April, 2011

  • UNICEF harnesses the power of mobile to raise funds

    Editor’s Note: On this blog we often highlight how technology can be used for the greater good; This story showcases how the use of innovative technology can help everyday consumers to give back though common purchases. Let us know what you think.


    Cross posted from the Microsoft Tag Blog, UNICEF Raises Funds Using Tag

    Post by Abbey Wolfe, Content Manager, Microsoft Tag

    What if you could help a child in need simply by scanning a Microsoft Tag at the supermarket with your mobile phone? Or provide clean water to a third-world community by snapping a Tag on your office water cooler?

    When marketing-trend company PSFK released its Future of Mobile Tagging report in January, it partnered with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to challenge design agencies around the world to create innovative fund-raising campaigns using Microsoft Tag.

    “We love PSFK and Microsoft Tag for bringing so much creative brainpower to our fund-raising challenges,” says Kelli Peterson, director of Corporate Partnership Development at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. “Not only did we get a treasure chest of fun ideas that we’re already running with, but the concepts are smart, intuitive and easy to implement — a tribute to the Microsoft Tag technology.”

    Today, PSFK and UNICEF announced that WABI-SABI Inspiration Lab’s “1x2” concept won for its simplistic, thoughtful integration of Tag and scalability.

    WABI-SABI’s 1x2 campaign turns the typical “buy one, get one free” supermarket sale into a fund-raising opportunity for UNICEF, connecting people to the realities of childhood hunger and encouraging easy action using their mobile phones. Shoppers scan a Microsoft Tag on products such as milk, water, books, medicines, or clothes, and are prompted to donate the monetary equivalent of a second item to support a child in need. They’ll also be encouraged to share their activity through social networks to encourage others to donate.

    PSFK also posted the top 10 concepts and asked readers and event attendees to vote for their favorite. As reported in MediaPost's coverage of the contest, the “people’s choice” was advertising agency BBH’s concept to raise women’s rights awareness through the use of Microsoft Tags on clothing.

    “People can now harness the power of their mobile phones to help ‘do good’ in the world, and this creative contest brought out many compelling ways to do so,” says Marja Koopmans, general manager of marketing for Microsoft’s Startup Business Group. “We’re delighted that Tag can play an inventive role in UNICEF’s fund-raising efforts.”

    What do you think of the winning concepts? Will they encourage you to donate to UNICEF programs? Let us know in the Comments below or on Tag’s Facebook or Twitter pages.

  • Passion is Overrated: Focus on the 5 Cs for Social Impact instead – Conviction, Capability, Capacity, Commitment and Compassion

    Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with an incredible group of smart, creative students who are here in Redmond competing at the U.S. finals of the Imagine Cup. I shared with them my view that passion is simply not enough to succeed.

    Every day at least one person tells me about their passion to make a difference.  I have always been confused about why people feel passion is such a critical component for them.  Why do they need to feel passionate about the work they do, or that they must have some passion in their life?  Students are taught to talk and write about their passion.  When we go for a job interview we talk about our passion.  It seems that passion is an overused and overrated word.  Now don't get me wrong, I too exude passion when I talk about the work I do.  But passion alone is just  not enough.

    When people come to see me seeking to join my team, I don't ask them how passionate they are about making a difference, instead I ask them to share with me any difference they may have already made, however small or insignificant it might be.  This is a far more insightful way to discover their strengths and weaknesses.

    I believe that success in any career is dependent on more than passion. 

    If you are serious about making a difference I recommend that you focus on what I call the 5 Cs:  Conviction, Capability, Capacity, Commitment and Compassion.  This may not be as sexy as passion but I guarantee you it will drive a greater and more lasting impact.

    Let me elucidate a bit. 

    To make an impact in anything, whether starting a lemonade stand or deciding to give up all your possessions and move to another country to work in a rural environment, one must first and foremost have conviction - a belief in an idea, a product or a service that you are willing to focus on. 

    Most of us have a new idea every minute but it's conviction that allows us to sieve through these ideas and settle on one that we are willing to pursue; one that is well thought out.  

    Once you have 'the idea' you then need to have the capability and the right skills to take that idea further.  For example:  you may have an idea to develop a system for water purification but unless you have  some knowledge of the issue or the willingness to put in the time to acquire the expertise, the idea will not progress.  Deep knowledge and skills are critical before embarking on implementing 'the idea'.  

    Once you know you have the skills to take your idea further you then need the capacity and the ability to put your ideas and skills to work - this means you have now taken the hard step of figuring out a plan of action and have the capacity to put that plan into practice.  

    The fourth 4 C is, in my opinion, is often the hardest to undertake and sustain - commitment.  You must combine the ability to take the plan and make it work with  the strength and resolve needed to stay the course.  There will always be obstacles and setbacks to overcome.  This is where most give up.  But to succeed you must make a commitment to stay the course, not fear failure, and learn from your mistakes - which are an inevitable part of making a difference.  With commitment you will try new avenues no matter what.  There are no short cuts. 

    Finally, it is about compassion.  You need to develop your ability to think beyond a narrow impact into a realm where you think beyond yourself and immediate context.  Now you are becoming conscious of the community around you and the impact your work will have - both good and bad.  You are focused on developing insight into any potential unintended consequences of your actions. 

    When you combine the 5 Cs you have the opportunity to drive sustainable, real, positive change.  Passion is a personal pursuit, it is important but the combination of Conviction, Capability, Capacity, Commitment and Compassion are the essential elements to getting real results.  

    When you understand and accept these demands you will be in a far better position to succeed in what you do, enjoy what you do and have a fulfilling experience at the same time.  If that is your definition of  passion then so be it. 

  • Helping Kids Be Great by Connecting Them to Technology

    chelseahsGuest Post by Chelsea Badeau, Executive Producer
    Xfinity.com, Comcast Interactive Media


    I’ve been lucky. Real lucky. I grew up in a middle-class home and always had access to technology. While I may not have had the latest computer or top-of-the line equipment, I always had access and that is what is most important. Most people know that low-income youth in America face a myriad of issues, including lack of nutritious food options, fewer educational opportunities and exposure to violence and drugs. But, in an age when so many of us are literally “connected” 24/7, it may seem surreal that 23% of U.S. kids don’t have access to the Internet and more than 8 million don’t have regular access to a computer. Unfortunately, these statistics are real and that is why Comcast is so invested in helping increase digital literacy and access to technology.

    As the Executive Producer of Comcast’s online customer portal (Xfinity.com), I see just how important digital literacy is to our economy and the future of our children. Employers expect job applicants to be digitally competent and without these skills, young people will have limited employment options.

    On Monday, April 11, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) kicked off their “Faces of the Future” campaign to get the word out about the technology access issue and raise money for Club Tech, a program designed to bring technology access and skills training to children across the United States. Currently, nearly one million kids and teens participate in the Club Tech program every year at more than 3,600 Boys & Girls Clubs around the world. In 2009, more than 800,000 young people were served through the Club Tech programs and resources. 

    Last year, Comcast joined Microsoft as a national sponsor of the Club Tech program, and over the four years ending in 2013 will provide approximately $50 million of financial and in-kind support to BGCA and local Clubs across the country. In 2010, Comcast provided $1.4 million to 90 local Clubs, in addition to $18.5 million of in-kind support in the form of PSA airtime and donated products. In addition to supporting BGCA’s Club Tech program, Comcast has donated computers to create labs in many of the clubs and has also provided key grants and financial support to other BGCA clubs and events.

    When I joined the corporate board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia (BGCP) in 2008, I didn’t initially realize the depth of this technology gap. This past week, I was able to see firsthand the difference technology can make in the lives of children. On April 13th, Microsoft Corp, Comcast and BGCP hosted a grand opening of Philadelphia’s first Club Tech Center of Excellence at the Northeast Frankford Boys & Girls Club. The children’s faces were animated with excitement and joy at the sight of their new computer lab. This center combined with the Club Tech program will open many doors for these children.

    BGCAPhillyCOE“We are thrilled to support the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the launch of their Club Tech Center of Excellence right in our backyard in Philadelphia," said Charisse Lillie, Vice President of Community Investment for Comcast Corporation and Executive Vice President of the Comcast Foundation. "The Center’s leading edge technology will provide our local youth with access to the resources they need to build their digital literacy skills and put them on track to have a bright and successful future.”

    Through this Center of Excellence, Boys & Girls Club members will have access to the latest Microsoft technology, including Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010, and cutting-edge hardware. The Club Tech program offers a curriculum that includes Microsoft software training and experience with Web design tenets, graphic design techniques, robotics, animation and digital film editing and digital music composition through the Digital Arts Suite. The program is designed to create a long-term development plan for Club members. All resources and programs are also made available through www.myclubmylife.com, BGCA’s website for teens. To learn more about BGCA’s digital literacy program, visit www.bgca.org/clubtech.

    “Technology is a priority area of our current comprehensive fundraising campaign, Be Great, Philadelphia! The donation of this state-of-the-art Technology Center not only helps us to reach our campaign goals, but offers our members an extraordinary experience to develop the skills they need to succeed in life and helps inspire them to reach their full potential to be great,” said Jeffrey Waldron, President & CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia. “Microsoft and Comcast have been great partners to our organization and we are truly appreciative of their support and generosity.”

    Local Boys & Girls Clubs also frequently serve as hosts for the Comcast Digital Connectors program and as partners in Comcast Cares Day, Comcast’s annual nation-wide day of community service.

    The more awareness we can all generate about the importance of providing technology and digital literacy training to our youth, the better chance all of our kids will have in life. For every 10 ‘likes’ the Boys & Girls Clubs of America gets on Facebook between now and April 22, a Club Member receives Microsoft Office 2010. Visit facesofthefuture.org to learn more. Let’s take luck out of the equation and make sure all of our children have access to technology!

    Additional information about Comcast’s partnership with BGCA and commitment to digital literacy is available at:




  • Corporate Citizenship – You’re Gonna Make it After All

    I'm writing this blog post from a coffee shop in downtown Minneapolis. I'm here this week attending the Boston College Conference on Corporate Citizenship.

    As some of you may recall, Minneapolis is the setting for the Mary Tyler Moore show. When I think of the lyrics to the show's theme song it actually resonates with the topics I've heard from many of the conference attendees.

    While there are people here from a diverse set of industries, from pharmaceuticals to oil, retail, entertainment, technology and financial, we all have similar challenges and opportunities in our work. I even spent some time chatting with a gentleman from the Hugh Hefner Foundation. Ironically, he probably had the easiest to remember charter of anyone I encountered when he said, "their focus is on First Amendment rights."

    Everyone wants to improve their storytelling. The book, "Made to Stick" was mentioned several times as a great inspiration for concise and compelling communications.

    I can't think of anyone who spoke and did not have a success story coupled with a cautionary tale around cause marketing initiatives. The best example I heard in the 'success' column was by TELUS out of Canada. The campaign provided an app to TELUS Blackberry customers allowing them to turn their social media profile pictures pink in support of helping Canadian health organizations purchase mammogram machines. They blew through their monetary commitment to the cause in one day. So, they immediately raised their contribution and then hit that ceiling two days later. Their success was impressive and I appreciated that they were open enough to be honest that they won't engage in one-for-one matching in the future. They plan to use a range from now on. Two of TELUS' theories on why the campaign caught like wildfire were a low barrier to entry and giving the customer something tangible to help achieve a goal (the purchase of medical equipment). Here's an overview of their campaign.

    Since we are in Minneapolis, we heard from Brian J. Dunn, the CEO of Best Buy, as well as several of their sustainability focused employees. I was impressed with the work they are doing across their entire company. Their new e-waste take back program sounds very practical and they want to be a leader on this topic instead of waiting until legislation tells them to do something. The team admitted that they were not sure how their e-waste program would be received, but it soon turned into a no-cost marketing program. Their commitment to their values and allowing their 180k strong workforce to be ambassadors on social media is a bold step and fits with their customer demographic

    Brian talked about his own use of social media and he has a blog with a powerful video of Best Buy's new Shepherdsville Distribution Center and their commitment to people with disabilities. I have never seen a company of this size make such a strong stand to focus on their employee's strengths.

    When it came to large global organizations, I was struck by how similar everyone's corporate socially responsible programs are setup and administered. From my own team at Microsoft, Boeing, and all the way to Abbott, the need to embed your Corporate Citizenship values and practices throughout your business is key to its success and sustainability. Anne Roosevelt (Vice President, Community and Education Relations) of Boeing talked about working across many countries and she said you need to have, "a country strategy and not a product strategy." This message resonated with a lot of people.

    Jan Fields of McDonald's USA talked about their programs and challenges around sourcing in an ethical manner but what really stood out to the crowd was their plan to have a broad "Hiring Day" this month. They are looking to add 50,000 people to their workforce on April 19th. That is a staggering number and Jan shared some passionate videos of employees talking about how their "McJob" has really turned into a career.

    This is my first time attending this conference and I have thoroughly enjoyed the connections and conversations I've had over the past few days. It seems that the people working on socially responsible business practices see the highs and lows of their companies at any point in time. So, just like the theme song, "We are gonna make it after all."

  • Reimagining the World – We are at the Center of Information Flow

    Change is inevitable in the world in which we live. Major disruptions are taking place economically, politically, socially, and technologically. While at times disturbing, these disruptions can spur the creative process and create opportunities to reimagine what we can do for the good of society as individuals, as organizations, and as communities. 

    I recently heard Malcolm Gladwell challenging the notion that the recent Middle East uprising are a Twitter and Facebook revolution.  He instead pointed out that the Iron Wall came down during a time when most people in what was then East Germany had no access to information yet over a million people were mobilized many more then showed up in Tharir Square.  Yet on the other hand we also know that how we consume and contribute to information flow has fundamentally changed. 

    What is common among the recent events in the Middle East is that they are leaderless uprisings with no visible leader in the mold of a Gandhi or King. 

    Why is that the case, what has changed?  I would posit that the changes in how we consume and contribute information is at the center of these changes.  We are no longer at the end of the information flow pipe as consumers of information rather we are at the center of information flow.  We are both creators and consumers of information and actively adding to the body of knowledge.  This I believe is a fundamental reimagining of the world and the opportunity it opens up for those of us in the development space is  exciting.

    These disruptions also prompt penetrating questions: For example, who are the experts? Are they the ones we have traditionally thought of as having expertise, or are they the people living in villages who, through the use of mobile technology, can provide data and information needed to diagnose health problems or make payments on microfinance loans in real time?  What is the role of experts and specialists when technology is making critical services more affordable and accessible? 

    What are the new appropriate models of partnerships? As nontraditional approaches are becoming more pervasive, we see increased collaboration among large companies and nonprofits that often leads to unexpected positive outcomes. While many organizations are struggling, the ones that are creating greater value through collaboration-NetHope, for example-are seeing their membership grow.

    Today nonprofits are increasingly thinking of businesses as essential partners in scaling up their impact and in achieving sustainability. Social entrepreneurs are realizing that not all breakthroughs will be exploited effectively by large corporations and that some early stage adoptions and innovations will come from them. Further, governments will have to be mindful about the timing and extent of policies that will be needed to help with these innovations that are taking place outside of the norms.

    These disruptions are blurring the lines between charitable contributions, venture funding, and direct funding. Organizations can now access multiple modes of funding, and funders are increasingly being pushed to rethink their funding purposes and the outcomes they seek.

    Nonprofit organizations are being forced to rethink the financial and social returns on their development investments. They can now share their research and learning more broadly, so they have the opportunity to reassess who is being served by their work. Is it the organization itself? The end recipients? The larger community? Or the entire development ecosystem?

    In the same way, as services are being made more accessible institutions  have to think of themselves not as isolated islands of privileged expertise, but as vital and precious elements in an ecosystem of different organizations that contribute to their evolution as well.

    We must also reimagine the role of volunteers. Volunteerism is increasingly a long-term strategic commitment and investment by an individual or group of individuals and not merely a one-way act. Organizations and their volunteers are increasingly able to form strategic relationships toward specific goals.

    Finally, we must reimagine the role of technology in nonprofit work. Technology is not simply a transactional tool that allows organizations to accomplish discrete tasks more efficiently. It can be-and must be-a transformational tool that organizations view as a powerful strategic ally in the successful pursuit of their mission.

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