Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
Given the lighting speed with which we are able to consume information today through a multitude of devices, most people believe that access to information is not an issue. Yet seven million youth in the United States alone are in the dark, with no access to a computer or a mobile phone, seven million who will not access Facebook, Twitter, Skype or Bing.
Over the last decade Microsoft has supported the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) to set up technology centers and bring what was a swim and gym club into the 21st century as a center for digital access and learning. There are now nearly 4,000 of these technology clubs in America and and on U.S. military bases abroad. They collective serve five million kids annually. However, as technology advances many of the Clubs are now becoming outdated and need a technology refresh and upgrade.
Last year Microsoft and Comcast took on the challenge of creating a model Club Tech Center of Excellence at select BGCAs across the US where we can show how each community can come together and upgrade their Clubs to provide youth the latest in available technology.
To date we have supported the refresh of ten model centers in the United States and I was very fortunate to open the latest Center of Excellence in Denver last week along with the Dick McLean, Mayor of Brighton; John Arigoni, President and CEO, Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Denver; Michael Clark, General Manager, West Region Corporate Accounts at Microsoft and a BGCA Denver Board member; Jon Roskill, Corporate Vice President of the Worldwide Partner Group at Microsoft and BGCA of King County Board member; and many other local community leaders.
The opening of the new Center of Excellence in Denver
The centers incorporate the latest Microsoft software, a freshly designed space conducive for creative and collaborative work, and an expansive Club Tech curriculum such as newly added robotics programming and game development. In addition to the refreshed space and equipment, what was so exciting to see was the involvement of the community at large with local business and political leaders all committed to seeing the Boys and Girls Club become a place of excellence and create an environment for young people to learn and thrive by having access to the latest in digital and multimedia equipment and skills.
It was thrilling to see how excited the youth were to get into this new center of excellence. After the ribbon cutting ceremony, the kids all rushed in to experience the equipment. The enhanced technology center will provide these young people with access to next generation technology that is fun to use and in addition to providing technical skills, encourages critical thinking, project management and problem-solving skills which translate into future job readiness and leadership capability.
On a personal level, the highlight was a very young girl coming up to me and giving me a very long hug thanking me for bringing her this gift. It was clear that for her and for all of the young people in the club this was a true investment in their future.
By Gemma Aronchick
Creativity is in full force for the BGCA Club Tech Digital Arts Festival 2011
Excitement was in the air at the Microsoft store on a warm Denver morning last week. Members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, their chaperones and BGCA staff, along with a number of supporters from Comcast and Microsoft, gathered to honor these young adults as national winners in the Club Tech 2011 Digital Arts Festival. The Club members had traveled from near - the other side of Denver - and far - Iwakuni, Japan - to show off their creativity and works of digital art.
Club members and chaperones explore a Surface table at the Microsoft store during the Digital Arts Festival Celebration
The winners, who are Club members ranging in age from 13 to 18, had a chance to show off their works of art from music to animation, photo design, and short film.
As the projects were shown, I was very impressed not only by the creativity and talent but by the precision and effort that went into the design and composition. When the winning animation entry played, the clip was short, cute and funny. The short film winners were starting to blur the lines between gaming promotions, motion picture trailers, and home movies – pretty terrific. In fact, when the first winning musical entry was played, I truly thought to myself that this work is commercial quality. Then the Club member who crafted the second winning entry jumped up from his seat, took the microphone and started to sing and dance with his music in the background. He seemed unaware that he wasn’t actually on stage at Madison Square Garden, by he whipped the audience into a frenzy and had everybody on their feet, clapping, swaying and answering his call-backs. This kid surely won’t be an unknown artist for long with his combination of talent and charisma.
In addition to the celebrations the kids experienced a job shadow activity with the wonderful employees at the Microsoft store in Denver. Jasper and his team did a terrific job leading them through real work scenarios that they encounter at the store every day, and the kids enjoyed learning more about what happens on the other side of the technology from where they create their artwork. When they had finished with their ‘work’ at the store, they were on their way to lunch and a job experience at the local Comcast office.
Our team at Microsoft has had the pleasure of hosting quite a few of these Club Tech Digital Arts Festivals over the last few years, and I can honestly say that this year’s winning Club members have really kicked it up a notch. Their creativity, use of technology and vision about their future and their artwork is amazing. It’s truly inspiring to see the next generation of young people engaging with the technology they use in a creative, positive and fun way that will surely take them far in their Club, their careers and beyond. Cheers to all the national, regional, and local Digital Arts Festival winners and entrants for 2011. Keep up the great work!
The 2011 Digital Arts festival national winners.
Gemma Aronchick works in Microsoft’s Corporate Citizenship team.
Guest Post by TechSoup Global founder and co-CEO, Daniel Ben-Horin
Back in 1989, TechSoup Global (then called “CompuMentor”) was two years old and pioneering our notion of matching high level tech-savvy volunteers with nonprofits. I'd neglected to invent the World Wide Web at the same time as starting CompuMentor, so organizing this new form of volunteerism turned out to be rather challenging, but that's another story.
In this story, we are in year two of getting to know the nonprofit sector and its technology needs and are realizing two things. First, no one in the nonprofit world, at least back then, is having any fun with technology. It is universally perceived as grim stuff. You know, the computer might explode.
Second, no one has any money for anything but the hardware, and even that is out of reach for most (remember, desktop machines were prohibitively expensive then). So commonly, nonprofits are using antiquated software or just the wrong stuff entirely.
My own background had been in journalism, and a bunch of my pals had migrated to the computer press. In those days, software came in big boxes, and software publishers would send a big box of their latest software to journalists, hoping for a review. Maybe one copy would get reviewed, and the others would get trashed.
Trashed! I found that offensive. This software was valuable. It deserved better. Nonprofits deserved better. So the idea was hatched to send an underemployed, world-famous avant-garde jazz saxophonist named Bruce Ackley in his pickup truck to various computer magazines to offload whatever software was deemed expendable.
We'd end up with an inventory of a couple of hundred titles, usually one of each, or sometimes two. Then we'd send a newsletter to our nonprofit friends, listing the software we had available at $5 a pop, first-come, first-served. Nonprofits wrote back to ask if they were first. If they were, we sent them some software. But mostly they weren’t, so we spent a lot of time saying "try again."
Not all the software was serious productivity software. Some was along the lines of "Play Chess with Your Dog." But part of our message was, "have a little fun with this stuff." That's still a big part of our message.
Looking back, it was all very primitive, but it served our mission. The same mission that the donation program serves today: to make technology available to the organizations that are working so hard to support our communities.
We amped up a little with support from Lotus, but it was still mostly one or two titles of software at a time. Then, in 1994, Microsoft gave us a shot, and the whole dynamic changed. Microsoft gave us enough copies of its software to go around. We could stop saying "try again" and start concentrating on how nonprofits could use the software for social benefit. With Microsoft as our anchor tenant, our online donations “mall” became much more credible to other technology companies. Adobe, Cisco, Intuit, and Symantec are just a few of the companies that have since joined the donation program.
Overnight, we had a good-sized fulfillment program on our hands. Microsoft even gave us a grant to build new shelves to hold our inventory, but – all the while – encouraged us to think bigger. Remember, back then Microsoft Office Suite came in a box with licenses, and each package contained a bunch of installation diskettes and weighed about 5 pounds. Microsoft used to send giant shipments to our offices in a little Victorian house in San Francisco. We'd organize bucket brigades of our small staff to get the boxes into our basement storeroom.
The obvious question we asked ourselves (and others asked us) was: Why is Microsoft partnering with us rather than doing this itself? I think the answer has several parts. We're not just a technology nonprofit, but an organization that has always seen itself as a social change organization. Our mission is to support the use of technology by nonprofits, NGOs, and other civil society organizations to accomplish their missions, not just because it’s “cool”. Microsoft shared that mission (still does!), and wanted to help us build a “one stop shop” where nonprofit organizations could request donations from all different technology vendors, rather than having to chase down donations from Cisco, Symantec, Adobe, Microsoft and others separately. Also, Microsoft didn't want to give away expensive doorstops (remember, 5 pounds of Office Suite!). It wanted the products to be effectively used to better our communities, and we were committed to providing nonprofits with the knowledge necessary to actually use these technologies. Technology needs to be supported, and people need training, so we engage in a range of other activities like webinars, blogs, and forums to help nonprofits effectively use these donations. Microsoft saw that it could reach more nonprofits with more software and the support to adopt it by partnering with us, and at the same time could build the capacity of the nonprofit sector.
Lastly, Microsoft didn't get to be Microsoft by being unfocused. It didn't want to take on a new business if it could identify a partner that could effectively reach the nonprofit sector. We contended we could be that partner, and now we're 18 years into doing so, and in 35 countries to boot.
Microsoft’s initial agreement with us was to distribute $100,000 worth of software in Northern California. By 1998, we were serving the entire U.S. In 2006, with Microsoft’s support, we began operating internationally in five countries. And last fiscal year, we distributed more than US$545 million worth of Microsoft software donations to nearly 44,000 nonprofits in 35 countries.
Looking to the future, we know we are functioning in a very rapidly evolving space and that our program won't look the same in 2015 as it does today. So much more software will live in the cloud, for example. So much more productivity will be based on mobile devices. But we feel very good about what’s ahead, and about our continued relationship with partners like Microsoft. For 18 years, it has been a close partner in the truest sense of the word.
Microsoft has a very creative citizenship team, and we work together to figure out ways to support the sector. For example, we have a project right now to get Microsoft development teams even more involved with the nonprofits we’re jointly serving, and we're going to use that as a basis of engagements with technologists at other companies. I can’t wait to see where that goes since – in many ways – it represents a return to our CompuMentor roots, which was all about harnessing the human capital of socially conscious technologists. There are other ideas in the hopper too. We are excited to build on our rich past, but also to embrace current trends and future possibilities.
And that avant-garde jazz saxophonist? Still with us, now as a standards and process analyst, and still blowing his horn.
Daniel Ben-Horin is the Founder and Co-CEO of TechSoup Global. He created TechSoup Global as "CompuMentor" in 1987 by tapping volunteer resources on the WELL, one of the first online communities. Over the past two decades, he has guided TechSoup Global from a small, local nonprofit to a globally respected organization. In his book, Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken writes that the "...hybridization of business, philanthropy technology and nonprofit activity is exemplified in the work of Daniel Ben-Horin..." In 2009, Ben-Horin received the "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (NTEN) and Ashoka named Ben-Horin as one of its Senior Fellows. He has been named by the Nonprofit Times to its annual list of the 50 most influential leaders in the U.S. nonprofit sector four times.
To learn more about requesting a software donation or to tell your cause about software donations please see:
Blog: Help your nonprofit get a software donation
Today we’re announcing updates to our nonprofit software donations program to enable more nonprofits around the world to get easier access to the technology they need, when they need it.
While we currently provide software donations to over 40,000 nonprofits each year, we’re just getting started and we need your help.
Many nonprofit organizations, including some in your local community, are not aware that they can request a donation of Microsoft software. Help us spread the word. Together, we can ensure nonprofits have access to affordable technology to help them do more with their limited resources.
There are two ways you can help:
1) Share the video (below) with your colleagues, friends and family to raise awareness of a great resource available to nonprofits.
2) Make your cause our cause: Reach out to your favorite nonprofit and make sure they’re aware of the Microsoft donations program. To make it as easy as possible, we’ve drafted a note below that you can use.
To those who have already helped, a big thank you from everyone at Microsoft!
To my favorite nonprofit:
I think the work you do in our community is amazing. I know how challenging it is to try and do more with less.
So how can you boost productivity, raise more funds, increase your reach, and deliver new or better services in our community? How about a donation of software from Microsoft? I wanted to make sure you know that eligible nonprofit organizations can request a software donation. There are still many nonprofits that don’t know about the donations program. Do you?
Eligible nonprofit organizations can choose from a wide range of Microsoft desktop and server products (including Office and Windows). Check out www.microsoft.com/nonprofit to see what’s available and learn how to apply. In fact, if you are in one of these 35 countries with a local TechSoup program, you may be able to get technology donations from other companies too, like Cisco, Symantec, or Adobe.
Maybe you already knew all this. If so, that’s great. I want you to keep doing good stuff in our community, and know that access to the latest technology can help. It would be great if you could share this note with other nonprofits too.
By spreading the word, together, we can help millions of nonprofits get access to the technology they need to best serve communities worldwide.
Today we are making a number of updates to our global software donations program designed to give more nonprofit organizations access to the technology they need, when they need it. We’re currently reaching more than 40,000 organizations around the world each year – translating into over $3.9 billion of donated software since 1998 - but we know there’s a great opportunity to reach even more nonprofits and communities.
The updates to the program are part of our commitment to bring the benefits of software to more nonprofits to support positive social and economic development in local communities around the world. Every day we see first-hand how software is helping nonprofits reduce their costs, boost productivity, raise more funds, and ultimately deliver new and improved services in their local communities.
There are a number of updates we’re announcing today, including:
In addition to these changes which apply to over 100 countries, we are also adding additional changes for the 35 countries who are served by the TechSoup Global Network including Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Rep., Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, UK, and the United States:
These new updates are effective immediately.
If you work in a nonprofit organization, please go to http://www.microsoft.com/nonprofit to review eligibility guidelines and learn how to apply.
You can also read more about the program changes in detail on TechSoup’s site: Overview of Microsoft Software Donations, and you can review our Frequently Asked Questions.
If you don’t work in a nonprofit, take a minute to look at the video below and tell your favorite nonprofit how they can get a software donation from Microsoft. We’ve created some text you can use that makes it simple.
Please help us spread the word, and make your cause, our cause.
Akhtar Badshah, senior director of community affairs, Microsoft.
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