Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
In San Francisco alone, there are an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 people sleeping on the streets, in cars, or in shelters every night. Since 1990, Community Housing Partnership (CHP) has worked in partnership with adults, families, and seniors in San Francisco who would otherwise be without a home.
One of the many ways the organization strives to break the cycle of homelessness is by providing job opportunities for people who have themselves lived on the streets: half of CHP’s employees were formerly homeless. As a result, many don’t have current IT skills or confidence using a computer. “Learning computer skills is essential to being relevant in today’s workforce, which is why expanding our email capabilities was so important,” says Rebecca Dyas, CHP Office Manager and Executive Assistant.
CHP recently requested Microsoft Exchange Server through Microsoft’s software donation program on TechSoup, which allowed the organization to provide every employee with an individual email address for the first time in the organization’s history. Using Microsoft Exchange Server also made managing email accounts easier and more efficient. “I can create a new email account in under a minute,” says an excited Dyas. She notes that CHP employees are developing better and more comfortable relationships with computers as a result of having their own email addresses.
Now that all employees have access to email during their work shifts, the organization encourages them to use their email account daily. While many of us may take having an organizational email for granted, for some of CHP’s employees, this is their only access to email, and is helping them build confidence and skills. In addition, access to email is ensuring that formerly homeless employees can make the most of opportunities to grow at their careers in the organization. For example, the Human Resources department at CHP uses an organization-wide distribution list for important messages, which contributes to better communication and a greater sense of connectedness among employees. Because the organization shares new job openings with internal staff a week before they are posted publicly, assigning a unique email account to every employee ensures that they have first crack at these opportunities and that CHP can grow its employees from the community that it serves.
A year ago, the organization also undertook an organization-wide upgrade to Microsoft Office, allowing employees to take advantage of the new capabilities and speed of the software. "In 2010, Community Housing Partnership received a total of $47,068 in donations from Microsoft for our Exchange and Windows Server Software as well as our Office Professional software," shares Dyas. “Not only has the Microsoft software donations program allowed us to re-direct precious resources to programs and services, but it has given us the tools we need to be effective in our day to day operations.”
The upgrade to the latest version of Office was significant in many ways. According to Dyas, not only did it have a better look and feel, but it was also faster, more intuitive for non-technical people to use, and ended previous compatibility issues with CHP’s outside partners, including contractors and architects.
“I love that Microsoft Office allows our employees to easily turn Word documents into PDF files,” says Dyas. “I feel strongly that many documents distributed outside of our organization should be in PDF format. Achieving that was a much more challenging process before the upgrade.”
CHP employees use Project Professional to manage projects and Outlook to book meetings and conference rooms. “Before, everyone had to email the building manager to see if a room was free,” says Dyas. “The process is much more organized now and people are held accountable for the rooms they reserve.”
CHP is also rolling out an electronic time-keeping system now that employees are getting more comfortable with using their computers to help inform, organize, and manage their workdays.
Before the end of the year, CHP plans to upgrade its Microsoft file server’s capabilities through the TechSoup donation program. “This will enable better access to files when employees are working remotely and off-site,” Dyas says.
Overall, getting donations of Microsoft products has allowed CHP to greatly reduce its administrative burden and focus more of its resources on supporting formerly homeless adults and children in retaining their housing and leading stable, productive lives.
More nonprofit technology resources:
Microsoft has a global software donations program that brings the benefits of affordable software to nonprofits around the world. Does your favorite nonprofit know about the program? Find out more here.
Cross posted from the Microsoft Europe Skills and Education blog
By: Sanda Foamete , Academic Program Manager, Microsoft Romania
In July 2011, Romania’s first Digital Agenda conference highlighted the importance of getting every European citizen online and equipping them with the right digital skills. The conference identified key challenges to internet inclusion covering issues like broadband investment, open data, and e-government.
Commissioner Neelie Kroes discussed ways of implementing the Digital Agenda in Romania. Access to broadband and technology remains problematic in Romania. Connecting people and communities together is still a working progress. Digital development is critical to effective national development, therefore sustained commitment is strongly needed to ensure that people have adequate e-skills to use smart devices and online services.
EOS, IREX and Microsoft have been working together to bring e-skills to Romanian citizens through multiple projects showing outstanding results. Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Program aims to help educators and school leaders connect, collaborate, create and share, so that students can realize their greatest potential. In partnership with EOS, the Partners in Learning Program Romania has provided 42,000 teachers with ICT training and online resources, over the last 8 years.
In addition, Microsoft and EOS ran a program to help rural and disadvantaged communities get the skills they needed to pursue social and economic development. Since 2004, the partnership between Microsoft and EOS has trained over a quarter million Romanians to use the resources, broadband and e-services developed especially for the program.
According to Gabi Barna, EOS Director, “Despite Romania’s less developed infrastructure, our mission is to inspire and enable people use the improved services e-government platforms and other digital services on offer. Together with the 102 e-centres EOS has assisted across Romania, we are both working to reach challenged communities and the geographically isolated to help these people go digital.”
Ms. Barna highlights an example of how e-services have benefited rural communities.“Farmers in rural areas have used telecentres to learn about e-services that would allow them to then apply for specific agriculture government subsidies through the APIA (National Agency for Payments in Agriculture). The usefulness of the support they receive at the telecentre also demonstrate to farmers that ICT is now part of everyday life, that business today is almost impossible to manage without basic ICT skills”
According to Paul André Baran, Director of Biblionet in Romania for IREX who works with EOS on the initiative for farmers, more than 17,000 farmers have benefited from this work.
This collaboration between EOS, IREX and Microsoft highlights the potential of a ‘Digital Alliance’ within Romania. Such alliances facilitate interaction between governments, civil society and businesses by linking efforts and contributions for greatest societal impact.
During our meeting with Commissioner Kroes, we engaged her views on building a ‘Digital Alliance’ in Romania and we are grateful to have her support and endorsement. The Romanian President and Romanian Prime Minister were told by commissioner Kroes about our initiative of building the ‘Digital Alliance for Romania’. Furthermore, associations close to the policy makers, interested to build Romanian digital society, also gave very positive feedback. “We will now find solutions to build this Alliance. Now that it is linked to the Digital Agenda objectives, we have better chances to succeed. I have the vision that the Digital Alliance for Romania to be our national response to the Digital Agenda for Europe – Pillar 6: Enhancing digital literacy, skills and inclusion. We simply need our figures to get higher on the European digital scoreboard “Gabi Barna says.
Indeed, there will be a follow-up to the Digital Agenda conference in September with a working group on the ‘Digital Alliance’, where EOS, IREX and Microsoft will be participating along with Mr. Emil Zahan, Chief of Staff at the Minister of Communications and Information Society. The next step is to really integrate the work of the ‘Digital Alliance’ within the ‘Improving eSkills’ chapter of the Romanian Digital Agenda and to increase the citizens participation in the next generation of e-government services.
Read the full article reasearching Romania's digital revolution on Commissioner Neelie Kroes blog.
Special thanks to Gabi Barna EOS Director and Paul-André Baran, Director of Biblionet for IREX for their ongoing collaboration and their kind contribution to this post.
Getting Europe online
ATC21S: Defining 21st Century Skills…
How TV White Spaces can bring broadband to all
Eamon Stack, CEO of ENCLUDE
A few weeks ago, my colleague Sylvester and I developed a cloud computing solution for a charity based in Galway, in the beautiful West of Ireland. The charity, Foundation Nepal, is a mission-driven organization whose founders, Nicky Deasy and Amber Walsh Olesen, are its primary driving forces. Foundation Nepal was founded five years ago after Nicky and Amber went on a visit to Nepal.
They were both financial accountants at KPMG at the time and were on a walking holiday where they were confronted by the chronic poverty encountered in the rural villages of Nepal. Appalled at the plight of so many women and children, they knew that they had the skills to change this awful reality and they started to work the moment they returned to Ireland.
The quality and impact of the work at Foundation Nepal has attracted the attention of Irish Aid and other funders as they have grown to a staff of eight in three years. However, they reached an unexpected ceiling in their growth: as they expanded their operation, they used the technology they were familiar with, including Hotmail, Microsoft Word, and Excel. But as they continued to grow, it became clear that they needed the ability to collaborate and manage their programs and operations in a way that would allow for greater scale and efficiency.
Working with ENCLUDE they were able to identify an affordable solution. The approach was to create appropriate technology support at three levels:
1. Foundation Nepal needed to build a solid foundation with Windows 7 and Office 2010 on all desktops and laptops, software donated by Microsoft through the TechSoup donation program
2. They needed to sort out their communications: email, instant messaging, SMS, and phone, with Microsoft Office 365 (received at a nonprofit discount); and
3. Most importantly they needed an integrated solution for project and client management, financial management, and document management.
After five days of work with ENCLUDE, Amber at Foundation Nepal presented the new solution to her colleagues. The new cloud-based integration integrates the organization's website and CRM database with Microsoft Outlook, using Office 365’s Exchange Online in the background. Amber demonstrated how Windows 7 automatically logs her into email, instant messaging, and the organization's new Microsoft SharePoint intranet. The new system was easy to use and mostly cloud-based and so is much easier to maintain.
Cloud computing offer charities like Foundation Nepal three things:
1. A single, shared, organization-wide ICT system that is scalable, secure, and accessible 24/7;
2. It removes barriers to growth - as it gives access to technology that is "up to the job" [fit for purpose] and scalable;
3. It enables charities to achieve levels of efficiency and effectiveness which are expected nowadays - giving them tools that allow for impact assessment and reporting.
From a Nonprofit Leader Perspective
Why did Foundation Nepal find itself in an ICT cul-de-sac? My experience is that nonprofit leaders too often feel poorly-equipped to make important technology decisions. Leaders are afraid: they feel intimidated by the jargon-laden presentations from technology salespeople and feel a lack of mission-focus from some of their IT staff and consultants. The big problem is not one of technology - it is one of trust.
It seems to me charities are crying out for someone to help. Someone who understands what they do and value; someone who will present them with real choices and not hundreds of options; and someone who will empower them to maximize their organizations resources to attain technology that supports their vital work.
Cloud computing offers a major opportunity to bridge the gap between charities and the ICT solutions they need. But technology alone is not the answer. I have proposed the following formula:
Technology + Trust = Transformation
Technology (cloud solutions) + Trusted Adviser (TechSoup partner) = Transformation of the ICT capacity of a nonprofit organizing.
When Nicky of Foundation Nepal saw her new system, she did not say "Wow!" In fact, she was quite familiar with the solution set from her work in KPMG. Her reply was "We should have had this system four years ago when we really got started."
Those of us in the wider TechSoup Global network are in a key position to meet an urgent need for Charities. Technology itself is not the primary roadblock to the adoption of appropriate ICT solutions. It is the lack of competent and trusted advisors to support charities as they adopt those solutions. Now is the opportunity to give charities the trusted technology leadership they deserve, which they need to effectively deliver on their missions.
Eamon Stack is the chief executive officer of ENCLUDE, which is TechSoup's NGO partner organization in Ireland. ENCLUDE provides hands-on technology solutions and software donations for Irish charities.
Eamon is a software engineer who is skilled in helping charities migrate to various cloud solutions that are appropriate to their IT staffing and budget. He has spent much of his career doing front-line community development among deprived communities in Ireland and Latin America, mostly with the Jesuit Order. He co-founded ENCLUDE in 2006 to address the challenge that most Irish nonprofits are on the wrong side of the digital divide.
Our mission is to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their
Explore the positive impact of local programs promoted and supported by Microsoft
around the world.
News, perspectives and analysis on legal and policy issues.
© 2013 Microsoft
Privacy Statement |
Connect With Us