November, 2010

  • The Truly Global Nature of Washington State

    Is it our location on the fringe of the lower 48, our bustling ports, our proximity to Asia, or our inspiring natural surroundings that give the state of Washington such an orientation toward global development issues? I don’t really know, but there is no denying that something is in motion here.

    Last week, we sponsored the 2nd annual Global Washington conference on our campus here in Redmond, WA. Having supported Global Washington as an organization over the past three years, it has been great to see the organization gain such momentum in a relatively short time. With 450 registered attendees, the conference entitled “Bridges to Breakthroughs” focused on the role of partnerships and innovation in the rapidly-changing global development sector. The amazing level of interest, quality of speakers, and engaging hallway discussions further supported my theory that Washington State has become a nexus of international development second in the US only to the other Washington.

    Speaking of the other Washington, the conference was kicked off by Ambassador-at-Large for Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer, who also recognizes the unique confluence of organizations based on Washington state working on international development issues, many empowering women and girls in both direct and indirect ways. The Ambassador noted a recent visit to one of the Community Technology Centers Microsoft sponsors near Beijing that trains primarily young immigrant women who face unbelievable hurdles after arriving in the city. With new skills, including in the use of basic information technology, the odds of success for these women increase significantly. Noting this as just one example of great work being done by a Washington-based organization, the Ambassador spoke of the refreshing and inspiring atmosphere in the Pacific Northwest and that Washington DC might just have something to learn from this corner of the country.

    The conference also provided space for some of the smaller organizations who often struggle to make the speaking circuit. Through a video competition, organizations based in Washington submitted short videos highlighting the work they do, the partnerships they formed and innovations they have applied. The winners were highlighted during lunch on the first day of the conference, including a set up and pitch by a representative from each organization. But recognition of one special video was held until day two, when Jessica Markowitz and Grace Mutesi presented a video about Richard’s Rwanda. Both just 15 years old, these young women are simply amazing – Jessica, as the President of the organization, has more poise, presence and depth than most people three times her age. Grace, who was born as the genocide was just beginning, studies at Myamata High School in Rwanda and spoke of her dream to set an example for other young women and study medicine so that she can give back to her community.

    Throughout the conference there were many examples of innovation originating from our state, from health care to mobile banking. Concurrent panels on technology solutions, commercial strategies for development, women and girls, and environment were compelling in content and highly interactive. And all indications from social media and traditional press have been largely positive. At Microsoft we are proud to be a part of this community and to offer our resources as a meeting and collaboration space because we believe that only by working together can we solve some of the biggest problems faced by the world.

  • Helping NGOs Crowd-Source Solutions from Students

    The Imagine Cup is Microsoft’s annual student technology competition that asks students from around the world to combine their creativity and passion for technology to help solve the toughest problems.  Personally, it’s one of my favorite events that Microsoft puts on for students. Every year I am blown away by the quality and sophistication of the students’ projects and the inspiration the competition evokes to improve lives around the world.

     

    The Imagine Cup 2011 competition is already in full swing. Students are beginning to assemble their teams and thinking about their projects and the problems they want to solve. 

     

    This year we are launching a new program called Imagine Cup Solve This” to provide additional inspiration for students looking for project ideas. “Imagine Cup Solve This” takes the concept of solving the world’s toughest problems a step further by connecting students with specific, real problems that inter-governmental organizations (IGOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) need help solving. Students can access a library of problems submitted by the organizations on imaginecup.com to find issues that matter most to them and then put their ideas into action as they create technology solutions in several different categories of competition.

     

    For example, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is looking for technology solutions to promote and assist organizations and educators that foster early reading and literacy among young children, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) wants a knowledge management system, or “online campus,” with virtual classrooms that allows teachers to interact, collaborate and share information with their students. NetHope is also participating, and we plan to extend this program over time to include submissions from all IGOs and NGOs from around the world that are interested in participating.

     

    The Imagine Cup started in 2003 with only 1,000 competitors from 25 countries. In the first few years, interest grew modestly. As the competition developed, we decided a great source of inspiration would be to focus on solving societal issues. Leveraging the United Nations Millennial Development Goals as a guide, registration soared.

     

    In 2010, more than 325,000 students from 100 countries and regions entered the competition. It became evident to us that students care deeply about major issues such as improving education, combating diseases, and ensuring environmental sustainability, and want to do their part to save the world.

     

     

    Students can register their team today at www.imaginecup.com.

    What a better way to connect real-world problems with real-world problem-solvers. We see “Imagine Cup Solve This” as just the beginning of a new approach to how NGOs and other organizations can tap into students’ creativity and technology savvy.

  • Recognizing Those Making a Difference in the Daily Lives of Others

    I have seen and met some truly inspiring individuals in my life as part of various jobs I have held throughout my career however the last two weeks were very special. Last week I had the privilege to meet some amazing individuals who are veterans and whose sacrifices have allowed us to live our lives in freedom. This week it was all about change-makers, individuals and organizations who take it upon themselves to bring about lasting and systemic changes around the world and help those that are in need. 

     

    The week started with the Global Washington Conference (more on that in a later post) which we at Microsoft were privileged to host. We heard from amazing individuals and organizations including two very young people that are making a difference by their sheer will and tenacity. But Monday started with an inspiring conversation with Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the State Department. Ambassador Verveer has devoted most of her life in pursuit of women’s empowerment and giving a voice to women, especially those that are the most in need, through her organization Vital Voices.  On Wednesday and Thursday I was privileged to spend time with one of my personal heroes, Bill Drayton, who is the father of the ‘social entrepreneur’ movement and coined the term change-makers. 

     

    Last night was truly special. I attended the second Microsoft Alumni Foundation celebration in downtown Seattle (I had missed the opening gala last year). The theme of the celebration was “We Changed the World Once, Together we can Change it Again.” Over 450 alumni, friends and guests gathered to celebrate the achievements of their former colleagues that are continuing to make change, not as business leaders but by helping those most in need. This year five individuals were honored as finalists for making an impact on the lives of the poor and those most in need through their commitment, ingenuity and sheer will. 

     

    Bill and Melinda Gates spoke about their work, what inspires them to make change, and why they are optimists, but impatient optimist. They shared their mutual commitment to healthcare and reducing child mortality through vaccines and showed that since the 60s child mortality rates have fallen to half what they were in the 60s so investments in immunizations and vaccines do save lives and improve the wellbeing of the underserved. Melinda also spoke about maternal health and why investing in the mothers health was critical to the future health of the child and the entire family. 

     

    The highlight of the evening was being introduced to the five finalists for the Integral Fellows, an award that recognizes and supports a Microsoft alumnus who has made a meaningful difference in the daily lives of others by using his or her talents, time and resources to contribute to the world. The judges for this year’s awards were Tom Brokaw (NBC News), Bill Drayton (Ashoka), Judith Rodin (Rockefeller Foundation), Pierre Omidyar (eBay), Thomas Tierney (Bridgespan Group) and Bill Gates, Sr. (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). The finalists were introduced by last year’s winner Trish Millines Dziko – founder, Technology Access Foundation. The finalists were Peter Bladin of the Grameeen Foundation and Grameen Technology Center for his work around technology and microfinance; Richard Gold, founder of Pongo Publishing, Inc. who focuses on incarcerated kids and using writing and poetry to build their self-esteem; Gary Malkasian, founder and president of the Foster Care Justice Alliance for his work on defending the right of foster kids and preventing deaths in the foster care system;  Cliff Schmidt, founder of Literacy Bridge for his talking book that provides rural communities with vital knowledge they need to improve their lives; and Frank Schott of NetHope for his work with the largest humanitarian organizations to deploy appropriate IT solutions to support the work that they carry out every day in the developing world.

     

    The three 2010 Integral Fellows winners are Richard Gold, Cliff Schmidt and Frank Schott. Videos of their work can be found here.

    At Microsoft we continue to be amazed by our employees and our alumni as they go out and give their time, talent and treasure to be change-makers and use their entrepreneurial and innovator spirit and bring that to bear on some of the most challenges problems in the world.

  • Supporting the Work of our UN Partners – A Decade of Impact and Counting

    Posted by Linda Zecher, Corporate Vice President Worldwide Public Sector, Microsoft

     

    Last night in New York, the United Nations Foundation  honored Microsoft with the inaugural Corporate Award for leadership in advancing UN causes.  I had the distinct honor of accepting this award on behalf of Microsoft and our 88,000 employees worldwide. Pictured Left: Linda Zecher, Corporate Vice President Worldwide Public Sector Microsoft, speaks to audience at the UN Foundation Awards ceremony where Microsoft was recognized for their leadership work to achieve the MDG’s.

     

    For more than a decade we have had the privilege of working with our UN partners and supporting their tireless efforts to realize the Millennium Development Goals.  As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said, “Our world possesses the knowledge and the resources to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”

     

    We believe passionately that technology can be a catalyst for harnessing that knowledge and those resources. It can be an essential tool in meeting our toughest global challenges and helping all people realize their full potential.

     

    But, we have long understood that technology alone is not the answer. It takes more than just access to a computer to educate a child, help a rural farmer prosper, or help a girl escape violence.  It requires a holistic approach of shared expertise and resources of all stakeholders in the public and private sectors.  

     

    That principle that has been the basis for our partnerships with UN organizations - starting with UNHCR in 1998 and continuing with UNESCO, UNIDO, UNEP and many others.  Together we have explored and developed new and scalable ways to use technology to support teachers and students, to expand online access to the world’s best research and knowledge, to help small businesses to grow and to help bring vital support and education to refugees.

    UN organizations have helped bring about real progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals, but we have a long way to go. As Bill Gates has said, “The world is getting better, but it's not getting better fast enough, and it's not getting better for everyone.” 

     

    We look forward to continuing and expanding our work and impact with our UN partners. Most of all, we look forward to the day that the Millennium Development Goals will no longer be “goals”… but  reality.

     For more information please download the MDG White Paper or visit the Microsoft Citizenship Homepage

  • Grants Awarded to Four Puget Sound Organizations at Opening of Microsoft Bellevue Retail Store

    Posted by: Jane Broom

    Today, Microsoft opened our seventh Microsoft Store, right here in our backyard in Bellevue, Washington. As with each of our previous store openings, we awarded grants to local community organizations as part of the Grand Opening. At a ribbon cutting ceremony this morning, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and COO Kevin Turner presented more than $1 million in technology grants to local Puget Sound organizations to help improve skills and education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for local students. The grants were based on how members of the local community voted on the Microsoft Store Facebook page. The grants include:

    Steve Ballmer and Kevin Turner present a grant to FIRST Robotics Washington, one of four local organizations receiving more than $1 million in technology grants at the ribbon cutting ceremony to open Microsoft’s seventh retail store in Bellevue, WA.

    • A $500,000 software grant to the King County Library System for Study Zone, an afterschool program providing online access to tutors in math, science, English and social studies for students grades K-12.  The grant will be used to upgrade all of their Computer Study Rooms. Approximately 3200 students are served each year.
    • A $500,000 grant to FIRST Robotics Washington to further the organization’s goal of providing STEM education experiences that inspire students to fully engage in their science and math learning by participating on competitive robotics teams.
    • A $200,000 software grant to Cleveland High School build out the school’s STEM focused programs via a 1:1 laptop program in two academies: Life Sciences / Global Health and Engineering and Design. Microsoft’s donation will support the laptop program, and the school’s infrastructure will be upgraded to support knowledge sharing, collaboration, communication and online learning.
    • A $200,000 software grant to Bellevue School District for Sammamish High School to assist in its efforts to create a new STEM program to prepare students for 21st century learning, as well as Stephenson Elementary School to upgrade its computer labs.

    These grants are not only part of our ongoing commitment to our home state of Washington and to improving STEM educational opportunities, but also our focus on extending Microsoft’s broad-based community commitment through our retail stores. We do this both through support of local organizations and through in-store events and activities for the community. In each of our stores, we offer free technology training courses and open our store up to local organizations like youth groups, schools, adult education and non-profits so that they can use our theater space – whether it’s for a training or a holiday morale event.

    Our employees are very passionate about getting involved in local charitable efforts and each of our stores has a Community Development Specialist dedicated to working with local organizations to arrange in-store events and activities. To schedule a class or community event by contacting the store nearest you, go to: http://store.microsoft.com/community.

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