April, 2011

  • Webinar: New Collaboration and Connection Tools in Office 2010 for Nonprofits

    The latest version of Microsoft Office includes some pretty slick features – features that can help nonprofits collaborate and connect in support of their missions. Yesterday, Microsoft Community Affairs and TechSoup Global hosted a webinar to give nonprofits a glimpse of some new features in Office 2010. Guest presenters Andy O’Donald, product manager for Office; and Becky Wiegand, editor for TechSoup.org; showed nonprofits how they can extend their Office 2010 work to the cloud across teams – even with people who aren’t necessarily running Microsoft Office programs.

    Highlights in this webinar included:

    • New shortcuts and views in Outlook 2010 to help nonprofits work better together
    • Coordinating contacts and messages between social media and traditional communications with Outlook Social Connector
    • Using broadcast slide show in PowerPoint 2010 to share presentations with remote audiences
    • Working from virtually any place or device with Office 2010 Web Apps and 25GB of free file storage in the cloud
    • Bringing ideas to life with easy editing of videos and photos through Office 2010
    • Keeping the right details in the right place with OneNote 2010

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    For nonprofits who want to learn more about increasing their productivity with Office 2010 and making online collaboration and connection approachable, visit our Windows Live SkyDrive to download the recorded webinar, view the webinar slides, and find additional links to get you started. To check eligibility and request an Office 2010 donation, visit TechSoup. You can also check out TechSoup’s blog series on their favorite features in Office 2010, including closer looks at Excel, PowerPoint and Word, with posts on OneNote and Outlook coming soon!

    The next webinar, Tell Your Organization’s Story with Free Tools in Windows Live, is on Wednesday, May 25th at 11:00am PT and will look at free blogging and movie-making tools in Windows Live, among other highlights. As always, it’s free, but you will need to pre-register. For more on this and future webinars, visit http://www.microsoft.com/nonprofit, follow @msftcitizenship on Twitter, or subscribe to TechSoup’s e-newsletter, By the Cup.

  • Connecting With the Past through Technology: Oberlin Heritage Center

    Guest Post by Rachel Weidinger, TechSoup Global

    Oberlin Vitrine

    Students explore their city’s roots reviewing historic documents.

    When I think of technology, I typically think of progress, moving forward and the next big thing. But the Oberlin Heritage Center in Oberlin, Ohio, recently reminded me that technology can also be powerful when it helps us connect to the past.

    The Oberlin Heritage Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the area’s extraordinary, nationally significant heritage. Now a small college town, Oberlin played a crucial role in the Underground Railroad, as well as acting as a hotbed of abolitionism, women’s activism and scientific discovery.

    Many current residents of the area have deep roots reaching back into these important historical events. A particularly rewarding part of Oberlin Heritage Center’s mission is connecting residents with their ancestors. Some of the Center’s most popular public offerings are public online databases which include historic photos, cemetery records, city directories, and the historic building inventory. An in-house database includes extensive genealogical records that the Center uses to answer queries from people seeking family history information from all over the country. Unfortunately, when several people logged onto the databases at the same time, server performance would lag, leading to frustrating experiences for visitors.

    When the Center approached Microsoft and TechSoup Global for a software donation, we were more than happy to help. The installation of Windows Server 2008 and Exchange Server 2010 improved server performance, which allowed the Center to add new databases, increase the size of their existing databases, and – most importantly – offer visitors a better experience.

    “Microsoft’s donation allows the Oberlin Heritage Center to uphold high standards and museum practices, and be recognized as one of the Nation’s models for small history museums,” said Patricia Murphy, Executive Director of Oberlin Heritage Center.

    Technology has enabled more people to connect to Oberlin’s history, as well as to their own. So I guess technology is moving us forward after all.

    This Place Matters

    The power of community.

    We’re committed to ensuring that nonprofit organizations like Oberlin Heritage Center have access to the technology they need to fulfill their missions. For more information or to get started on your own donation request, please visit www.microsoft.com/nonprofit.

  • Here’s a snapshot of the United States from Microsoft Elevate America

     

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    When Kelly Edwards lost her job as a technical writer, she knew she needed to update her computer skills to find another job in today’s competitive workforce. She found out about Microsoft Elevate America and signed up for free online training in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. In just three months, she achieved her goal of gaining Microsoft Office Specialist certifications in all three applications and found a new job.

    “Not only did Elevate America teach me new technology skills which gave me a competitive advantage in the workforce, it also gave me the confidence I needed when speaking with potential employers.” Kelly continued: “Showing employers that you’re willing and able to learn new skills is very important. It shows them that you can take on the challenge of learning a new job.”

    In February 2009 Microsoft announced Elevate America, an initiative to provide people across the United States with free technology training and certification to help them find employment. Over the course of 18 months we worked with 32 states and the District of Columbia to distribute over 800,000 training and certification vouchers for people like Kelly and others who have benefited from the program.

    Addressing the issues of unemployment and job creation is complex. They are often very different from state to state, and even community to community. From the outset of Elevate America we wanted to make sure that we learned from the program and used that knowledge to shape future programs and help inform our partners to better serve those individuals in need of these resources and skills.

     

    Today we are sharing what we have learned from the Elevate America state voucher program in a new report. It includes insights gained by the experiences of the 32 states and the District of Columbia, and most importantly from in-depth interviews with the people who devote their time to helping people find employment and those who benefit from that work.

    There are a number of interesting trends identified in the report including:

    • Men were less likely to participate in skills training.
    • People in the 36-50 age range were most likely to take advantage of this free training.
    • Elevate America was most attractive to those with post-secondary education
    • Internet access was a key success factor for technology training
    • Tailored assessments increased training and certification success

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    The single most important objective of these programs is helping people to get the skills they need to find employment or start a business. We’ve been very happy to hear the success stories from Elevate America, some of which are included in the report.

     

    In the fall of 2009, Jim Griffith heard about the Elevate America state voucher program and drove to the Workforce Investment Network job center in Jackson, Mississippi, on the first day the vouchers became available. Over the next several months, he took a variety of online courses that taught him how to more effectively use the Windows operating system and Office applications.

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    “Elevate America was an excellent resource in giving me the skills I needed to improve my client communications and more efficiently manage my small business. Since I finished the program, I’ve increased revenue by at least 30 percent. “Elevate America has truly made a difference in both my personal and business activities, helping me increase productivity and learn new skills that continue to positively impact my daily life.” 

    We are also committed to ensuring that our experience with the Elevate America state voucher program helps to inform how we think about future community programs. Since the launch of the state program we have put this knowledge to work in creating two new programs:

    • Elevate America veterans initiative provides education, job training and placement programs to help give veterans and their spouses the skills and resources they need to be successful in today’s civilian work force.
    • Elevate America community initiative supports nonprofit organizations offering employment services, including technology skills training and job placement, in local communities across the United States.

    We approach our community programs with the belief that we are always learning, both from our own experience and from those of our partners in the community. Download the Elevate America state report today and let us know what you think.

    To find out more about the resources available through the Elevate America program visit: http://www.microsoft.com/elevateamerica

  • Telecentre Women – Myrna’s Story

    If you don't believe that technology can empower people and change lives for the better then you haven't heard Myrna's story. I was in Santiago de Chile earlier this month attending the 3rd Global Forum on Telecentres.  The final day of the event started with an inspiring launch of the Telecentre Women Digital Literacy Campaign.  As I emphasized on stage at the event, this is much more than a campaign.  Over the next year, telecentre.org and partners around the world seek to introduce over 1,000,000 women to the power of information and communication technology through telecenters (see below for a definition).  By recognizing women leaders ("ambassadors") and providing mentors for the next generation of leaders, this effort will also build capacity to reach and train even more women in the years to come.  At events throughout the year, policy makers, business people, academics, community leaders, will be engaged in dialogue about increasing access to technology for women and the positive impact this can have on families, communities and nations. You can register your participation in the campaign here.

    But numbers, events and recognition are meaningless if individuals are not being touched through these programs by building skills and gaining access to information that can transform their lives and communities.  The story of one changemaker in particular struck me in Santiago.  I won't do her moving speech justice, but let me try to summarize Myrna Padilla's story if you don't have time to watch the video

    Myrna was raised in a poor fishing village on the island of Bohol in the Philippines, often going hungry and taking jobs as early as the age of 9 to pound rice or to dive in the ocean to gather seaweed to sell at the local market - anything to help feed the family.  As a young mother of two she followed the path of many Filipino women and made the difficult decision to leave her two children behind to spend the next 20 years working overseas as a domestic servant.   While working in the services of a family in Hong Kong, a boy of 8 in the house introduced Myrna to the computer.  Myrna described her fear of learning to operate a computer as similar to diving into the ocean for the first time. 

    As she learned how to use the computer, she put these skills to work at the Mindanao Hong Kong Worker's Federation, where she served as Chairperson for eight years.  Upon returning to the Philippines, Myrna founded Mynd Consulting, with the goal of offering women an opportunity to stay close to their families while still providing for an income.  Today Mynd Consulting offers a wide range of services to clients including web development, graphic design and programming services with a specialty in the development of social media applications. 

    Myrna is an amazing individual and an entrepreneur.  I am not saying that technology is a magic elixir, but I am saying that technology can open doors, whether through increased confidence, a specific set of skills or the by giving a voice to those who may not be heard.  It does change a life when a person can use a computer to connect and create.  Most of us take that for granted in our daily life, and Myrna is just one reminder.  The Telecenter Women campaign is certain to create at least 999,999 more stories.

    Just so you know:  A telecentre is a public place where people can develop digital skills by being given access to computers, the Internet, and other technologies that help them gather information and communicate with others. A telecentre can go by other names-e.g. infocenters, community technology centers, village knowledge centers, etc.-but is always defined by its objective of contributing to social development and community building.

     

    Myrna Padilla (center), on stage with Secretary Ivan Uy, Philippine Information and Communication Technology Commission, and Tess Camba, Director of Operations, Telecentre.org Foundation

  • Earth Day 2011: Cloud Computing…can it help?

    By Rob Bernard Chief Environmental Strategist, Microsoft

    earthThe global scale of climate and energy challenges is daunting. As world population approaches the 7 billion mark a growing majority people now live in cities. These billions of new urbanites need energy; energy for lights, for heating, for cooling; energy for transportation, housing and emergency services, energy for water systems and sanitation, and they want the same conveniences and luxuries that city dwellers in developed cities already enjoy.

    As demand for new services increase, so too will demand for energy-related services, and the global supply of fossil fuels will continue to dwindle while the climate and human health impacts of our energy infrastructure are felt ever more acutely. This raises fundamental questions of how to support growing urban populations while maintaining or increasing current standards of living. Without doubt, this is a defining challenge for both public and private institutions.

    As we face this challenge there are some encouraging trends; according to the 2011 Clean Edge report, an annual assessment of the clean energy marketplace, the 2010 market value of three benchmark clean-energy technologies — biofuels, solar photovoltaics, and wind power — was $188 billion, up 35 percent from just one year prior. This is exciting, but the reality is that the majority of our energy in the short run will still come from fossil fuels and as long as this is the case, energy efficiency and conservation will be vital components of a sustainable future.

    So, on this Earth Day, I want to reflect on how an information technology company might help in the quest for a more sustainable future. As many readers are probably already aware, IT accounts for about two percent of the world’s energy use, but that percentage is growing as demand for IT services increases, so it’s incumbent upon us to design software and IT infrastructure and services that maximize performance while minimizing energy consumption, a goal that is especially true when it comes to the cloud computing.

    So what is “cloud computing?” Think about the services that run on your PC or handheld device - email, websites, social networks, news services, search results, business infrastructure, banking systems, text messaging. All of these, and many more, are powered by the cloud. But this is just the beginning. Building management systems, transportation systems, energy grids, water monitoring, ocean health tracking, air quality, crop yields, human health implications of pollution -- all of these computational resources can be delivered on demand in the cloud.

    The cloud will allow us to rethink the role of IT and energy, so that we’re not just thinking about how to reduce the impact of IT, but also about how IT can reduce the impact of the other 98 percent of the energy consumed by buildings, transportation, industrial processes, etc. At Microsoft, I get to work with people and teams who can envision a highly integrated, energy-smart landscape that maximizes efficiency and performance in a resource-constrained world. Information technology is key to making that future possible.

    IT and cloud computing also enable society to have a new level of understanding about the resource and systems which we depend on. More powerful computational tools are opening new worlds to scientists, helping them to unlock our understanding of the world’s oceans and rainforests and the vast, interconnected systems on which life on Earth depends. Citizens too, will benefit from a democratization of information as the cloud powers tools that will enable everyone with a stake in clean air and clean water to take part in knowledge gathering and sharing with tools like the Worldwide Telescope and Eye On Earth.

    Cloud computing, simply put, is changing everything, but it comes with a serious energy and carbon cost. Absent a change in the way our industry is run, energy consumption will grow rapidly. There are, however, alternatives which can dramatically reduce the amount of energy associated with software services. For example. a recent study by Accenture and WSP Environment and Energy found that customers who choose to run common business applications in the cloud can reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions on a per-user basis by 30 to 90 percent versus running those same applications on-premises.

    There is tremendous work that needs to be done if a sustainable future is to be realized. I believe information technology has tremendous transformative role in enabling a sustainable future, but this can only happen if all the stakeholders – businesses, government, scientists, citizens – seize the opportunity to leverage that power in service of a common goal: a world that can sustain economic growth and quality of life for all for the long term.

    We would be glad to have your thoughts or feedback on the work we are doing, and suggestions that you think can help make a difference rbernard@microsoft.com. I would also encourage you to stay connected to our work through our newly designed website.

    Cross posted from the Software Enabled Earth Blog.

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