Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
By: Lauren Woodman, Microsoft General Manager, Partners in Learning
While you still have a few months to send your mom flowers for Mother’s Day, today we take time to appreciate our Mother tongue. As designated by UNESCO, International Mother Language Day reminds us of the need to preserve and respect the deep history and culture associated with the many languages spoken around our world. And rightly so. There are roughly 6,000 languages spoken globally, and half of those are projected to be in danger of being lost forever over the next century.
At Microsoft, we support the preservation of this element of culture through our Local Language Program (LLP), and in honor of today, International Mother Language Day, announce support for several new languages in Windows 7 and Office 2010. Dari (Afghanistan), Mongolian (Cyrillic - Mongolia), Turkmen (Turkmenistan) and Valencian (Spain) are now available with Windows 7 and for Office 2010, we added support for those same languages plus Maltese (Malta). With these additions, Microsoft Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010 are now available in nearly 96 languages, 60 of which are through the Local Language Program.
This program not only helps us to preserve local languages and cultures, but also helps in finding new ways to create economic opportunities and build IT skills. Through the LLP, we strive to help ensure that the identity of communities continues to thrive worldwide. As a matter of fact, nearly 1.7 billion people speak the languages that are supported by our most recently released products in the Local Language Program. We also work with Visual Studio to provide technology access in a variety of languages, including new support this year to speakers of Czech, Polish, Turkish, Brazilian Portuguese, Greek, Hungarian, Malay and Thai.
While in many parts of the world, technology has transformed the way people and businesses share and use information, improved the way children and adults learn, and helped governments address social and economic issues in ways never before imagined, people must first have access to the technology and the skills to use it. Through joint efforts by Microsoft Unlimited Potential, governments, universities, local language experts and NGOs, we’re working to reach all those currently underserved.
For a look at the real-life benefits of this tool, check out how Jan Martinovic, Associate Professor, VSB Tech University of Ostrava is using it to help his students learn programming. He shares that the “first programming language that our students learn is C/C++. When they start their study they have to not only learn this programming language or programming in general, but also how to use specific development tools and in the most cases they have to also learn English. Students study English during their education and eventually they get used to materials or tools in English. Usually English is not a problem for them after several semesters. But at the very beginning this can be a difficult situation for them and some of them even won’t make it because of their poor English. Using Visual Studio 2010 with native language pack can be crucial for such students. They can focus on programming and not on English using this language pack.” A video case study including his experience with the LLP support for the Czech language is here.
For more stories about the impact of the Local Language Program, visit the Worldwide Public Sector Virtual Press Kit.
Join me today in appreciation of the many cultures that make up our world and the ways we can help them thrive.
Back in September we launched the Elevate America community initiative, a new grant program to support nonprofit organizations offering employment services, including technology skills training and job placement, in local communities across the United States. We had an incredible response with over 300 nonprofits applying for grants through our request for proposal process.
This is the latest extension of Elevate America, which was launched in February 2009 to provide people across the United States with no cost and low cost access to the technology skills they need to find employment. Since the program’s launch we have worked with 32 states and the District of Columbia to distribute nearly 900,000 no cost Microsoft training and certification vouchers. Last year we announced the Elevate America Veterans initiative, which focuses on working with nonprofits to address the specific challenges facing U.S. veterans and their spouses in their transition from military to civilian employment.
Bonnie, Wayne, Janice, Jesse and Jim have all benefitted from training through Elevate America you can find out more at the Elevate America website.
It’s clear that the demand for the technology skills people need to prepare for employment is as high as ever. Since 2003, we have worked with nonprofit organizations through our Unlimited Potential initiative to support technology skills training in underserved communities across the United States. These programs have reached more than 27 million people to date and we know the core success factor is partnership. Addressing the issues of skills is about working with organizations with a presence and knowledge of the local community.
Our approach to the selection of Elevate America community initiative grant recipients was to find partners with a strong track record in the provision of training services, who bring fresh thinking to how we address the issue of helping people get into the workforce. We want to support local community models that can be successfully replicated elsewhere and specifically address the needs of women and young workers (ages 18-25) who have greater barriers to employment, as well as the broader population.
We received over 300 applications from outstanding organizations across the country. In order to review the large number of proposals we commissioned a team of 13 workforce experts to participate in the evaluation process. After several iterations of review and discussion our team selected 27 finalists to participate in phone interviews. Following this we were able to identify 12 organizations to receive over $5 million in Elevate America community initiative funding over the next two years.
Reviewing the proposals provided a valuable insight into the incredible work underway in communities across the country. Trying to settle on a shortlist was incredibly difficult, but we’re satisfied that we have identified twelve organizations who will deliver high-impact programs:
In addition to providing these organizations with $5 million in cash over the next two years, we are also committing up to $10 million in software to all of the organizations that applied to the Elevate America community initiative grant process, to both recognize and support the important work they are doing to help people in their local communities.
We are looking forward to working closely with these organizations over the next two years as we continue to focus on giving people the skills they need to find employment.
Online training resources
You can find more information about Elevate America and the no cost and low cost training and education resources we offer to help people develop better technology skills for the jobs of the 21st century workforce please visit: http://www.microsoft.com/elevateamerica
Guest Post by TechSoup Global Co-CEO Rebecca Masisak
Group photo from the 2009 TechSoup Partner Summit
Tomorrow, TechSoup Global will convene its partners from around the world on Microsoft’s campus in Silicon Valley. More than 200 people who have contributed to moving TechSoup Global’s mission forward -- foundations, corporations, organizers, and NGOs -- will create new opportunities to leverage this powerful community to create far-reaching change. To date, the impact of our global network has been profound – through the generosity of our corporate donors our efforts have resulted in more than $2 billion in IT savings to the nonprofit sector worldwide. After 24 years serving the sector, TechSoup Global has become a leading social enterprise operating sustainably, at significant scale.
How did we get here? Back in 2005, when our partners at Microsoft, Akhtar Badshah and Jane Meseck, started talking to me about expanding TechSoup Global’s product philanthropy program internationally, it was clear that Microsoft envisioned two things: to build a worldwide donation program that could be used by many technology donors, not just by Microsoft; and to build local capacity and relevance.
It wasn’t enough, we agreed, to fly in and donate software and fly out again. We had to build locally relevant, locally sustainable resources. NGOs and libraries needed to learn from one another about how to incorporate technology into their work.
This resonated with the conversations we were also having with Cisco. Both of these technology leaders were committed not only to expanding their own product philanthropy but also to supporting a global platform that delivered donations from a broad range of corporate donors.
Microsoft and Cisco's foresight helped us design an expansion strategy that relied on partnering with independent NGOs. These partners would collect an administrative fee for verifying the eligibility of recipients and distributing the donations. This administrative fee would create a critical revenue stream and allow the program to support itself and be reinvested in building localized NGO technology.
Today, our network consists of 35 partner NGOs serving 36 countries, a global reach that would not have been possible without Microsoft’s commitment. Microsoft provided the necessary philanthropic leadership, cash grants and technical support to get us where we are today. When we gather in Silicon Valley this week, the question will not be how do we get technology knowledge and resources in to the field? But, what now? Our topics will range from cloud computing to disaster relief, from assistive technologies to translation. You can follow the conversation to using the hashtag #TSG2011, and twitter handles @msftcitizenship, and @techsoup . Akhtar, Jane and I will all be there, exploring the opportunities for a connected civil society and benefiting from the perspectives and guidance of a group of amazing people working to change the world.
Rebecca Masisak, Co-CEO, TechSoup Global Rebecca Masisak joined TechSoup Global in 2001 to launch and chart the growth of TechSoup Global's technology product donation program and social enterprise. After successfully establishing the program in North America (http://www.techsoup.org/stock), Ms. Masisak developed an international expansion model, which today serves an international NGO audience in 33 countries. Under Ms. Masisak’s leadership, TechSoup Global has distributed nearly 6.3 million software and hardware product donations, and enabled recipients to save more than US$1.8 billion for direct services. As co-CEO, Ms. Masisak has been instrumental in building TechSoup Global’s capacity and reach to support the entire portfolio of TechSoup Global’s programs for bringing products, information, human capacity, and resources to the communities who need them most.
Ms. Masisak speaks about social enterprise and global networks and was awarded the Full Circle Fund’s prestigious Full Impact Award in Technology. She is a member of the Social Enterprise Institute’s San Francisco Forum for Social Enterprise leaders, and she volunteers for the nonprofit organization S.A.G.E. (Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship). Ms. Masisak holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.
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At GSEC: Black Bengal meats team presents sustainable community farming and better nutrition in Bangladesh to judges and visitors
Can business change the world for the better? Yes it can if the student teams participating in this week's Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition (GSEC) are any indication. With a deep commitment to solve a social issue through a sustainable business plan, there seems to be no stopping these individuals.
GSEC, an annual competition hosted by the University of Washington Foster School of Business brings 10-15 student teams from around the world to Seattle. These semi-finalist teams spend a week visiting companies, meeting with mentors, practicing their pitches and competing in a series of events leading up to the final competition. This year the participants hailed from Bangladesh, India, Peru, Ukraine and the United States. From clean toilets and waste processing in Kenya to water transportation and storage in India to sustainable fish farming in Ghana and skilled workforce training in Ethiopia, the range of business ideas is amazing. Check on the full list of semi-finalists.
Microsoft has been a sponsor of GSEC for seven years now and we are proud to see how far this competition has come. From my perspective, one of the best aspects about GSEC is the opportunity for Microsoft employees to participate and support the event. This year we had eight employees serving in various capacities as coaches, presenter, mentors and judges, including Lili Cheng, our GM at Microsoft FUSE (Future Social Experience) labs, who served as a final round judge. Lili also presented the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) award at the GSEC Awards Banquet yesterday evening.
Over the past several years we have increasingly seen the use of ICTs across many of the GSEC semi-finalist teams. In almost every case, technology is leveraged for greater efficiency and effectiveness and in many instances technology is the core component in the business plan. Just think of mobile phones - with access increasing almost exponentially in developing and emerging markets (5 billion subscribers is a recent figure), they come into play in everything from marketing, to data collection to telemedicine. And social entrepreneurs like those with us in Seattle this week are using ICTs in innovative ways that were unimaginable just 5 or 10 years ago. Recognizing the growing use of ICTs in the GSEC business plans, we decided this year to sponsor a new award for innovative use of ICT, which comes with a $10,000 prize.
The ICT award this year went to Next Drop - an innovative approach to alerting consumers to the availability of water in their neighborhood via cell phones. By adding a cell-phone based reporting system among the utility workers tasked who open water main valves, Next Drop can now send advance alters to customers that water will be available in the next 30-60 minutes. The time saved by freeing up consumers to go about other activities (including attending school for children!) rather than waiting at home in the hope that water will be turned on is a major improvement in the daily lives of these individuals.
The finalist teams are off at a breakfast with potential investors this morning and having met these amazing teams I can almost guarantee they will be walking away with interested investors and invaluable connections. It was again a please to participate in GSEC this year and we look forward to next year.
"Wello - changing lives through a simple solution to a persistent problem, transporting and storing water"
For more pictures and footage, you can check out GSEC's Facebook
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I am here on day one of the TechSoup Global Contributors' Summit, and had the opportunity to hear Annie Leonard, the director of The Story of Stuff Project, talk to a full room of more than 200 social change makers from more than 40 countries.
A dynamic and downright funny speaker, Leonard talked about her organization's short film, The Story of Stuff; and in the process, told the story of her own experience in the nonprofit sector and how she's gravitated to what she calls a network-centric model.
Annie has been organizing on environmental health and justice issues for nearly 20 years, sharing her message about the dangers of overconsumption. "People are consuming stuff at an alarming pace," she said. But in the past few years, two important technology shifts helped Annie to not only take her message to a broader audience than previously possible, but show them viable alternatives to individual consumption. Technology is making it possible to share interesting information more easily and effectively. Annie cited ZipCar as an example of what she called "collaborative consumption", which allows us to share resources we want access to but don't necessarily need to own, like a car. Combined with the amplifying power of social networking tools, Annie capitalized on the opportunity to empower her network of supporters to spread the message of The Story of Stuff with a reach she simply could not achieve before the days of Twitter and Facebook.
The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute film that summarizes the production, distribution, and disposal of consumer products, offering a simple, easy-to-understand warning of the environmental and social pitfalls of overconsumption. The Story of Stuff Project is a five-person nonprofit that organizes some 250,000 activists and partners with hundreds of like-minded environmental organizations. According to Leonard, the key to the film's success was that the organization behind it didn't impose its identity over every aspect of its production and distribution. She said that on the day the film launched, hundreds of organizations embedded the video on their homepages, leading to more hits on the first day of posting than they'd predicted for the whole project. Since these organizations had been treated as equal collaborators on the film, they took ownership over the final product. In Leonard's words, the film is a network-held resource: "The network is the hero, not me."
Leonard talked about her history in the nonprofit sector, working with organizations that were more too focused on controlling the identity and branding of their projects. "When you work in that kind of environment," she said, "you start to think other people's contributions are less valuable than your own." Necessarily, a network-centric model means relinquishing some control over your organization's programs. But according to Leonard, the benefits far outweigh the costs. "If you like everyone in your network, then your network isn't big enough."
All day, I have been thinking about Annie's concept of collaborative consumption. "We are getting to a point where we don't own our stuff, but our stuff owns us," Annie warned. It intrigues me that her belief in decentralized ownership so closely mirrors her approach to running a nonprofit. What are we - as individuals and organizational leaders - capable of achieving when we try to control less, share more, and tap the collective power of our networks? That is what we will continue to discuss over the next two days at the TechSoup Global Contributors' Summit, and I look forward to the other great ideas that will emerge.
Want to hear more? Watch my full conversation with Annie:
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