SPR Consulting is partnered with Tech Month Chicago, and we asked them to create a piece that described their success with civic engagement. We hope this can be used by the Chicago tech community at large as an example of how to launch civic engagement within your company. Here is their very important message:
Technology for everyone:
How to get started sharing tech with the community
At the core of Tech Month Chicago lies one simple concept – technology for everyone. And with the massive growth of Chicago’s tech scene in recent years, many companies recognize the importance of engaging all members of the community through technology roles, education, and skill development.
Today, Chicago companies are actively exploring ways to develop programs that impart knowledge, develop skills, and help better our community. One example is the civic engagement program at SPR, a digital technology consultancy in Chicago. SPR strives to bring technology and opportunity to a wide audience including students of all ages, people with disabilities, displaced professionals, opportunity youth, and veterans.
Looking to expand your civic engagement efforts? Here are three ways the team at SPR fuses its love for technology with their desire to help others.
1. Reaching Youth
SPR is now in its second year of hosting a 3D Derby Day for students of the LEARN Charter School Network. Working with Lamon Phillips of LEARN and Melanie Adcock of Tech Month Chicago, the team at SPR – led by CTO Matt Mead – hosted 40 students in their Willis Tower office this spring for a day of technology concepts and hands-on learning. The day included two tracks of learning – one for first-timers to learn the basics of 3D printing, and another tier of 3D design in our Maker Space for students returning a second time. The day culminated with the student teams – all with a superhero theme – competing with their 3D-printed soapbox racers down a custom-made track.
The 3D Derby Day is just one example of how SPR aims to inspire today’s youth to see what’s possible in business and technology. They also work with Chicago Public Schools, Year Up Chicago, Microsoft Chicago, Abilitylinks, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, UIC’s Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Education for People with Disabilities (CEED) among others, to support growth and passion for tech among kids and young adults throughout the greater Chicago area.
2. Extending the Workforce
SPR also works with professionals with disabilities, understanding that their unique perspectives and skills strengthen a company’s workforce while enhancing its diversity. SPR founded and launched ITKAN in 2008 as a collaboration with partners like the ITA, Microsoft Technology Center Chicago and Abilitylinks, to create opportunities for skilled IT professionals with disabilities and to better prepare others for a career in the tech sector. Its initial marketing tagline of “Knowledge, Network and Opportunity” continues to inform its mission.
SPR’s Director of Civic Engagement, Pat Maher, continues a personal and company initiative that fosters and develops key civic partnerships. Pat leads SPR’s efforts to support the technical and professional growth of people with disabilities, opportunity youth, veterans and other displaced populations historically overlooked and undervalued.
3. Supporting Civic Technology and Beyond
Finally, SPR’s team of highly skilled developers, engineers, designers, and coders participate in civic hacks, events that promote building and learning about civic tech. These events support the development of new tools that make our city a better place – basically, build an app for free that will help someone in our community.
To go hand in hand with the technology initiatives, SPR also actively finds other ways employees can give back to the community. Some examples include toy drives, teaming up with food banks to support our citizens in need, and sponsoring a sign-up for the national bone marrow registry. SPR is even now partnering with Year Up Chicago to fundraise and send a service team to Houston in support of its citizens with disabilities who have had their lives disrupted by the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.
While these initiatives are a part of SPR’s culture, it is a dedicated effort by employees and leadership who truly care. And it doesn’t happen overnight. Thankfully, Chicago’s tech community is full of resources to get you started.
If you are interested in expanding your company’s philanthropy or simply exploring what civic engagement means, contact Tech Month Chicago to be connected with opportunities to get involved – and start living “Technology for Everyone.”
Here is a handy checklist to help your team start thinking about organizing your own 3D Derby day like SPR Group, or similar event for kids. Please contact us if you need additional ideas or advice on how to get started.
Checklist to Host a 3D Derby Day:
Work with an area school interested in expanding students’ exposure to technology
Reserve a day for your event and notify employees in advance
Prepare a 3-4 hour schedule of activities – welcome and brief presentation, hands-on building activity (use Legos to illustrate 3D concept), overview of 3D printing, Q&A, derby races, wrap-up
Build or buy race tracks
Gather all supplies for 3D printing workshop
Secure employee volunteers to present and help facilitate activities
Provide gift bags and snacks for every student
Coordinate arrival and departure procedures with sc