Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
Each year hundreds of thousands of students from around the world come together to compete in the Imagine Cup. The competition, which is part of Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential initiative, challenges students to use technology and their imagination to solve the world’s toughest problems as inspired by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals:
This year over 325,000 students registered for the competition and in July, the top 400 students will compete at the worldwide finals in Poland.
Their projects range from a social media application that can help stop the spread of malaria, to a mobile alert system that warns citizens of a looming natural disaster and a mobile phone that can be used to detect vascular diseases like sickle cell anemia and type 1 diabetes. These students all have one thing in common; they are going to change the world!
The Imagine Cup is a serious challenge that draws incredible talent, passion and perseverance. The event spans one year, beginning with local, regional and online competitions. The finalists go on to attend the Worldwide Finals held in a different location every year. The intensity of the work brings students together, and motivates the competitors to rise above challenges and make an impact on the world.
You can learn more about the students’ projects and watch their videos at www.imaginecup.com.
Vote for your favorite team in the People’s Choice Awards
Why not get involved in this year’s competition? Visit the People’s Choice site, view videos from all the finalists and vote for your favorite team and project. The winner of the People’s Choice award will be announced at the finals on July 8th in Poland.
The tension builds ahead of last year’s Imagine Cup finals in Egypt. This year the finals take place in Poland.
Today I wanted to share with you our final Accelerator Summit video. This session addresses skills training and workforce development, an area of significant focus for Microsoft around the world.
The session, which was moderated by Pamela Passman, explores the impact of training and workforce development programs from the real world experience of a number of guest speakers.
We were privileged to have Liza Estlund Olson, Director, Bureau of Workforce Transformation, Michigan; Nalini Gangadharan, CEO, CAP Foundation; in India and Jim Gibbons, President and CEO, Goodwill Industries International join us.
You can also view a number of other videos from the Accelerator Summit:
The third session we are sharing from our recent Accelerator Summit was hosted by Lisa Brummel, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Microsoft and looked at how our employees are making a difference in the community from supporting existing nonprofits, volunteering their time, and even setting up their own nonprofits. There is also discussion on how the company’s support for social innovation and strong citizenship efforts enhances our efforts to recruit and retain great people.
Along with Lisa we have four employees who shared their experiences. Adnan Mahmud co-founded the Jolkona Foundation; Xiang Li co-founded Givology; Tom Moran was a Loaned Executive with United Way and Rajesh Munshi set up the Seattle chapter of CRY America.
I hope you enjoy the video, and you can also view the previously posted sessions:
The second session at our recent Accelerator Summit was a panel discussion I hosted that looked at the role technology can play in helping NGOs to have an even greater impact in our society.
We were delighted to have a great line-up including Daniel Ben-Horin, Founder and Co-CEO, TechSoup, Vida Durant, Chief Information Officer, CARE USA and Ed Granger-Happ, Chairman and Director, NetHope. We also had Claire Bonilla, Senior Director of Disaster Management at Microsoft who shared with us how technology is supporting ongoing relief efforts in Haiti.
You can view the video from the first session on how technology and partnerships can help solve some of the world’s most pressing issues here.
I spent some time recently with Nalini Gangadharan, Chairperson of the CAP Foundation. Nalini was in Seattle for our Accelerator Summit and it was the first time we had met in over two years. Nalini is an amazing community activist and it was great to see her again. Hearing her stories reminded me of how a relatively small contribution can have such a significant impact. We have supported CAP through our Community Technology Skills Program for several years now and our employees in India support CAP as volunteers and through financial contributions. With programs established in 15 states in India, CAP is opening up opportunities for tens of thousands of people and transforming communities through skills and training.
Most importantly, CAP has continued to improve programs through constant analysis of what is or isn’t working. They start with a deep understanding of the local marketplace through a landscape assessment – which industries are growing, which are in decline, what local employers are looking for in terms of skills. Then they evaluate the skills of local people. They don’t lead with skills training – rather they focus on providing the most relevant training content and approach based on local needs. The basic IT skills training curriculum from Microsoft is a critical component but certainly not the only ingredient.
With a focus on workforce development, CAP has an amazing record of placing 72% of graduates in jobs – in retail, healthcare, hospitality, automobile, and consumer goods repairs and servicing as well as many other sectors. I think that this illustrates that technology skills are not just in demand in the IT professions, or in call centers or business process outsourcing. We know that in the next five years, the vast majority of jobs will need at least a basic familiarity with information technology.
Training for a bright future: CAP Foundation training center in Hyderabad, India
Clearly employment can change a person’s life and that of his or her family, but CAP also tracks the return on investment to communities – based on the increased incomes of individuals, business growth, etc, that can be tied in some way to the training programs. In many of their programs there is nearly a twentyfold return to the local community.
The impact of these programs goes far beyond direct economic benefit to communities. In almost all cases we are talking about empowerment of individuals through increased self-confidence and changing mindsets in families and communities. One story Nalini shared was that of a young female victim of sex trafficking. Through some miracle this young woman returned to her community, but completely traumatized and unable to communicate or function due to the abuses she suffered. Part of her recovery process included training through CAP. Today, she is a confident young business woman with a family of her own. You simply cannot assign a return on investment to that story.
CAP is now expanding to the Middle East and Africa region, testing their proven methodologies in new contexts and cultures and with additional partners. I am confident that their track record of success will continue.
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