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Member Spotlight: Jessica Weare, Civic Technology and Community Engagement Manager at Microsoft

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Jessica Weare is the Civic Technology & Community Engagement Manager at Microsoft and a member of NCG's Member Engagement Committee. As a part of our Member Spotlight Series, Jessica told us a little about herself, her work and why stone fruit is her current favorite flavor! She invites you to join her at our upcoming Corporate Philanthropy Institute on December 1st to explore the role of CSR in our community. 

What’s the next NCG program you’re attending and why should other members join you there? 

I’m really excited about December’s Corporate Philanthropy Institute!  What could be better than a room full of my peers thinking and learning (and subtweeting) together?

Are you new in your role? Been there a while?

I started working for Microsoft in February 2012, focusing on employee engagement and grantmaking.  Over the past two years, my role has evolved to include civic innovation.  In that capacity, I’m thinking about how to improve transportation in Silicon Valley, leverage open data, and support the growing civic ecosystem in San José through partnerships with Code for San José, TechShop, San José State University, the Knight Foundation, and others.

What’s next on your agenda (workwise)?

I’m fascinated by, a project of Stanford’s Digital Civil Society Lab that aims to help nonprofits and funders safely, ethically, and effectively use digital data.  Simply put, every single nonprofit has some form of digital data (even if it’s just an Excel spreadsheet listing donors), and managing that data carefully will only become more crucial and difficult as technology evolves.

What’s your favorite on-screen guilty pleasure?

I just finished season 4 of Orphan Black, a Canadian sci-fi show about cloning.  The lead actress, Tatiana Maslany, does an amazing job playing nearly a dozen characters (because, clones).  I love the show because it’s simultaneously thrilling (car chases! narrow escapes!) and thought-provoking – the show examines some of the thorniest questions about biological research, technology, ethics, and human autonomy.  I highly recommend it!

When and where are you happiest? 

Every Sunday morning, I make a detailed meal plan for the week and head off to the Menlo Park farmers’ market.  After an hour there, I feel connected to my community and ready for the week ahead.  I grew up in Maine, so I’m used to dramatic seasonal shifts; as corny as it sounds, the changing produce at the farmers’ market helps me feel that rhythm in California.  It’s also been wonderful this year to actually taste the results of El Niño– the stone fruit has been amazing!

What talent or superpower would you most like to have?

I would love to be able to heal myself like Wolverine from the X-Men.  I’ve always been clumsy, and I love to cook, so I’ve usually got at least one cut on my hands and at least one sprain or bruise from softball.  I think if I could heal myself quickly, I’d be braver and bolder.

Where are you on the introvert/extrovert scale?

I think about this question all the time.  In the moment, there’s nothing I find as exciting and invigorating as a deeply engaged discussion with other people, so perhaps that makes me an extrovert. But I also deeply need solitude, and I do my best thinking and writing alone.  Every year I rent a little cabin up in Inverness and bring a stack of books and don’t talk to anybody for a week.  Does that make me an introvert?

Who are your favorite writers?

I grew up reading L.M. Montgomery and Charlotte MacLeod, and I still reread their books for comfort.  I also love David Mitchell, Primo Levi, and Jennifer Egan.  In the past couple of years I’ve devoured collections of feminist essays from Lindy West and Meghan Daum, and I’m looking forward to adding Sara Benicasa to that list soon.  This summer, I adored Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book, Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – basically, if a book has a semi-apocalypic element, I’m in.

Where are you inviting collaboration these days?

My job requires collaboration!  Any major issue facing the Bay Area – improving education, alleviating the commute, addressing climate change – requires a cross-sector approach.  My favorite part of my job is the intellectual work of looking at a complex problem, figuring out how all of its causes and effects are interconnected, and then deciding where to apply Microsoft’s resources in the most impactful way.  Sometimes that means quietly supporting the work of others with a cash grant, sometimes that means accelerating innovation with the company’s technology, and sometimes that means convening experts for conferences and summits. 

In addition to this kind of collaboration, Kevin Miller just joined Microsoft’s Technology and Civic Engagement Team, and we’ll be working together in San José. It’s exciting to collaborate with a new partner because that forces me to articulate and reexamine my own decisions and grantmaking processes.  

What’s the most exciting thing happening in your sector?

I serve on the public policy advisory committee of United Way Bay Area, and I’m interested in how policy and advocacy work have become increasingly important to crucial organizations like Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Northern California Grantmakers.  It’s really about long-term impact: for example, nonprofit organizations can build wonderful and effective programs to combat homelessness, but systemic change in the Bay Area housing market is going to require changes in legislation and zoning at the city, regional, and state levels.  Policy affects everyone, so it’s important that as many voices and perspectives as possible are part of policy discussions.


Do you have questions for Jessica or ideas for collaboration? You can contact her at: 

Twitter: @JessicaWeare

LinkedIn: Jessica Weare

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