September, 2011

  • Clinton Global Initiative – Making Change Happen

    By Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director, Global Community Affairs at Microsoft.

    Last week at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York city was at once a most exhilarating and tiring week. President Clinton continues to bring his star power, his deep concern around global development, and his expertise to energize all of us to do more. After a week of mingling with heads of state, actors, rock stars, models, business leaders and other change-makers one has to believe that the world, even in these difficult times, continues to become a better place. The conversation with Desmond Tutu and Aung San Suu Kyi was in some ways the highlight of the meeting as both people through their individual struggles have brought hope to the global community. The sheer scale of CGI commitments can be quite surreal at times when the results are shared, yet when we see the breadth of poverty around us we become somewhat skeptical and come to believe that no progress is being made. However, the examples of impact that were highlighted at CGI shows that change is happening and in many cases it is about a positive impact on one life at a time. We should never forget that.

    On Monday evening I spoke to about a 100 undergrad students at Columbia University. It was both fascinating and concerning to hear the quality of the Q&A that followed my remarks. For over an hour and half the students debated with me on topics ranging from the impact of technology on our lives and whether jobs are being lost due to technology. Fascinating on one hand because these young minds were so focused on trying to come to grips with the problems they see around them. Concerning on the other because they fear we are not leaving them a better world and that those in power do not have their interests in mind.

    One of the fantastic things about CGI is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world who are making change. Craig Kielburger the founder of the Canadian based nonprofit Free the Children which he founded as a 12 years old because he wanted to free kids from slavery. The organization provides active citizenship education programs in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, reaching 3,500 school groups annually. The organization's We Schools in Action program fills stadiums with tens of thousands of young leaders who provide more than one million hours of community service every year.

    I was just moved by the striking plea from Caroline Casey of Kanchi who wants all disabled people to have their dignity and not be identified by just their disability. There are 1 billion of people who around the world who have some form of disability and yet can be fully contributing members of society. She herself is legally blind but refused to accept her disability and wanted to be a race car driver – she eventually did drive a race car and raced against another blind driver. Caroline is building a business case to influence media and business through incentives and the Ability Awards that recognizes good business practices towards individuals with disabilities.

    Credit: Todd_France / Clinton Global Initiative

Clinton Global Initiative 2011 Annual Meeting

Keynote Lunch: Values-based Leadership

    Caroline Casey speaking at the CGI conference

    Then there is Petra Nemcova who I have come to admire for her steadfast support to build schools for children impacted by a natural disaster and who in six years has built over 56 schools where kids not only get an education but get some normality back into their lives. Petra her team at the Helping Hearts Fund create sustainable livelihood opportunities.

    Linda Lockhart started the Global Give Back Circle to help girls in Kenya make the leap from high school to university. She provides the girl with training, support and most importantly mentors – and many of these girls are now becoming leaders in their own right.

    I also met Ashok and Amrita Mahbubani who though the Ekta Foundation are making a significant difference in Haiti by helping build technology infrastructure and extend it into classrooms by partnering with Inveneo and NetHope.

    Speaking of NetHope. ,Microsoft is partnering the organization to expand its NetHope Academy to Africa and Latin America to train 1,000 interns over the next three years. NetHope launched its inaugural NetHope Academy class in Haiti in September 2010 after recognizing an acute shortage of local, qualified IT staff at NGOs working to help Haiti recover after the 2010 earthquake. In March of 2011, 39 students graduated from the program and more than 80 percent of them achieved full-time employment. This commitment to action at CGI represents a new and significant expansion in the size, scope and geographic reach of our small, but highly successful program launched last year in Haiti.

    There is incredible work underway around the world to address the issues we face. At Microsoft we feel very privileged that we have been able to support many of these efforts that are all about providing youth with opportunity so they can be the agents of change. As is customary at CGI it’s not just about talking, it’s about commitment. Microsoft have committed in partnership with Comcast, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and One Economy to provide broadband access and technology to 1 million students from low-income families in the United States to receive the benefits of software, hardware and broadband Internet service. There are over 7 million kids in the U.S. today who have no access to a computer, a mobile phone or the internet. This commitment aims to change that reality and help these kids to contribute to their own future as well as the prosperity of their own community.

    President Clinton summed it up best that it is better to try and fail that not try at all. He said that pessimism is making the decision to be disappointed in advance. Coming together to make change is what this week is all about. New Yorkers complain about the traffic and the gridlock because in addition to CGI, the UN General Assembly is in session with heads of State and diplomats rushing all over the city. But these people also show up at CGI where they come in contact with incredible, inspirational people like Craig, Caroline, Petra, Linda and others. Many of them are just committed individuals that wake up every day and against many odds go out and try and make change, one person at a time. We are honored to be part of this movement.

  • Heroes of #STEMtember: Engineering the power to fly high


    If you have ever had a conversation with a child about how planes fly, why birds fly or why humans don’t fly, your answer has probably been something less than scientific – and completely age appropriate for the little person asking the question. However, if that child asked that question of Boeing test pilot Vince Eckelkamp, he’s likely to give you a very detailed, very scientific response – because he knows first-hand what it takes to make planes fly and why they work the way they do.

    As part of STEMtember, we asked Vince why he chose STEM as a field of study and how it helped him get his dream job as a test pilot for Boeing airplanes.

    1. What is your current occupation?

    I am a Captain for Boeing – specifically with the Production Flight Test, Boeing Test & Evaluations group


    2. What inspired you to start studying science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects?

    For me, STEM = “understanding how airplanes work”, and as a pilot that’s a good thing. My dad was a pilot in the Air Force so early on I had the bug to be a pilot. I was fortunate enough to choose a path that allowed me to reach that goal. I did well in high school and from there studied at the Air Force Academy, and then to Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) in Phoenix.

    3. How did studying (STEM) help you to get where you wanted to be in your career?

    STEM subjects were a natural choice for me since I’m the type of person who likes finite answers not fuzzy ones… In other disciplines there usually can be more than one answer and it take quite a few words to get to it. Generally speaking, in STEM there is usually only one right answer (i.e. plug and chug – plug the number into the equation, define the variables, and a single solution is achieved!)

    4. If you could offer advice to the next generation, why study STEM subjects?

    STEM is the future, it’s all around us, and is constantly/rapidly changing the world with the evolving technologies. If you want to be a part of it you need to include STEM in your studies!

    5. What is the coolest story you could tell a group of students or teachers about what STEM education has helped you do?

    To become a pilot here at Boeing. I’ve been a pilot for over 24 years flying with the US Air Force, United Airlines, and then hired at Boeing initially as an airplane Instructor Pilot then recently hired into Production Test. Production Test only hires pilots with technical degrees because of the type of flying/testing we do and it’s a small, tight group. Currently I fly the first flights on 737NG straight out of the factory and support 787 Engineering Flight Test.

    Editor’s Note: We have declared this month #STEMtember to build awareness of the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. Earlier in the month we released some research into how parents and students view STEM education and we’re publishing profiles of people with some of the coolest STEM jobs. Keep an eye on the blog or follow #STEMtember on Twitter, discuss on Facebook, or you can read all this month’s post by clicking on the tag #STEMtember on this blog

  • Helping to respond to the Horn of Africa Crisis

    Editor’s note: Cross-posted from the Microsoft on the Issues blog.

    Brad Smith, General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft

    It has been more than two months since famine was declared in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti, leaving 12.4 million people in need of emergency aid. Every day, more than 1,500 famine-stricken Somalis arrive in the world’s largest refugee camp in north-eastern Kenya. According to the United Nations, the Dadaab Refugee camp designed for 90,000 people is now home to nearly half a million people.

    To put this crisis in perspective, the number of severely famine-stricken people is higher than the combined numbers affected by the South Asia tsunami and South Asia earthquakes of 2005, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

    On the Microsoft on the Issues Blog for Africa, we often focus on the many opportunities present in Africa, the amazing feats and accomplishments of the African people, and how technology positively impacts the continent. But Africa, and the world community, face a humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, and I wanted to take a moment to talk about Microsoft’s commitment to help respond to the crisis.

    Our response

    Technology is our business and it also underpins how we try and contribute to the communities we serve. We are committed to using technology to help respond to this crisis. Today in Nairobi, I announced that we are extending our disaster response efforts with a number of partner organizations working in the region. We are committing to deliver support to the value of more than $4 million, including:

    - Monetary donations to NGOs working in the relief zone.

    - Donating technical solutions and support to lead response organizations to improve the effectiveness of aid flows and monitoring, which can significantly improve the overall relief effort. Over the last 30 days, we have been working with IGOs and NGOs in the region to develop a sustainable model for their disaster response mechanisms. Our efforts include:

    • Working with the International Organization of Migration (IOM) to develop an IT system to assist their work with refugees in the region. This is similar to the solution that was successfully implemented by Microsoft and the IOM in Egypt for their work with Libyan refugees.
    • Supporting the relief efforts of the NGOs and UN agencies working in the region by bringing broadband Internet connectivity to the Dadaab refugee camp in a partnership with NetHope.
    • Collaborating with NetHope to donate software and IT training to the 32 NGO members operating in the region, with a focus on improving the effectiveness of their work.

    - Providing access to technology, education and learning opportunities for refugees. Examples include:

    • Partnering with international NGOs in the zone, including UN refugee agency UNCHR, the Red Cross, IOM,Right to Play and NetHope, to assist in the establishment of three UNHCR technology centers in the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps. This effort is intended to improve the education and learning opportunities for young people in these camps.
    • Working with the UNHCR to deliver the Community Technology Access (CTA) Program inside the Kakuma refugee camp, aimed at empowering refugees by providing access to technology and connectivity.
    • Providing children and young people with access to sports and recreational facilities in partnership with the international NGO, Right to Play.

    We have an ongoing commitment to Kenya and East Africa – and are not new to the challenges facing the region. These latest efforts combine our long-term commitment with the immediate disaster response needs of the communities at risk.

    There are so many positive developments across the continent and so much progress being made. However, the world collectively needs to respond to the crisis in the Horn of Africa and help address the terrible suffering of so many people. We are committed to playing our part.

    If you would like to help, we recommend working with, or donating to, one of the following organizations:

  • Heroes of STEMtember: A teacher of teachers creates innovative math curriculum using tech

    How do we address stale curriculum and make teaching exciting? Specifically, how do we change plans in STEM subjects that can often lack the excitement needed to encourage students to study further. Perhaps we need something to help our teachers reach new heights; maybe we need innovative and robust methods of teaching that incorporate technology as a means to capture the minds of a generation of tech savvy students. What do you think? (let us know on twitter #STEMtember)

    University of Washington Bothell Professor Robin Angotti will tell you that technology is NOT a panacea to fix a lack of deep conceptual understanding, nor is it a fix for bad teaching. Though don’t take her passion the wrong way;  Robin stands proud as an innovator in math curriculum, looking to bridge the gap with a generation of tech savvy learners. From someone who once “didn’t quite get it” when it came to math, Robin is now amongst a generation of teachers whom we need desperately; the bold, the aware, the innovative teacher seeking to find a way to reach students who don’t connect with conventional methods of learning.

    Learn what Robin is up to in our latest edition to Heroes of STEMtember:

    What do you think of the work Robin is doing? Feel free to let us know on Twitter #STEMtember, in the comments below, or on Faceboook.

    Are you a supporter of teachers like Robin? Check out the blog post “Supporting America’s Teachers” about the soon-to-be-released film, American Teacher. Microsoft Partners in Learning has teamed up to support this film as part of our ongoing efforts to support the teaching profession and encourage broad dialogue about the importance of having great teachers in our nation’s classrooms.

    “American Teacher tells the collective story by and about those closest to the issues in our educational system—the 3.2 million teachers who spend every day in classrooms across the country. The feature-length documentary brings together educational experts, student interviews, and a year of documenting the day-to-day lives and sacrifices of public school teachers.  American Teacher raises important questions about how we value our strongest, most committed, and most effective teachers, and the ripple effect this has on how our children learn and their potential for future success.” Read the full story and see how you can be part of this effort here.

    Editor’s Note: We have declared this month #STEMtember to build awareness of the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. Earlier in the month we released some research into how parents and students view STEM education and we’re publishing profiles of people

  • Helping local nonprofits to learn how to take social media to the next level

    By Mary Monroy-Spampinato, Midwest District Operations and Community Manager at Microsoft


    Yesterday in Chicago the Social Media for Nonprofits conference was held at Columbia College with support from Microsoft. This was the fifth stop in a series of nine conferences for nonprofits across the United States.

    There were over 200 attendees at the event and there was an incredible atmosphere throughout the day. I spent a lot of time talking with different nonprofits and there was a lot of interest in how they can access software donations for their organizations.

    The speakers throughout the day were engaging and provided real world practical tips for attendees that they could use right away.

    · Interesting social media tips and information provided included:

    · Think strategically, act tactically

    · You have to ask to get the action or desired result;

    · Use photo or video to tell a good story – remember good story telling allows people to find aspects in themselves

    · 85% of U.S. internet users watch video online

    · $300B is donated by individuals each year in the U.S. which remains fairly consistent year over year

    · When you launch a campaign, learn from it and adjust

    · Mapping donations directly to impact is crucial

    · Make sure your LinkedIn profile is current and have the volunteer experience & causes section filled out; LinkedIn’s advanced search is the greatest secret weapon for nonprofits in the U.S.

    · Don’t get discouraged; use your social media friends to open up their contacts to you so you can expand your network quickly

    · If you use Twitter, make sure you use the TWEET methodology – target, write, engage, explore, and track.

    The conference ended on a high note with Claire Diaz Ortiz who leads social innovation, philanthropy, and causes at Twitter. She covered topics from her new book - Twitter for Good: Change the World, One Tweet at a Time and stayed for the book signing reception signing copies of her book and meeting attendees along with Darian Rodriguez Heyman and his book Nonprofit Management 101.

    The guest speaker list included:

    · Darian Rodriguez Heyman – Emcee and Co-Producer, Social Media for Nonprofits and Author of Nonprofit Management 101

    · Demetrio Maguigad from Community Media Workshop

    · Robert Michael Murray from National Geographic

    · Nasser Asif from See3 Communications

    · Dave Boyce from Fundly

    · Bryan Breckenridge from Linkedin

    · Laura Pincus Hartman from

    · Kyle Klatt from Groupon

    · Evan Bailyn – Author, and Founder, First Page Sage and Good Media Co.

    · Patrick Culp - Sprout Social

    · Claire Diaz Ortiz - Twitter

    You can find more information on the speakers, content links, twitter feeds, and recorded sessions on


    Our special thanks to Darian Rodriguez Heyman and Ritu Sharma, Co-Producers, Social Media for Nonprofits for bringing this amazing event to Chicago and all their hard work behind the scenes to make it happen. Darian’s passion and enthusiasm throughout the day as emcee and presenter was so refreshing and engaging for our attendees. As one attendee left, she said “even though I am not a newbie (to nonprofit social media), I learned so much all day and am extremely grateful to Microsoft for sponsoring this event.”

    If you missed yesterday’s event, you can still sign up for one of the upcoming events. Use promotion code “MSFT” at check-out to get a $20 discount off of the registration rate.


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