September, 2010

  • Toward a New Normal - Vision for Development Leaders

    Last week I was in NY for the Clinton Global Initiative and this week I am in Washington, DC attending the Business Civic Leadership Center Global Corporate Citizenship Conference. There have been many conversations about global development – from the status of the MDGs to the role of capitalism. I want to share my thoughts in an attempt to focus on the positive and the opportunities at hand.

    First of all, with regard to community investment and development programs, one thing is very clear. We will never go back to normal as we have defined it in the past. The current economic and political environments are fundamentally shifting the dynamics of how we determine our future. And we must embrace that change.

    I believe that this is the moment everyone in the development community – businesses, governments, international donors, NGOs and individuals - is called upon to embrace change, chart a new path, and become more relevant to the communities they serve. I believe there are a number of common elements that can lead to positive change.

    1. Be Innovative. You cannot continue doing business the old way. You need to look past the surface symptoms and identify systemic changes that need to be made. You have to look for new cutting edge solutions. Let us learn from social entrepreneurs, who are developing hybrid models to implement fundamental and long-lasting changes. Slow Money is an example of alternative financing mechanism where some organizations are designing new capital markets built not around extraction and consumption but around preservation and restoration of the economy.

    2. Be Relevant. Be a part of solutions that address needs effectively and make sense. Help design and deliver new solutions in a manner relevant to your business, organization mission and community. The Council on Foundations and Business Civic Leadership Center on whose Boards I serve, are leading the way in creating an environment where our collective voices can be heard. TechSoup an organization based in San Francisco that serves the nonprofit community is engaging in this dialogue so that technology access is combined with human and organizational capacity support so that nonprofits and libraries are utilizing technology for greater scale and impact.

    3. Be Visible. This is the time to be out and about. You must show that you are engaged and accessible, and that you are involved with people, issues and the community. Get out there and share best-practices with other organizations across sectors. Also, learn to be visible in new ways that weren’t around even a few years ago. Utilize social media tools to involve a much larger audience around solutions. Kiva, for example, is sharing over 50 million dollars through individual contributors to micro-entrepreneurs around the world.

    4. Be Transparent. We all need to be much more transparent in our decision making process. Newer organizations are positioning themselves in unique ways to serve the community and address development issues. We can all learn from each other. Utilize the web much more extensively to share your results and funding priorities. Technology can play a key role in transparency. Seattle Foundation just launched its new website which has garnered much interest around the use of technology to increase transparency.

    5. Be Collaborative. We need to learn to work together and maximize limited resources, but at the same time be a careful that in the effort to drive collaboration and consensus, you do not promote inactivity. Be collaborative, but don’t get stuck in indecision. This is the time to bring people together to solve big problems and work together toward solutions. Cross-sector collaboration is becoming more and more critical in effectively reaching the individuals and organizations that need our help the most. Take Microsoft’s Elevate America as an example where we have worked in close partnership with private, public and community organizations to accelerate the workforce readiness of individuals across the United States. 

    6. Be Focused. It’s easy in this type of economy to become absorbed in reductions and constraints. However, the most important task the development community can perform is to stay focused on end goals and look at ways you can scale the impact most effectively. Teach for America is using the economic downturn to scale up their recruitment efforts to get talented young people to go into the teaching carriers.

    7. Be Risk-takers. We must be ready to take risks, and in some cases embrace failure, all the while remaining careful not to overextend. Build on solid foundations. This is one of the greatest contributions the private sector has to offer. This is the basic difference between philanthropy and venture capitalism – the freedom to take risks. We must seek innovative partnerships with social entrepreneurs and businesses to move into fields that traditional philanthropy cannot reach on its own. Pepsi Refresh is an initiative that was risky but has been very successful.

    8. Be Geeky. Use technology to your advantage. Technology adoption is critical, and it is not just about efficiency, it is also about changing our approach and discovering innovation. Technology can play a key role in helping you reinvent yourselves for the next “normal.” It is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of technology solutions that are out there. But there are many great examples of organizations that are using technology very effectively. Year Up is a program that brings at-risk youth into the IT and IT-services industry under direct partnership with employers.

    9. Be [the] Change. This economic downturn is hopefully nearing an end, but it will undoubtedly unleash lasting shifts in our thinking and our approach. Recessions of this magnitude don’t just reduce economic output - they change it in ways that are unpredictable. To be successful, companies, teams, and individuals will need to adapt. I challenge each and every one of us to work on identifying and embracing the changes that are needed to survive and indeed thrive.

    We have arrived at a point where we now have all of the resources needed to provide the basic needs for all humankind. There should be no food shortage, every child could be educated, health care should be available to all and shelter should not be an issue. Yet it is not so. What legacy are we preparing to leave behind? Today, right now, we can all commit to embracing change. All we have to do is to look into ourselves and utilize our education, our smarts and our beliefs to make a difference. Nothing else will do.

    Bonus link:

    Julie Lloyd also blogged about this talk in a post: Moving beyond Partnership for Partnership’s sake.

  • CGI: Accelerating 21st Century Education in Kenya

    Last year at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, the Government of Kenya and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a collaborative project focused on improving education in up to 60 primary and secondary schools in Kenya. This was an incredible announcement for a number of reasons, including the fact that students and teachers in that region would now finally have access to relevant and engaging education technology and content. The last year has shown progress towards this commitment on a number of fronts, and we are nearing the beginning of implementation.

    On a personal level, I’ve been excited about this project because of my life-long connection to Kenya. I lived there for six years growing up and experienced the country’s challenges with education firsthand. It’s a country with a deep and rich culture, full of amazing people who have a thirst for learning. But the resource limitations in the country are vast; many schools have more basic needs than technology – clean water, sanitation, basic supplies and well-trained teachers.

    Despite this, an increasing number of schools are ready to start integrating technology into their curricula and pedagogy, and in those schools we see the opportunity of this commitment. The technology and skills training that come with this commitment gives teachers the training they need to appropriately use technology in the classroom and provides hope for kids who want to learn but didn’t previously have the best means to do so.

    Through this project, up to 60 Kenyan schools will receive:

    • Computers for student and teacher use
    • Training for approximately 7,000 teachers to effectively integrate technology in the classroom
    • Training of technical support staff at each school
    • Access to digital educational content

    In addition, Microsoft and Intel will open a School Technology Innovation Center at the Kenya Institute of Technology in Nairobi, the main teacher training center for the Ministry of Education. At the Center, teachers from across Kenya will learn how to effectively use technology in their classrooms, and the Ministry will conduct research on innovative emerging technology solutions. The Center will serve as a repository and showcase for best-known methods of teaching, learning and educational technology in the region.


    President Mwai Kibaki visits the School Technology Innovation Center to kick off the construction project in March 30, 2010.

    Over the course of the next three years, the project is expected to directly benefit an estimated 39,000 students and 7,000 teachers through improved educational infrastructure and training.

    In my role I get the opportunity to meet teachers and school leaders from around the world. One thing I’ve learned is that teachers and students have the same needs and questions when it comes to education, despite geographic and cultural differences. ICT gives teachers and school leaders the ability to connect with one another to share successes, address challenges and help each other. In my opinion, ICT is one of the tools that can equalize students across social and economic and geographic boundaries. That’s why I’m excited to have so many teachers in Kenya connected with their peers in the country, and around the world.

    The synergies from sharing and collaborating are unmatched and thanks to technology, are free from the bounds of things like oceans and time zones. I encourage parents of students, teachers and all kinds of educators to connect with one another anytime they can. Tools like the Partners in Learning Network (LINK to previous UP blog post) for example is a great resource for connecting and sharing lesson plans, educational content and helpful tips from teachers and schools all over the world.

    There are a lot of great opportunities and positive changes being made in education right now. To get more information on this project, how to get involved and ways you can contribute, keep an eye on this blog and the Partners in Learning Network.

    James Bernard is Worldwide Director for Partners in Learning at Microsoft

  • CGI: Teachers are the key to providing children with quality education

    In 2008, we announced a commitment at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to train 10 million teachers by 2015. We undertook this goal, because we believe that every child has the right to a quality education. Throughout the course of a child’s education, there is perhaps no more important influence than the teachers that guide, nurture, and inspire learning.

    Strong teacher education programs are one of the key ways that we can help ensure that all children have access to great teachers.  Through the Microsoft Partners in Learning Program, we have invested in 115 countries since 2003 to support quality teacher education, the use of technology in learning, and ongoing professional development as part of our commitment to education.

    A quick overview of the Partner in Learning program

    To date we have reached almost 8 million teachers, and we are continuing to invest in more teacher outreach and training to ensure we reach the goal we set as part of the CGI commitment.

    By working with teachers around the world through the Partners in Learning program, we’ve also learned that we need to do more to support the school environments in which teachers work. School leaders need training and ongoing professional development to support transformative change. One teacher can make great things happen in a classroom, but several teachers with supportive, strong leadership can make a whole school great.  And a great school has positive implications for a whole community.

    Our Partners in Learning Innovative Schools Program helps school leaders lead positive change within their school communities by providing the tools and resources they need to successfully envision and implement educational transformation.  The Innovative Schools program helps schools leaders inspire thought leadership, discover best practices, and create models that any school, any system can use in the future to prepare children for success in the 21st century.

    The program is built on findings from 12 pioneering Innovative Schools that have each taken a unique approach to assessing, improving, and evaluating their learning environments to successfully move beyond the limits of the classroom and traditional learning models. With mentor, pathfinder and breadth schools, there are now more than 2,500 schools in this program. 

    The sharing that happens within and across the communities of Innovative Teachers and Schools is simply amazing and inspiring.  These educators from around the world are committed to improving their teaching and their schools; to sharing experiences and learning from others; and to helping students develop a strong foundation for a college or career.

    In a few weeks, we will expand the program to include more than 70 new schools and growing the program to 23 more countries.  These new schools join the community of Innovative Schools and Innovative Teachers  that is today playing a crucial role in securing a quality education for every child.

    Learn more about Innovative Schools in action by looking at videos on Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Web site.

    Lauren Woodman, General Manager Government and Education Engagement Programs

  • CGI: Guest Post - Helping Girls in Kenya to Give Back

    Linda Lockhart, Managing Director, Global Give Back Circle

    Imagine you are a disadvantaged girl in Kenya, categorized as coming from the bottom of the economic pyramid. Imagine you grew up sleeping in a hut made from mud and dung, and next to you, in another hut your grandparents kept a cow, some chickens and maybe a goat. Imagine that you lost both parents, within a 12-month period, when you were just five. Nobody talked about how or why they passed away, but everyone knew it was because of HIV/AIDS – because this is how HIV/AIDS was attacking the parents of other children in your rural community – it was attacking them quickly and without discrimination. You were not aware of it at the time, but YOU were among the first generation of AIDS orphans.

    Primary school in Kenya was free back then, but you still had to walk an hour each way to the closest school, and you walked barefoot. Imagine that a charity organization sponsored you through high school. Your village chief recommended you, because you were a bright girl. For the first time in your life you traveled out of your district and into the Nairobi area and you boarded in a safe and nurturing environment for four years. You received a uniform and a pair of sturdy black shoes that reminded you that you were functioning, and learning. The shoes reminded you every day that you could have dreams – dreams about all of the opportunities that awaited you in your society. But, after high school graduation you had to hand back your black shoes, forfeit your dreams and return to the bottom of the pyramid because you did not have the skills that lead to employment – and because you were a girl.

    When a disadvantaged girl graduates high school, she has already overcome extraordinary odds. Unfortunately, the gap period between high school graduation and university is from 12 – 22 months. So, where does a poor girl go? Just a little more investment in her tertiary education provides the world with an extraordinary return on benevolent human capital investment.

    It’s important that girls do not fall through the cracks after high school graduation. That’s the objective of the Global Give Back Circle (GGBC). It gives her a support system that will enable and empower her to step change her life by ‘completing her educational journey’. It was created in such a way that private sector corporates in Kenya treasure the investment in her tertiary education – since an investment in her is an investment in ‘benevolent human capital development’, because she is connected to a circle of giving back that has embedded a give back ethos into her DNA.

    The GGBC connects mentoring, private sector investment and local community support in a process which guides a disadvantaged girl to complete her educational journey, gain employable skills and become an agent of change herself. The girls are guided to apply to university and leverage higher education loan packages. They are from all parts of Kenya and they are awarded mentors from all over the world. The mentors give back ‘time and talent’, the private sector gives back ‘treasure’ and the girls commit to giving back time, talent and eventually treasure to their communities.

    The vision is that all girls who commit to a circle of ‘giving back’ (270 currently) are able to complete a tertiary education path which will enable them to find employment to step change their destinies – breaking through cultural, economic and political barriers. Gaining IT skills is a critical component of the plan.

    In 2008, Microsoft’s Woman of WECA (Western, Eastern and Central Africa) collaborated with GGBC to implement Microsoft IT Labs in Kenya, with a goal to turn the Gap Period into a ‘Gateway’, as each girl completes a 9-month Microsoft IT course with marketable applications like, Word, Excel, Power Point, Programming, Website Design, Accounting, etc. Today, there are two Microsoft IT Labs with a goal to implement a third.

    The Labs are much more than IT training facilities. The girls actually live in dedicated dormitories just next to the Lab. They form a very special bond during this time period, with each other and with their mentors. Up until the Lab, they communicate with their mentors through letters. Once they enter the world of Internet access, they begin communicating with their mentors in a much more robust manner – weekly/daily.

    They take courses during the day and connect to the world in the evenings. They NEVER want to leave the Lab! They learn about university options, scholarship opportunities and career planning. They research new give back commitments and they learn about the global world they are now a part of. The IT Lab EMPOWERES them in ways we never could have imagined when developing the concept.

    IT Skills are transformational….


    Vivian Onano was raised by her mother and in a rural village in Kisumu, Kenya. She walked an hour to and from primary school each day. Through charity, she graduated high school from Starehe Girls Centre in 2008. Throughout 2009 she lived in the Microsoft IT Lab 24/7. Her experience in Microsoft’s 9-month ICT Course transformed her life. She started communicating with her mentor on a daily basis, and her mentor inspired her to believe that anything is possible.

    Her new IT skills helped her secure an Internship at the Mama Maria Clinic where she computerized data on HIV/AIDS to allow for easy calculation of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in regions. She taught computer skills to the staff and residents of the rural village. She used the Internet to research college scholarships abroad, and through an on-line application process she secured a full scholarship to Carthage College in Wisconsin. Vivian will return to Kenya as a physician.

    Truphena Wambui lost both parents when she was 5 and was taken in by St. Martin’s Girl’s Centre located in Nairobi’s Kibagere slum. She lived there and received an education for 12 years. Truphena was an average student with an above average will to achieve. Truphena’s mentor became Truphena’s light as she guided her to visualize what success looks like and the types of career options that can lead a poor girl into financial and societal independence.

    Truphena always struggled with math, but still dreamed about becoming an accountant. Truphena entered the Microsoft IT Lab in early 2010 and discovered a ‘second brain’. The computer compensated for her mathematical learning challenges and allowed her to make spreadsheets sing! Truphena will begin a course in Financial Accounting at Visions College in Kenya starting January 2011. She will enter the workforce with IT and accounting skills and she ‘will’ find employment!

    We now have over 60 sixty girls who have gone through the IT Course with another 50 due to start in January 2011. Their individual success stories provide tangible evidence that this societal intervention is working and creating a movement of its own.

    To learn more about the Global Give Back Circle visit:

  • CGI Bonus: Video on Accelerating Social Change at the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative

    Watch a video about the Ashoka–Microsoft event in New York this week
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