August, 2010

  • Back to School: Making Sure Students with Disabilities Can See, Hear, and Use their PC

    For many parents and teachers, this time of year means preparing for back to school and looking forward to a new school year full of possibilities. Parents are busy making sure their children are ready and have the gear they need for school. Meanwhile educators are preparing their lessons and personalizing their classrooms for the students.

    While not on the traditional back-to-school checklist, making sure student technology is prepped for a student that has a learning or physical disability is worth remembering. Whether you are a parent, educator or both – you understand the challenge of supporting students with different learning styles. When a student has a disability, supporting their educational success includes making sure their PC is comfortable to see, hear, and use.

    At Microsoft we have published Accessibility: A Guide for Educators which explains to educators and parents how to make sure students with disabilities can comfortably see, hear, and use their PC to enhance their learning. For those new to accessibility and working with a child with a disability, accessibility can seem overwhelming. The guide explains types of disabilities and possible accessibility solutions and products, including walking you through how to use the accessibility features and program that come with Microsoft Windows.

    As schools encourage students to use technology to acquire new skills, parents and schools have a responsibility to provide accessible technology that can be personalized for each student’s needs. We at Microsoft take that responsibility seriously and want to help parents and teachers understand how to make sure students with disabilities have equal access to learning.

    Too few people know about the accessibility features and programs that built into their Windows computers. I encourage you to share this information with the parent of child with a disability or a teacher you know. After all, nearly all of us know someone with a disability.

     

    LaDeana Huyler, Senior Product Manager for Accessibility, Microsoft

    LaDeana is passionate about increasing awareness about accessibility, especially for children with disabilities. For more than ten years, she’s worked on accessibility at Microsoft including publishing the Microsoft Accessibility Web site.

  • A Closer Look at the Nonprofit IT Pyramid: Part 3

    It seems like such a long time since we blogged about how *abz Austria was able to use technology (specifically, CRM) to optimize their service delivery to jobseekers in Austria (in real time, it was only about two weeks ago, but – in social media time – that feels like eons ago!). Are you ready to summit this Nonprofit IT Pyramid? It’s that time! To continue our 4-part post on the simple IT planning framework we call “The Pyramid”, let’s look at an example of how the innovative application of technology can transform how we address pressing social issues.

    Transform through Innovative Technology

    The top of the pyramid can feel like the trickiest level, but it can also produce some of the most astounding results (as Akhtar said in his recent post, it’s where we go from transactional to transformational use of IT). At this level, IT solutions empower organizations to deliver services in new or different ways. IT becomes a strategic investment that adds significant value and truly helps address big, hairy, real-world problems.

    Technologies or innovations at this level include things like handheld devices for data collection, Geographic Information Systems (“GIS”) or mapping systems that help visualize data, mobile phone-enabled solutions, or new and custom web technologies or software applications, often sector-specific. Since transformative IT solutions have a reputation for requiring lots of IT expertise and/or serious up-front cash to implement, this is historically the most difficult level for organizations to achieve.

    Still, the top of the pyramid is important to all nonprofits, even those that don’t feel they’re anywhere near it yet. Keeping an eye on the innovations at the top of the pyramid could be what inspires your own transformative technology solution. Or, you may come across a transformational solution from a sister organization that you could replicate, such as the mobile solutions Hilmi Quraishi has created to help with mass healthcare communications in India.

    Using mobile technology to combat tuberculosis in India

    Hilmi Quraishi, selected by Ashoka and The Lemelson Foundation as a leading inventor-entrepreneur, is changing the way the world delivers important public health messages. Keenly aware that tuberculosis is one of the leading causes of death in India, Quraishi sought ways to use technology to change the status quo. With 70 percent of India’s population in rural areas with little access to information, Quraishi needed to think beyond the existing “old-school” mass communications systems to enable people to more actively participate in their own healthcare. He set out to deliver TB awareness information to a generation of tech-savvy consumers with top notch, interactive, mobile phone games.

    Innovating on existing solutions, Quraishi adapted mobile technology solutions and gaming platforms for a mass health awareness campaign. His solutions include educational games and training delivered through a standard mobile phone, as well as new management and tracking systems connecting mobile end points with centralized systems.

    Quraishi’s games have now tracked more than 12 million sessions in South Asia and Africa. Users find the games a more accessible (and addictive!) way to learn about tuberculosis. And with the pervasiveness of mobile phones – even in rural areas – the critical information reaches a much broader audience in a more engaging way (over 33 million people in six languages to be exact!). Quraishi is not only changing outcomes through a transformative solution, but his concept is replicable and scalable as mobile phones become increasingly affordable and prevalent in the developing world. And as one of the first 25 participants in the new Ashoka Globalizer program, Quraishi is actively working with other global entrepreneurs to extend this innovative model around the world.

    From Transactional to Transformational

    Quraishi’s example of using technologies to literally change the game of how we address social challenges is what gets us excited about technology. It’s not the technology itself, but the impact it can have on our communities and our world that really gets our geek-motors running. And, while we can’t all be at the top of pyramid all the time, understanding the potential of technology to transform our work may be just the kick in the pants we need to start (or keep) climbing.

    To learn more about Hilmi Quraishi’s technology-enable initiative to combat tuberculosis, watch his short video at http://bit.ly/tbvideo. And to see how all levels of the pyramid are interconnected, come back for our final post in the series, in which we’ll follow one organization’s journey from the bottom to the top of the IT Pyramid. Till then, happy climbing!

    Part One in this series available here.
    Part Two in this series available here.

    Lindsay Bealko helps Microsoft Community Affairs put technology know-how in the hands of nonprofits through resources like webinars, NGO Connection Days, and software donations. With several years’ experience in the nonprofit sector, Lindsay understands the unique challenges and opportunities nonprofits face when trying to adopt technology to help them meet their missions. She tweets (sometimes) at @linzbilks.

  • Demystifying Nonprofit IT Adoption and Innovation

    Editor’s Note: Today we are releasing a new paper, Demystifying IT Adoption and Innovation in the Nonprofit Sector. This paper is a follow-up to our work entitled Unleashing Technology to Advance Social Change (see recent blog and paper) that presented our perspective on exciting IT trends and opportunities for the social sector. The new paper offers a simple framework to help nonprofit leaders develop their own vision and plan for adopting these IT innovations. What follows is a quick overview.


    At Microsoft, we are committed to helping nonprofits unleash technology to accelerate social change. Critical to this commitment is the belief that IT is a strategic investment, not just an operating cost. Yet many nonprofits struggle to view technology as a strategic investment, or to measure the return on that investment. Purposeful IT planning, grounded in an organization’s miss ion and goals, is crucial to ensuring that a nonprofit can adopt the most appropriate IT solutions and realize the greatest social return on its IT investments. But many nonprofits don’t have the time, will, and/or experience for formal IT planning. That’s where the Nonprofit IT Pyramid can help.

    The Nonprofit IT Pyramid

    The Nonprofit IT Pyramid is a simple framework to help you understand your organization’s current use of IT and how you might approach future IT investment more strategically. Think about where your organization’s current use falls within the three levels described below, and how you might chart a path toward greater technology adoption and innovation.

    Access to Stable & Secure Technologies

    When it comes to technology, all organizations need access to stable and secure IT tools to accomplish day-to-day tasks. Technologies at this level include computers and networking hardware, maintenance, and basic productivity tools like email, Internet access, and software applications. This level also includes the establishment of policies and procedures that promote proper IT use and ensure that sensitive data and systems are safe and secure. These technologies are often referred to as “infrastructure.” If you don’t have sound infrastructure in place, taking on additional IT projects will likely be a challenge.

    Optimize Service Delivery

    Access to stable and secure technology is essential, but it is just the foundation upon which you can begin to use technology to expand your organization’s service delivery and community impact.

    At the “Optimize” level of the pyramid, nonprofits use databases and relationship management software, collaboration tools, Web 2.0 tools, social media and fundraising solutions to help them become “bigger, stronger, faster.” (Or, in nonprofit terms, able to serve more clients with better services in a more efficient and effective way). At this level, not only does your organization have access to the IT tools you need, but you are savvy in how you deploy those tools to reach new levels of service delivery.

    Transform through Innovative Technology

    The “Transform” level of IT adoption aims to help organizations maximize their community impact by creating IT solutions that enable them to deliver a service or program in new or different ways. At this level, IT is a strategic investment that can add significant value and truly help address real-world problems. The innovative application of technology can transform a single organization or entire categories of nonprofits by dramatically altering the way they do business.

    Innovations found at this level include handheld devices for data collection, Geographic Information Systems (“GIS”) that help visualize data, mobile phone solutions, or custom software applications. Collaboration across the nonprofit, private and public sectors is common at this level of the pyramid, as that is often what it takes to successfully deliver on transformative IT solutions.

    Applying the Pyramid

    Recognizing that nonprofits have varying levels of technology need and capacity, the pyramid provides a common framework in which to explore their IT vision. Use the pyramid and the questions below as a quick, self-guided discovery process to clarify your organization’s IT vision, map current use of technology to a pyramid level, and explore opportunities to advance IT use.

    Here are some questions for you to think about when viewing the pyramid:

    1. If technology was working well for your organization, what would that look like at each level of the pyramid? What is your technology vision at each level?
    2. Where is your organization’s use of IT in the pyramid today?
    3. What small steps can you take to help move your organization closer to its ideal use of IT?

    Adopt & Innovate!

    The Nonprofit IT Pyramid can be a simple but effective way to start exploring how IT can help you effect social change. It’s just the beginning, however. Visit www.microsoft.com/nonprofit to learn more about Microsoft resources to help you get started on your strategy for IT adoption and innovation.

    The entire paper on Demystifying IT Adoption and Innovation in the Nonprofit Sector, is available for download here.

    There is a four-part series taking a closer look at the Nonprofit IT Pyramid: Part One, Access to Stable & Secure IT, is available here. Part Two, Access to Stable & Secure IT, is available here.

  • Congratulations to the Non Profit Times Top 50

    The Non Profit Times just announced its NPT Power and Influence Top 50 leaders (PDF) in the nonprofit community. This year’s selection was weighted toward the technology, social entrepreneurs and public service agenda. Paul Clolery in his write up announcing the selection reports that leveraging technology pushes agendas, inclusion and action.

    At Microsoft we believe in the power of technology to bring about positive change to communities and have supported the effective use of technology to non-profits for over two decades. Critical to this commitment is the belief that IT is a strategic investment, not just an operating cost. Yet many nonprofits struggle to view technology as a strategic investment, or to measure the return on that investment. Purposeful IT planning, grounded in an organization’s mission and goals, is crucial to ensuring that a nonprofit can adopt the most appropriate IT solutions and realize the greatest social return on its IT investments.

    We are very proud that many of our partners and colleagues have been recognized this year in the Top 50 list for their work in technology and social entrepreneurship. We congratulate them for this recognition including our Chairman Bill Gates for once again being an honoree. We thank all of the honorees for the great work they do bringing about positive change in communities in the U.S. and around the world. We’re proud to have great partnerships with you.

    For more information on the winners you can download a PDF of the list.

  • A Closer Look at the Nonprofit IT Pyramid: A Framework Love Story in 4 Parts

    Last week in our post, Demystifying Nonprofit IT Adoption and Innovation, we introduced you to the Nonprofit IT Pyramid. We love pyramids; particularly this one (I’m not kidding). Not only does it help us understand how nonprofits approach technology, but it also helps us focus our resources and programming to best meet the needs of nonprofits. The Nonprofit IT Pyramid just makes sense to us; we can only hope that you will come to find this pyramid as useful a framework as we do.

    To this end, we want to give you a closer look at the pyramid by sharing an example of a nonprofit using IT at each level. In this post, we’ll focus on Access to Stable & Secure IT, but in future posts, we’ll take on Optimize Service Delivery, Transform, and – finally – a case study of one nonprofit’s journey up the pyramid. By the time we’re done, we hope you’ll be bona fide pyramid lovers like us!

    Access to Stable & Secure Technologies

    As we shared last week, the foundation of the Nonprofit IT Pyramid is all about access to stable and secure technologies. Organizations need stable and secure IT to accomplish day-to-day tasks: functional hardware, tech support, e-mail, Internet access, and productivity software, for starters. This level also includes the need for policies and procedures to promote proper IT use and ensure that your data – some of your nonprofit’s most valuable assets – are safe and secure. ‘Round here, we collectively refer to technologies in the foundation as “infrastructure.” (Then again, we’re kind of geeky.)

    Next time you are considering a new IT project, ask yourself: “Do we have a stable and secure IT foundation?” If not, it may be worth focusing on this level first, which is exactly what the Freestore Foodbank did.

    The Freestore Foodbank stabilizes its IT platform to boost productivity

    The Freestore Foodbank is the third largest food bank in Ohio and the largest emergency social services outlet for the greater Cincinnati area. We were first introduced to them when they participated in (and were a winner of!) our Show Your Impact contest with our partner, TechSoup Global. The food bank provides food resources for 450 agencies in 20 counties, serving 160,000 individuals a year. In 2008, they delivered 85,090 meals at 12 different sites through their Kids Café program. Freestore’s vision is to be the leader of a community mobilized to end hunger and address its root causes.

    With scale and ambition like this, it’s plain to see why stable and secure technology is critical to Freestore’s operation. But the agency’s technology was in such disarray that the staff was having a hard time accomplishing simple day-to-day tasks, much less expanding their services or realizing the vision. In their words, “The servers were old, the software was ancient, and no one had the same version of software. It was difficult to share files between sites let alone between computers, as well as send things out to donors, board members, or anyone asking for information.”

    Freestore’s leadership knew they had to get the foundation of the organization’s IT pyramid in better shape so they could give staff the tools they needed. When IT is not working well, not only does staff productivity suffer, but so too will staff morale. The food bank invested in infrastructure: they standardized software across the agency, upgraded servers and hardware to reduce downtime, started central file back-up, and created a disaster recovery plan. As they said, “[It was] a monumental task given our small budget [and] limited resources, but definitely one that had to happen for the vitality and growth of the organization.”

    As a result of the upgrades, the staff is more productive, client files are shared more efficiently, and Freestore can more confidently start planning IT projects at the next level of the pyramid. The stable and secure technology foundation has Freestore Foodbank well-positioned for ongoing IT success.

    Can’t Get Enough?

    Neither can we! Read more about Freestore’s IT makeover at www.showyourimpact.org/raising-bar. Ready to start your own IT makeover? Bring the Nonprofit IT Pyramid and discussion questions to your next staff meeting to start a discussion about the state of IT at your organization. Or tune in next time to read the next installment of our nonprofit pyramid love affair. Either way, we can’t wait.

    Just want more pyramid, like, NOW? We understand. Read the full paper: http://bit.ly/npitpyramid

    Part Two of this series is available here.


    L
    indsay Bealko has, for the past three years, been helping Microsoft Community Affairs put technology know-how in the hands of NGOs through resources like webinars, NGO Connection Days, and software donations. Having spent several years in the nonprofit sector prior to her work for Microsoft, Lindsay understands the unique challenges and opportunities nonprofits face when trying to adopt technology to help them meet their missions. She tweets (occasionally) at @linzbilks.

!-- WT MT Inline v.2.0 -->

Explore Our Sites

Microsoft Corporate Citizenship

Our mission is to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential.

View Site

Microsoft Local Impact Map

Explore the positive impact of local programs promoted and supported by Microsoft around the world.

View Site

Microsoft On the Issues Blog

News, perspectives and analysis on legal and policy issues.

View Site