Category Archives: Microsoft

This is my 2017 blog post

Here’s what I’m up to recently…

I took a leave of absence from my job at the end of 2016 to join the peerless Digital team at Hillary for America for the final four months of the campaign (more on that soon). Now I’m back at work as Director of Civic Technology at Microsoft in NYC.

We held our seasonal demo night where we gave updates on many of our projects:

I’m also working to connect newly engaged Americans to effective ways to create change, including at the recent NYC edition of the Debug Politics hackathon (Fast Company’s writeup), where I gave a talk to connect technologists to existing work in civic tech.

I’ve resumed curating the Machine Eatable lunch series on data science for civic good. Come have sandwiches.

With my collaborators Micah Sifry and Erin Simpson, I’m continuing to maintain and build a massive collection of civic tech resources at http://bit.ly/organizecivictech.

I’m also continuing to track when tech products embed civic engagement as civic features, and when companies mobilize their users to take political action in the companies’ interests. Let me know if you see examples of either!

Here are some of the interesting events I go to each month. Come join?

Lastly, I’m working on some product ideas with friends and will share those here as soon as they’re functional enough.

Here’s what our Civic Tech Fellows did this summer

Our incredible cohort of Civic Tech Fellows (and Program Manager Saron Yitbarek) spent their summers building useful tools and programs to support the field of civic tech. Here are some demos of new tools and projects that are early in development, shared with the Civic Hall community on August 27th, 2015.

Including:

  • Blockchain for Social Impact
  • Civic Graph
  • Civic Graph check-in
  • USDA Innovation Challenge and Big Apps
  • Maker Kit
  • Civic Tech Casefinder
  • Microsoft Translator
  • BRCK
  • Tech Jobs Academy website launch template
  • An open website launch template

Continue reading Here’s what our Civic Tech Fellows did this summer

Modeling NYC Subway Flow and School Districts’ Effect on Housing Value

Justin Rao and Jake Hofman coordinate the Data Science Summer School program, hosted and sponsored by Microsoft Research. Each year, dedicated students spend their summer learning how to conduct research thanks to a network of researchers, mentors, and advisors. All of the course materials are openly and freely available on Github.

Tonight, we’re celebrating the program’s second class. Last year’s students researched questions about racial profiling in New York City and how to optimize the city’s bikeshare system. This year, it’s all about subways and school districts. Continue reading Modeling NYC Subway Flow and School Districts’ Effect on Housing Value

Why Use Private Data for Public Good

I wrote a piece for Harvard Business Review about data philanthropy, where private corporations donate or otherwise share valuable data with public partners like local government and non-profits. This piece introduces the idea, makes the business case, and begins to explore how an internal champion might go about executing such a project.

Fortunately, the post went live the very same day that John and I attended UN Global Pulse’s excellent Responsible Data Forum on Private Sector Data Sharing (organized with the Data & Society Research Institute and the Rockefeller Foundation). The attendees represented an incredible range and depth of experience in this nascent field. Together we began drafting additional resources, like a road map showing how to commit data philanthropy, and a starter kit. I’ll share these as soon as they’re ready (or sooner, if you’re interested in helping to shape them). Continue reading Why Use Private Data for Public Good

Racial Profiling and Bike Sharing: Urban Data Science at Microsoft Research

A liveblog of Microsoft Research’s Data Science Summer School. Errors likely mine.

The Data Science Summer School program recruits some of the most talented data students in the city to solve really difficult problems. Fortunately, they were able to choose the 8 extremely talented students from a city of 8 million people.

Data Science School students
Data Science Summer School students. Photo by Microsoft Research.

Microsoft Research’s instructors and directors pulled all the necessary strings to put this program together on an expedited timeline. Tonight are their final presentations: Continue reading Racial Profiling and Bike Sharing: Urban Data Science at Microsoft Research

Life News

Cross-posted from MicrosoftNewYork.com:

I’m thrilled to let you know that I’ve joined Microsoft as Director of Civic Technology here in New York City.

My career decisions have been driven by a desire to maximize my social impact. This overarching goal is why I’ve spent the better part of the past decade using technology to accelerate change in organizing, movement building, campaign finance reform, and journalism and digital media.

Recently, I’ve become convinced of the unrealized potential for technology companies themselves to make substantial contributions to social change. In addition to their resources (human, financial, data, and tech), these companies are building the products used by an ever-growing portion of the human species. These products are increasingly the conduits through which we connect, learn, and act. They could reduce barriers to information and courses of action that improve our civic lives.

As we think about how technology can improve citizens’ lives in cities, in particular, it has become quite clear that the opportunities and rewards of the technology economy must be shared more equitably across the power faults of race, gender, class, and access. A big chunk of our work will be focused on inclusion, looking to make improvements in both the existing community and the long-term pipeline. Related to that, we’re excited to support and expand STEM education and employment programs in New York.

We’re lucky to be working in New York City, one of the bastions of civic tech. I’ve been collaborating with the civic tech community here for years, be it through conversations at Personal Democracy Forum (the pinnacle conference in the space), working with news outlets and media startups while getting my Master’s at the MIT Media Lab’s Center for Civic Media, or interviewing for my thesis the many technologists and organizers who innovated in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, employed technology to power an unprecedented participatory aid response and in doing so, redefined the resilient community.

What I didn’t know before applying to this job is that Microsoft has assembled a Civic team of great talent, based right here in New York. I’m excited to work closely with John Paul Farmer, co-founder of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. In addition, the team boasts three amazing Civic Tech Fellows: Jenny Shore from Harvard, and Ken Chan and Fatima Khalid, both from NYU.

A key moment for me in making the decision to join this team was attending Microsoft Executive Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith’s eloquent, impassioned speech at Personal Democracy Forum, where he unequivocally established Microsoft’s support for net neutrality as well as citizens’ privacy rights in the face of NSA overreach. As you may have seen in the news lately, big changes are afoot at Microsoft, and I’m thrilled to join these efforts.

Please get in touch if you’re in New York and want to think through these challenges together. I’m @mstem on Twitter and matt.stempeck@microsoft.com.