the foundation of our organization. Since then, Microsoft has invested directly in our work in high-need schools. To date, Microsoft has donated more than $23.4 million through financial funding and in-kind support. Through the YouthSpark initiative, Microsoft invests in two areas of our work, the schools and our mathematics curriculum. It supports City Year AmeriCorps teams serving in four schools in New York City, Washington, DC, Chicago and Seattle. Every team Microsoft sponsors is part of the Diplomas Now collaboration among City Year, Johns Hopkins Talent Development and Communities In Schools, which is helping to turn around some of the nation’s most troubled schools. Microsoft’s support helped generate improved results in student attendance and course performance, in addition to providing engaging service opportunities for Microsoft employees.

The company has also invested in City Year’s mathematics curriculum, helping our program team build a research-based instructional framework and provide professional development trainings for corps members. As a result, the number of students who will receive math interventions will increase from 8,500 to 14,000 during the 2014-2015 school year. This year, Microsoft armed these teams with Surface tablets to help support these crucial math initiatives.

Microsoft’s support makes so much possible. It helps us to deepen our impact, scale our work, strengthen our math program, and produce remarkable results for the children and communities we both serve.

We couldn’t agree more with Lori Forte Harnick, Microsoft’s General Manager of Citizenship and Public Affairs: “Our future success as a society, across the U.S. and throughout the world, will largely depend on the knowledge and capacity of today’s youth to drive innovation and address increasingly complex global challenges. An investment in youth reflects our belief in the potential and promise of the world’s 1.4 billion young people.”

Microsoft and City Year A Shared Belief in the Power of Young PeopleMichael Brown is CEO and Co-Founder of City Year, an education-focused nonprofit organization that mobilizes idealistic young people for a year of service in high-need schools​ and promotes the concept of voluntary national service as means of building a stronger democracy.​

This year 2,800 City Year AmeriCorps members are helping to address the nation’s high school dropout crisis and turnaround low performing schools by serving as full-time tutors, mentors and role models in high-need schools in 25 U.S. cities. City Year also has affiliates in South Africa and the UK. Through its national initiative, “In School and On Track: A National Challenge,” City Year aims to significantly increase the urban graduation pipeline in America. 

To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to youth and education, visit our YouthSpark Hub or follow us on twitter at @msftcitizenship.

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


Winter is definitely here. Time to get inside for some awesome events! Here are three not to miss this week Microsoft New England:

tech-breakfast1) Boston TechBreakfast with HoppinIn, Rejjee, Inc., iClinical Inc, HireAction
Tuesday, February 17, 8:00am – 10:00am
Twitter: @TechBreakfast @HoppinIn @RejjeeApp @iClinicalData @HireAction

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!

boston-new-tech2) Boston New Technology February 2015 Product Showcase
Tuesday, February 17, 6:00pm
Twitter: @BostonNewTech #BNT50

Celebrate our 50th Boston New Technology Product Showcase!

Free event! Come learn about 7 innovative and exciting technology products and network with the Boston/Cambridge startup community! Each presenter gets 5 minutes for product demonstration and 5 minutes for Q&A. Please follow @BostonNewTech and use the #BNT50 hashtag in social media posts: details here.

challenge-cup17763) 1776 Challenge Cup: Regionals
Thursday, February 19, 5:30pm – 9:00pm
Twitter: @1776 #1776Challenge

Challenge Cup is a global competition to identify the most promising startups focused on solving the world’s biggest challenges in education, energy & sustainability, health, and transportation & cities.

4) Global Urban Datafest: Smart Cities Challenge 
Saturday, February 21, 8:30am – 7:00pm @ Harvard Innovation Lab
Twitter: @DataFestNet #SmartCityHack

global-urban-datafestThe Challenge: Join us and work with Massachusetts cities to solve real challenges they face. Help Holyoke develop solutions to improve its pedestrian experience & support Somerville measure the impact of its city services.

Who Should Participate: Everyone! You don’t need to be a technology expert to participate… We’re looking for business thinkers, policy analysts, journalists, designers, community organizers, urban planners, or anyone else who is interested in solving real urban challenges.

Find more information + register here.

Code-for-boston5) CodeAcross Boston
Saturday, February 21, 9:00am – Sunday, February 22, 2:00pm
Twitter: @CodeForBoston #CodeAcross

Please join Code for Boston for a weekend of discussion, civic hacking, and data-driven exploration at our second annual CodeAcross event on February 21-22, 2015.

This year, Code for Boston is collaborating with MassIT, the IT department for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; our municipal partners; and local community groups to use state and local data in exploring the civic and social issues that face our local communities. The issues that we are focusing on this year are around public safety and justice, health and human services, economic development, and citizen engagement, and celebrating open data in MA as part of International Open Data Day.

At CodeAcross, we’ll bring together government employees, technologists, and regular citizens to start working together on creative solutions to some of these issues. We’re aiming for CodeAcross to have something for everyone – this is definitely not a just-for-coders type of event – by combining the best elements of unconferences and hackathons.

We can’t wait to see you all for a couple days of collaboration, problem solving, and civic hacking!

Join Us in Welcoming InnerCity Weightlifting to Kendall Square!

ICWFor over a year, InnerCity Weightlifting has run twice weekly workouts at Microsoft New England. We are thrilled to see ICW expand to a new space in Kendall Square, and TUGG is teaming up with InsightSquared to throw a killer party to welcome them to the neighborhood.

Don’t miss the Hard Hat Happy Hour on Wednesday, February 11 at 6:30 PM—tour the raw fitness space, enjoy pizza and beer, play games, win prizes, score cool swag, and beat your boss in a burpee contest. Tickets are only $5 with all proceeds going to InnerCity Weightlifting.

I had the chance to talk with Krysta Voskowsky of TUGG about what to expect at Wednesday’s event:

1. What is TUGG?

TUGG is the community engagement platform that connects New England tech entrepreneurs with risky social innovation projects focused on education, entrepreneurship and life experiences for under-resourced youth.

2. Why ICW?

InnerCity Weightlifting is one of TUGG’s most successful portfolio nonprofits whose work truly embodies our mission. 

ICW uses fitness training as a tool to reduce violence and promote professional, personal and academic achievement among urban youth. By bringing local young people off the streets and into the gym, ICW empower them with the confidence to say no to violence and yes to opportunity. Each young person earns his or her certification in personal training and takes on clients like you and me, living and working in Boston’s tech community. ICW also helps students learn other life skills, entrepreneurship skills, homework & GED assistance, as well as a safe physical space for them to hang out, connect with their peers, and have fun. 


3. What is Hard Hat Happy Hour all about?

The Hard Hat Happy Hour is an exclusive chance for the Kendall Square community to welcome ICW to the neighborhood. Until now, ICW has operated out of its super-secret Dorchester location, but now they are opening a brand new, state-of-the-art gym facility in the heart of Kendall. This party is a way for us to welcome the staff & young people of ICW to our community, to help support their amazing cause, and for new supporters to learn what ICW is all about. Guests will have the opportunity to tour the raw fitness space (it’s almost completed), sign up for personal training memberships, compete in mini fitness challenges, enjoy beer and pizza, and score some cool swag. 

4. Any other TUGG events we should know about?

Every Sunday we host Community Tech Runs with our four Boston Marathon runners as they train for the race. More info here.

This Fortune Magazine Liquidity Event on February 24th

We have the 10th Annual TUGG Wine & Tequila party coming up in early April, expecting nearly 2000 people to attend this year – stay tuned for more details.

Accelerating Startups in Dudley Square: Smarter in the City


In recent weeks, my adventures in Boston have taken me to Dudley Square frequently. Dudley Station opened more than 100 years ago in 1901, and in that century evolved to become one of Boston’s busiest and most influential centers of commerce. Call it a comeback: after decades of hardship, we now look on as Dudley Square is being redeveloped by the city into an important urban center.

Cathy and I toured a space that is a terrific burst of innovation in Dudley Square: Smarter in the City. Just launching its second cohort, Smarter is a unique incubator and accelerator for local entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities to develop their companies, while advancing technical and business skills.

“Smarter in the City is essentially a hybrid of the incubator and accelerator models—workspaces where new and innovative startup ideas can grow with supportive colleagues, dedicated mentorship, a tailored education curriculum and pre-seed funding,” said Gilad Rosenzweig, Founder and Executive Director of Smarter in the City. “Our participants are early stage entrepreneurs who will have a short yet intense time to advance their products.”

On February 6, the 2015 cohort will begin working at Smarter in the City. Meet this year’s startups:


Tech-Connection-2 The Tech Connection unifies underrepresented groups in the technology industry. They connect minority tech talent to workforce opportunities to both accelerate careers and support the high demand for employees in this sector. Specifically, they work with early career Software Engineering and IT professionals from underrepresented backgrounds and connect them to start-up companies.
Dreamers-2 Dreamers provides our strong immigrant population with tools for better pathways to wider workforce opportunities. Through the use of data analytics and community outreach, and with the backing of academic research, they will help communities better understand their education and health disparities.With web-based machine-learning algorithms, Dreamers will enhance and develop educational tools and skills needed to qualify for job training, advanced education, and improved health.
Techtrition-2 Techtrition, Inc. is a health education company decoding mobile health and wearable technology through a combination of individual health consulting, technology research and health/nutrition education.
Fittus-2 Fittus is a mobile application that helps gym members find workout partners based on their activity preference and schedule. Personal trainers and gym owners can also use Fittus to create and manage relationships with their existing members.
D2O-2 Door to the Outdoors inspires people of color to develop an adventurous and environmentally conscious connection with nature through adventure travel and inclusive online content that caters to individuals underrepresented in the great outdoors.
Loadlytics-2 Loadlytics is a web-based dispatch management system and dashboard that allows trucking companies to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of their operations.
Beacon-Lab-Partners-2 Beacon Lab Partners is a financial wellness firm aimed at serving leading businesses, public sector organizations and institutions, and non-profits. Backed by fifteen years of industry research, they are producing a platform to increase the financial literacy of employees.

Congrats to the 2015 cohort – we look forward to working with each of you this year!
For more information on Smarter in the City, please visit

#GoBoston2030: Big Data, Big Democracy, and Design Excellence in Boston


America is changing. With each census we are discovering the cultural, social, economic and religious diversity of the country is expanding, and nowhere is this demographic complexity more evident than in the urban centers of America, especially Boston! Not only are many of these urban centers expanding demographically but they are also shifting physically. For a democracy these changes in cities raise two important questions. What role does the design process have in connecting and building trust among the increasingly diverse public? Can broad based engagement make for better design and a more inclusive city?

Aimed at equity in representation, traditional open houses and town hall meetings have become standard planning practice for public engagement. These methods, although well-intentioned, are becoming less effective as cities grow, as they tend to attract a narrowing community subset at the expense of other groups including immigrants, young professionals, and children. The Go Boston 2030 Question Campaign represents a massive step in the right direction for Boston. This unique and far-reaching digital engagement project was launched in mid-January, and for the first time Boston area residents are being offered an easy and convenient point of entry into an important city-wide conversation about the future of transportation—all by simply asking a question.

Boston2030-mobileThe digital platform was designed for the Boston Transportation Department through the collaboration of the Interaction Institute for Social Change and Sasaki Associates. A core objective of the project was to create an interface that has minimal barriers to entry, so the first engagement can be as simple as an SMS or a tweet. But no matter how they choose to participate, users are provided an equal opportunity for rich engagement. They are gently guided towards enhanced interaction with other contributors from their neighborhoods and from around the city.

This entire project was designed as grass-roots, word-of-mouth campaign, and Sasaki’s Strategies group was brought on to help shape the online engagement experience and to design a custom tool—making it interactive, shareable, and uniquely engaging. There has been a tremendous response with over 1000 questions donated in the first week, and social media has added an entirely new dimension to targeted online engagement with the ability to share questions directly from the website via Facebook, Twitter, and email.


The back-end of the platform tracks feedback and classifies each submission into categories based on content, making the data easy to manage, analyze, and mine. One of the more exciting features of this platform is a built-in mechanism for sharing personalized analytics back to participants in order to inspire them to rejoin the conversation: participants receive email updates containing metrics around how others are interacting with the questions they previously submitted. The questions that people donate will ultimately inform the City’s ability to prioritize near term and long term needs, and more importantly, to understand the embedded values that come from Boston area communities as they relate to the future of transportation.

“Go Boston 2030 is a City of Boston initiative to envision a bold transportation future for Boston for the next 5, 10 and 15 years. The plan will develop a far-reaching vision that proposes transformative polices and projects to improve transportation for the city’s residents, businesses and visitors. The two-year process will be driven by data and steered through an unprecedented and inclusive public engagement process.” –


Our greatest asset as planners and designers is our ability to facilitate complex negotiations among diverse groups and help them move towards a common vision. Our greatest challenge will be to identify and proactively build upon the values of increasingly diverse communities. The GoBoston2030 Question Campaign takes an important step towards empowering Bostonians (and yes residents of Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline too) by taking a values-based approach to generating, analyzing, and learning from Big Data—and by moving swiftly and deliberatively towards Big Democracy.

Welcome to the future of civic engagement—Big Data, Big Democracy, and Design Excellence in Boston.

Stephen F. Gray is a Senior Associate urban designer at Sasaki Associates, Lecturer at MIT DUSP, and Associate Director on the Board of the Boston Society of Architects. This Go Boston 2030 Question Campaign runs until February 8, so spread the word!!!


Questions can be asked online:

Questions can be texted: 617-925-6914

Questions can be tweeted: #goboston2030

City Hall To Go: The First Food Truck Serving Up Government Services to a Neighborhood Near You

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 10.37.44 AM

We’ve all had the experience of waiting in line for a government service. Whether your car’s gotten the boot and you’re waiting to pay off those tickets or you’re just trying to switch over your license plates, tapping shoes and stares at the slow-mo hands of the clock indicate that we need more efficiency in government services. Well, we’ve got TicketZen and ParkBoston now for paying tickets and meters…but what about other services? And what about for new mothers or the elderly? How can we make their lives less about trekking to City Hall and standing in lines?

Enter: City Hall to Go, the coolest concept on wheels this side of heavily populated food truck areas. This, folks, is civic tech at its finest. It’s the very definition of government “For the People.” Because it brings the government right to you.

We had the opportunity to chat with Danielle Valle Fitzgerald, Director of CHTG (@CityHallToGo) about how they created the concept and what they’ve been doing in the civic truck so far.

(Note: CHTG is on hiatus for the Winter, so now’s the perfect time to start making your list of needed services for Spring 2015!)

MSNE: I’ve been following the City Hall to Go Twitter for almost a year now. How long have you had the truck in action?

CHTG: We’ve been on the road for a little bit over a year now and have been learning as we go—increasing the amount of services available as well as the quality of service available. Whether it’s registering parking stickers or registering to vote, we’ve been doing a lot of work on the back end to streamline processes as well as continuing to be creative and come up with more ways to serve constituents.

MSNE: That’s great! How did this concept come to fruition?

CHTG: It came to fruition through a brainstorming session, as a way to really embrace the culture of food trucks that we have here in Boston, as well as be able to bring a human interaction to everything that we were doing. We started it as a prototype. We took a truck and we put some money into it to see whether or not it would work, and in the past year, services have increased 250%. It’s been incredibly popular and we’ve been really happy with how it’s been served.

It’s really about bringing services to where people work, so not only our social media and the services we provide online, but also the great way we are able to physically bring services to people in their neighborhoods.

MSNE: One of the challenges for city government and constituents is a disconnect. So, now you’re bringing City Hall to the people, rather than the other way around. 

CHTG: Yeah, which saves an untold amount of time, money, and energy commuting to City Hall and waiting in line. We built this for the elderly, for new mothers, and we really try to engage with the senior population to make sure that they know about it and that we can make life easier for the people who really deserve it.

MSNE: How important is it to have that hands-on, personal interaction with your constituents?

CHTG: It’s invaluable. It’s paramount to Mayor Walsh’s administration. The mayor cares about everyone in Boston and making sure we engage with them, look them in the eye and help them.

One way that we did it this year is we invented “Chief Chat,” where we took chiefs and department heads and brought them on City Hall to Go to neighborhoods so that they could have office hours in the community, and people could ask specific policy questions to the decision makers. And it was also great because not only did constituents get to ask questions, but it also gave those department heads the chance to listen without any filter.

MSNE: What’s painted on the truck?

CHTG: We literally took a map of the city of Boston and the actual streets, and as your eye is looking at the truck, you are following the streetscape of the city of Boston through all of the neighborhoods.

MSNE: Do any other cities have a City Hall to Go, or is this the first city hall food truck in existence?

CHTG: We are the first and we’ve had over 20 cities reach out to us to learn more about our programs. Three cities have created programs, so now Illinois has a City Hall to Go, and two cities in Canada have what they call city event vehicles, which are pop-up State Halls that come to neighborhood events.

MSNE: Do you think you’ll ever have a mobile City Hall meet-up?

CHTG: That’s like one of my dreams, even if it’s just a phone call to start. Maybe when we get five cities, we’ll be able to put something together.

MSNE: Could you tell me one of your best stories about the truck?

CHTG: There are so many times when a resident comes up to the truck for one thing and ends up doing five transactions. A woman came because she needed a copy of her birth certificate and she ended up getting a resident parking sticker, and she just moved so she registered to vote. She was really excited because she was able to check five things off her personal to-do list in less than five minutes.

MSNE: What kind of technology do you use on the truck?

CHTG: We actually have a Microsoft Surface on the truck. For example, we have user audit, which we give to our constituents so we are able to get some feedback. I also use it for when we have a line. We have two computers and sometimes three people. I am able to grab a Surface and get constituents’ information from outside the truck before they actually come up in the line.

MSNE: One last question. One of our pillars at Microsoft New England is civic technology, and we really focus on using Microsoft’s technology for social good. We think that the CHTG truck is one of the best examples we’ve seen of bringing technology directly to the people. What we want to ask is, what does civic technology mean to you? 

CHTG: It really means a lot to me. It’s probably the most important part of my role. I come from the campaign world of meeting outdoors, and we really always put people first. At the same time, there are all of these new inventions and ways to get the word out, and engage more. It’s really an exciting time to be here in Boston. There are so many ways we can make a difference.

Executing Governor Elect Baker’s Citizen-Centric Vision with Information Technology

Throughout his campaign, Governor-Elect Charlie Baker focused on jobs, education, and community building. We believe that his new administration can best make improvements in these areas with an approach focusing on public-private collaboration and outcomes—outcomes implemented through the best technology tools and measured with rigorous metrics. This type of approach would ideally work at scale, increase efficiency, and measurably improve opportunities and outcomes for citizens. It is a citizen-centric approach that the Governor-elect championed in a 2002 paper he wrote entitled “Rationalizing Health and Human Services.”

Information technology can support Baker’s vision by providing high-quality tools that are both efficient and transparent. Ideally, an IT strategy for the Commonwealth unites the best of three technical worlds:

  • The IT enterprise: providing a cohesive, interoperable solution that spans agencies and the systems that support them;
  • High-quality, consumer-grade technology: providing proven, familiar interfaces and systems;
  • The nascent startup community: providing open, extensible and agile innovations that, when taken advantage of, could benefit government.

For example, in the enterprise space, advancements in cloud technologies based on open standards provide efficiencies of scale as well as enhanced privacy, security, and reliability for enterprise IT infrastructure.  The cloud’s ability to manage data across discrete IT systems makes it possible to support common functions across previously disparate organizations. Cloud services can streamline care coordination, collaboration, relationship management, analysis and reporting within an extended organization like HHS, as well as across disparate systems that service common consumers – such as justice, education, workforce, health and communities. Developments in predictive analytics can provide real-time outcome measurement and personalize government services to each constituent.

The proliferation of consumer technologies, including smart phones, tablets, commodity devices commonly called “the Internet of Things” and applications will engage citizens in multiple ways, including appointment alerts, medication reminders, school progress, assistance to enroll in programs and services, job search, and job training supports.

It is clear that there are opportunities in government IT for new technologies and approaches—technologies that originate from the startup and civic technology space that foster agility, transparency and trust in previously unforeseen ways. The IT industry will play an important role here by supporting partnerships between the business and civic technology groups in our communities, as well as supporting the continued growth of the innovation sector, especially by making it more accessible and expanding it to underserved areas.

The state should expect partnership and accountability from the IT industry. At the same time, it should thoughtfully consider what capacities are necessary to comprehensively manage the government IT enterprise – from infrastructure, to large agency-specific systems, to shared services that cross systems, to partnerships with civic technology communities to spur innovation.

Massachusetts received a B- in the 2014 Digital States Survey. Technology can be a catalyst to improving outcomes. However, if technology is poorly implemented, it can be an impediment to success, or the cause of operational failures. The Massachusetts Health Connector is a case in point. Much has been written on this, including the review Microsoft authored at the request of the Patrick Administration. Going forward, the focus should be to ensure that pitfalls aren’t systemic, or repeated, and should emphasize policy and information technology oversight where there previously had been a breakdown across multiple agencies.

Similar attention should be placed on the lifecycle of IT within the state—with a clear strategy from vision to execution including:

  • Use cases and product planning: What is the proposed value of the technology? What problems are solved? How will it benefit the user?
  • Contingencies and fall-back plans: What is the backup plan should the technology not be implemented as promised?
  • Buy vs. build analysis: Is it cheaper to buy off the shelf or build a custom solution?
  • Comparison of best practices in other markets: How have other entities (including private sector) best implemented solutions? What can you learn from entities like the federal project 18F or the United Kingdom’s Government Digital Service?
  • Compatibility of implementation with technology standards: how interoperable is the approach? What hooks are available for other technologies, including startups, to link into the implementation?

Finally, accountability to the end user should be prioritized. In the case of the Massachusetts Health Connector, this required providing a “user friendly” application, to encourage and expedite the selection of insurance, and recognition that system failure created risks that consumers would lose coverage and the state could incur additional IT and Medicaid costs.

State information technology leaders have an increasingly complex job. They must manage large enterprise implementations, enable consumer services and foster a culture of innovation to continuously improve the “product.” Similar challenges face IT leaders in other industries, such as health care. What is clear is that the success of health, government, education, and other enterprises serving these same consumers—the citizens of Massachusetts—is increasingly dependent on IT leaders and systems achieving high performance.

We look forward to partnering with the Baker administration in helping the state to deliver top notch services to its citizens while delivering on the Governor-Elect’s promise to improve jobs, education and the well-being of citizens and their communities.

William O’Leary
is Senior Director and Chief Health Policy
Officer for Microsoft, Health and Life Sciences. O’Leary is the
former Secretary of Health and Human Services for the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts.


Cathy Wissink
is Director of Technology & Civic Engagement
for Microsoft in Boston.


Microsoft New England’s Best Blogs of 2014


As the sun sets on another year, it’s time to look back and reflect on 2014. Here at Microsoft New England, we ramped up our blog efforts and are excited to share our top 10 picks of 2014! Enjoy and see you in 2015.

January 2014
Bridging Tradition, Technology and City Boundaries: A Call to Boston and Cambridge’s New Leaders
By: Annmarie Levins

February 2014
Local Leaders Welcome Microsoft’s New CEO, Satya Nadella
By: Lauren Metter

February 2014
CodeAcross 2014 with Code for Boston: Civic Hacking Our Way to a Better City
By: Cathy Wissink

March 2014
Eight-year-old Builds Windows Phone App; Watches Spongebob
By: Lauren Metter

March 2014
Microsoft Researcher, MIT and Brandeis Alum Leslie Lamport Receives Turing Award
By: Lauren Metter

March 2014
Of the People, By the People, for the People: Convening the Community on Civic Technology
By: Cathy Wissink

May 2014
Boston Startup LeanBox Makes Vending Machines a Healthy Venture
By: Lauren Metter

June 2014
Microsoft Named Best Place to Work by Boston Business Journal
By: Craig Hodges

August 2014
Microsoft New York Fellows Do Boston, Win HubHacks Challenge
By: Lauren Metter

August 2014
United Way’s Skype Surprise of a Lifetime
By: Dave Johnson

September 2014
The One Fund Center — Using tech innovatively to help survivors health
By: Cathy Wissink

September 2014
TEALS Expands in Massachusetts and Beyond
By: Aimee Sprung

October 2014
Kinems: Personalized Kinect-based Learning Games for Children with Learning Disabilities
By: Aimee Sprung & Lauren Metter

November 2014
Congrats to the winners of the first MassChallenge Civic Tech Sidecar prize sponsored by Microsoft: Lengio and Kinems
By: Aimee Sprung

November 2014
Looking Back: A Year of Civic Engagement in Boston
By: Cathy Wissink

December 2014
Q&A with NFTE New England: Changing the World One Young Entrepreneur at a Time
By: MSNE Staff

December 2014
CS Teacher Series, featuring
Alfred Thompson: The Importance of Computer Science
Adam Newall: How Computer Science Has Changed my Classroom
Scott Foster: Computer Science in East Boston By Scott Foster
Kelly Powers: What Teaching CS Means to Me

December 2014
CS Series: An Hour of Code Can Inspire a Lifetime of Creativity
By: Congressman Joe Kennedy III (MA – 4) | December 2014



Merging multiple IT services into one

One of the things I love most about Boston is its commitment to helping others; our city is home to a number of non-profit and community improvement organizations that work locally, nationally and globally. While we often focus on the non-profit nature of these organizations, it’s easy to overlook that these groups operate like a business, just as any for-profit company. And that means they face the same business and IT challenges as any other company, often with the added layer of lower operating budgets and increased scrutiny over spending that isn’t directly related to their non-profit mission. One of these challenges involves integrating different IT environments into one platform following acquisitions.

Merging_multiple_IT_services_into_one copyFHI 360, a non-profit human development organization with an office in Watertown and operating in more than 60 countries, faced this exact challenge when an acquisition left it with two different productivity services – one cloud-based, one on-premise. Like many businesses in today’s global economy, FHI 360 was looking to improve collaboration among multinational project groups and increase productivity whether in the office or the field. To solve these needs, its IT department sought a single cloud-based productivity suite for all of its 4,300 employees.

When your own business is looking to merge divergent IT systems to one platform it’s important to take into account all the various environments and methods your employees work, to guarantee success and reduce worker frustration. FHI 360 did this by activating employee focus groups, which helped compile a list of 150 requirements across email, instant messaging, web conferencing and document collaboration. Defining these parameters early on allows IT decision makers to objectively evaluate each potential system. Additionally, a unifying platform will meet the various security and flexibility needs of your IT department without unnecessary complexity.

For its migration, FHI 360 deployed Microsoft Office 365, which offered the feature-rich productivity tools it was looking for, with the cost savings and flexibility of the cloud. Additionally, FHI 360 was able to utilize a local Microsoft partner, who provided advanced tools and support to simplify the migration process, and engaged with a Microsoft Office 365 Marketplace partner to develop a global instructor-led training for employees. All while reducing its IT costs and improving productivity, important factors for any business – non-profit and for-profit.

Visit Microsoft’s Office 365 for Business page to see how our cloud productivity suite can help you improve productivity and then use Pinpoint to find a local Microsoft partner who can help you streamline your operations under a single system.

Q&A with Mayor Joe Curtatone on Somerville’s Call to Green Tech Innovators

Mayor Curtatone announcing another sustainability initiative: the Orange Line T-Stop opening at Assembly Row in September, which is expected to provide sustainable transportation to 5,000 riders daily.

Mayor Curtatone announcing another sustainability initiative: the Orange Line T-Stop opening at Assembly Row in September, which is expected to provide sustainable transportation to 5,000 riders daily.

MSNE: What is the Somerville Green Tech Program?

Curtatone-3Mayor Curtatone: We’re asking green tech innovators to give the City their best product pitch. Entrepreneurs are developing services and products that could help people and organizations reduce their carbon footprint, decrease energy use and generally act kinder to the planet, but at some point they need to pilot their ideas. We want to be first in line to give those ideas a shot, so we released an official request for information asking green tech entrepreneurs to fill us in on what they’re working on.

MSNE: How can green tech companies get involved?

Mayor Curtatone: All they need to do is fill out a simple online survey at just describe the technology you’re working on, send us some links to demo or informational materials, and tell us why the City of Somerville would be a good customer or test case for the technology. Responses are due by the end of the day on Monday, Dec. 1.

MSNE: What will Somerville do with the information submitted through the survey?

Mayor Curtatone: The information we get will be used to shape a new Green Tech Program that we’ll detail early next year as part of our goal to become carbon neutral by 2050. We know our carbon neutral goal is ambitious and that it will take some smart, outside-the-box innovations to help get us there. We hope this program will help us make progress toward that goal, while also supporting emerging green tech companies. We’re interested in doing social good and creating profitable, sustainable economies—those two goals aren’t mutually exclusive, they are interdependent.

MNE: Why shoot for carbon neutrality by 2050?

Mayor Curtatone: Sustainability and environmental stewardship are deeply held values of this community, and anyone paying honest attention to climate change and the state of national politics knows three things: we don’t have time to waste, we must set ambitious goals if we truly aim to slow climate change, and cities must help lead the way if we are to succeed in these goals as a nation. We also are deeply aware of our responsibility to current and future generations in everything we do. These values are all codified in our 20-year comprehensive plan, SomerVision, which was created after two years of intensive community engagement. And in Somerville, we don’t consider community plans documents that should just gather dust. We act on them. We hope the green tech community will act with us on this effort too.