Posted by Lori Harnick
General Manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs, Microsoft

Last week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Executive Vice President of Legal & Corporate Affairs Brad Smith launched a new big bet for the company, Microsoft YouthSpark, a companywide initiative that will create opportunities for 300 million young people around the world over the next three years. As Brad noted during the live webcast, we are mobilizing the company behind this initiative because of something we’re seeing and deeply care about – the emergence of an opportunity divide – a gap between young people who have the access, skills and opportunities to be successful and those who do not.

I am proud to be part of this exciting and challenging endeavor, which represents a shift in our citizenship focus to dedicate the majority of our corporate philanthropy to organizations that serve young people as well as new global programs and cash grants to help connect young people with opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship. Our commitment includes free new tools such as Office 365 for education and Skype in the classroom, and a range of new citizenship programs including:

· Give for Youth, a global microgiving marketplace focused on raising funds for nonprofits that support youth causes around the world,

· Microsoft YouthSpark Hub, an online space where people can explore and access all the youth services, programs and resources provided by Microsoft and its nonprofit partners, and

· Microsoft Innovate for Good, a global online community enabling youth to collaborate, inspire and support one another while using technology to make a difference in their communities.

Since the launch of YouthSpark last Thursday, we’ve been moving full steam ahead to share our new focus with our employees, our alumni, our nonprofit and industry partners and to young people everywhere.

Today, I’m in New York City with Brad Smith attending the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting where I was proud to watch Chelsea Clinton announce Microsoft’s YouthSpark commitment during the special session, “The Case for Optimism in the 21st Century.”

Our mission with YouthSpark is to be the spark of change for young people globally, helping them to change their world and create real impact for a better tomorrow. The mission of CGI is to turn ideas into action and we hope to do just that. We look forward to working with CGI over the next three years to achieve our goal of creating opportunities for 300 million youth and reporting back on our progress along the way. 

As Steve Ballmer said last week, “We believe that working with our partners we can help empower young people to change their world, and we are committed to using our technology, talent, time and resources to do that.”