Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
Guest post By Elliot Harmon, staff writer for TechSoup
Elliot Harmon is a staff writer at TechSoup Global. He once traveled the US for three months on a greyhound bus. He tweets from @elliotharmon.
Since the TechSoup Global Contributors’ Summit was conceived as a chance for various networks that promote social change to connect and cross-pollinate, it’s not surprising that the power of networks has been a major theme.
Yesterday, Microsoft Community Affairs senior director Akhtar Badshah (pictured left) wrote about how Annie Leonard worked with a widespread, decentralized network of environmental organizations to produce and distribute the film The Story of Stuff, and how that same network continues to organize and collaborate online to promote environmental awareness around the world. Annie’s line, “If you like everyone in your network, then your network isn’t big enough,” was quoted in other sessions throughout the day and retweeted dozens of times on Twitter.
Later that day, I had the opportunity to sit in on a discussion between Akhtar and Diana Scearce, director of the Monitor Institute. The Monitor Institute works with social entrepreneurs around the world, supporting and incubating innovations to solve social and environmental problems around the world.
Diana had a lot to say about networks. Echoing Annie’s thoughts on decentralized communities, Diana made an interesting distinction between a network and a coalition. According to Diana, members of a network share similar guiding principles, but might have significantly different strategies. A coalition, on the other hand, is a smaller group with more closely aligned tactics.
Both networks and coalitions are ultimately necessary, but a network’s strength comes in its diversity of approaches. When Akhtar asked her what role technology plays in networks, Diana said that it allows people to collaborate with a much wider group of people.
Is more online connectivity weakening real-life connections? “That’s actually a little of a red herring,” according to Diana. “This is the world we live in. Technology isn’t going away.”
Guest post by Melissa Pailthorp, Senior Manager Community Affairs, Central and Eastern Europe
Tvoy Kurs (“Your Course”) celebrated its first year in Moscow last week, convening project coordinators from the 140+ centers in 82 cities across all of Russia’s 20 regions to discuss progress and share learning. Above are just three recent examples of the numerous success stories coming from this project. Tvoy Kurs coordinators, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, have worked to provide over 73,000 Russians workshops and eSkills training this past year, including 55,000 who mastered the Digitial Literacy course. And the impact is impressive. Out of 5,430 participants surveyed last summer, 26% report that they were employed or kept existing jobs, 43% improved work performance, 6% got better working conditions, and 6% started their own business and are getting extra income. More project details can be explored here.
Tvoy Kurs represents Microsoft’s commitment to work together with NGO partner PH International to help Russia accomplish national goals in digital skills and inclusion. Given Russia’s scope and size, our goal is ambitious: to provide employability-related eSkills to 1 million people over three years.
But even more impressive than the scope and scale of this program is the commitment behind it – from individual coordinators, employment offices and local communities to top federal leadership, in both public and private spheres. Most working on this project do so as volunteers, contributing time and energy to ensure that anyone across Russia’s vast territory can get the skills they need to succeed. In other words, this program is bringing IT skills and employability assistance across an incredibly broad scope through massive community engagement.
Also unique is the commitment of our own Microsoft Russia employees to this effort. Read on for words from Ekaterina Fedotova, Tvoy Kurs project director, managing on behalf Microsoft NGO grantee, PH International, about their passion and contribution to the effort.
Since the very beginning of the project Microsoft employees demonstrated big interest to this citizenship initiative of the company and were involved in promoting the program and developing contacts with potential partners. Very soon the interest transformed into real passion and commitment to support Tvoy Kurs program development in their home cities all over Russia.
Today Microsoft employees located both in Moscow and in regional offices are effective advocates and supporters of Tvoy Kurs. They analyze societal environment, establish contacts with education institutions, NGOs, local administrations, disseminate information on the initiative among wide audiences, identify potential centers, facilitate partnerships with local organizations, coordinate and participate in public events.
This has been a great support for PHI's efforts to recruit new centers and manage the program in various, often very remote, Russian regions. Involvement of Microsoft employees as local experts and program advocates in the regions as well as coordinated and combined efforts of Microsoft nd PH make the whole program stronger, more efficient and trustworthy. Have you seen such involvement anywhere else? We think it's quite unique and we are very proud of it.
In 2011, the Your Course: Digital Literacy Program is planning to work with 120 organizations and assist over 60, 000 Russians in mastering computer skills to help them increase their employment opportunities, stay in the workforce, use e-government services and all the possibilities that ICTs present. Coordinators will be assisted in their work through webinars, sharing training materials, expert consultations, developing a special program toolkit and constant support from PH staff. YCDL will also be a part of Russian and international events, such as Child Safety Online Week and European Get Online Week 2011.
Onward with OUR COURSE!
The second year of Tvoy Kurs is off to a great start. We look forward to celebrating further success in 2011 through this dynamic community effort!
Yaroslavl “Tvoy Kurs Helped Me Find a Job”
Leokadia Kisel, a former educator from Yaroslavl, wanted to continue working after her retirement and was excited to be offered a position in accounting with a local housing cooperative. However, she soon discovered that the job called for advanced computer skills, given all the calculations and paperwork involved. After reading about “Tvoy Kurs” in a local newspaper, Mrs. Kisel completed the training course and secured the job.
Chelyabinsk “Keeping a Job Thanks to YCDL Certificate”
Irina Snegiryova from Chelyabinsk works as a secretary with a federal institution. She took part in the promotional campaign organized by Tvoy Kurs and successfully passed the Digital Literacy Certificate Test, receiving the YCDL certificate. This confirmation of her digital proficiency enabled Irina to keep her employment and gave her a welcome sense of job security.
Kirov “Onwards and Upwards with Computer Skills”
Thanks to her Digital Literacy training, Kseniya Kotukhova, a third year philology student of Kirov State University, upgraded her word processing and image editing skills and, consequently, was offered a training position at a local magazine with a possible extension of this training experience into a more permanent working arrangement.
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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:
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.
Back in 2008, When Bill Lalor stepped through the doors of YWCA of Seattle, King, and Snohomish County to take on the role of IT Director, he quickly saw the amazing work being done to help women of all ages, races, and faiths to improve their lives and the lives of their families.
The YWCA's mission is to advance the quality of life for women and their families. In support of this mission, the YWCA provides services to meet critical needs, promote self-sufficiency, reduce violence, eliminate racism and achieve equal opportunities for all people.
What Bill also saw was an immediate need to implement up to date technologies to help restructure the ways in which YWCA employees accomplished many of their daily tasks.
Upon Bill's arrival three years ago, the YWCA consisted of 32 locations over two counties in the state of Washington. While there was no lack of commitment or hard work being put in by YWCA employees, there was a distinct lack of information sharing and collaboration between the locations, and opportunities to learn from each other were being missed. Bill blames a severe lack of up-to-date technology for their early woes; "We were using Office XP, some were using Windows 95, which was great, but not in 2008..." Bill explained "a lot of the work was in essence being done manually and sometimes duplicated from lack of coordination abilities."
Bill knew that the set up led to isolation and the lack of collaborative technology resulted in many wasted man-hours and a lot of inefficiency.
Inspired by their mission and the opportunity to improve the lives of more women by increasing efficiency within their own walls, Bill and YWCA crafted a plan to build a collaborative environment facilitated by up to date technology.
"After we brought all the locations into the Active Directory network, we implemented an intranet using Windows SharePoint Services. The ability to bring all our locations into a centralized system for information, document sharing, and collaborative tools has revolutionized this organization. We've converted approximately 50% of our paper forms to InfoPath "smart" forms, and through the use of SharePoint, InfoPath and VBA, we've automated many processes. No longer do we have the disparate "islands" in our agency."
YWCA has since updated to SharePoint 2010, and Bill believes that the implementation of SharePoint as a collaboration tool, has made a large impact on the organization. The YWCA fund development department has utilized SharePoint to track their grants, where in the past each location would pursue grants with no coordination of efforts. In many cases this resulted in two YWCA offices going after the same grant, competing against each other. Now this information is shared on the intranet and conflicts are avoided. With SharePoint 2010, they have begun to build dashboards and for the first time YWCA Senior Management is able to get a snapshot-view of the operations of their departments for everything from managing the budgets, to client demographics, to donor information.
As Bill observed: "For us to provide the greatest service to our clients and our community, especially in these tough economic times, our internal practices must be as efficient as possible. Every minute wasted looking for a file, every minute spent recreating a file, document or process which has already been created by another staff member, every time a staff member is unaware of critical information to do their job is all time wasted from the service of our clients."
Using Microsoft technology as a tool, YWCA staff has been able to share, support, and learn from each other in efforts to provide better service to YWCA clients. To change lives, it is critical to be able to collaborate with peers, share good ideas, and standardize approaches.
This is a great example of how Microsoft's nonprofit software donations are helping organizations serve others in the local community. If you know of a nonprofit that could use a Microsoft software donation, please send them to our donations page to learn more.
For more information on the YWCA of Seattle, King, and Snohomish County please visit their website.
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