Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of blog posts reflecting on the evolution and impact of Microsoft’s Community Technology Skills Program you can find links to the previous entries at the end of this post.
If I had to summarize in a few words the most important thing Microsoft has learned over the last eight years running a global community investment program, it is this: to be a catalyst for change, people need more than just an access point for technology. Effective programs target specific socioeconomic issues and provide individuals with the knowledge and skills that help them not only imagine, but realize opportunities in their lives.
This insight has helped us sharpen the focus of our investments in recent years onto programs that increase a person’s ability to enter the workforce or a new industry, advance in the workplace, or start a business. In addition to teaching technology skills, this means providing support in other areas such as career planning, interviewing, and resume writing.
In Latin America for example, we have invested in technology skills training for people with disabilities—a population largely overlooked due to cultural factors. In Asia, a primary emphasis was providing computer skills to help victims of human trafficking find safe, long-term employment.
This change made sense for a number of reasons. It fits with Microsoft’s goal of using its assets and technology expertise to stimulate economic development and job creation in local economies. The employability focus also aligns with the economic development priorities of many regional, national, and local governments.
We have also consolidated our CTSP investments and now award fewer, larger grants—often to partners that run nationwide or regional programs. This has allowed us to extend our impact and help sustain networks of community organizations that serve diverse populations.
In New York state Microsoft works with a single grant partner for our CTSP program—the Advanced Technology Training and Information Networking (ATTAIN) labs operated by the State University of New York—to support 32 local skills training programs. In community centers and public housing complexes from Staten Island to Niagara Falls, the ATTAIN labs provide computer instruction and other workplace skills training to people living in poverty and those with limited education.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, Microsoft works with POETA (Partnership in Opportunities for Employment through Technology in the Americas)—an organization that supports 72 community organizations in 20 countries that are providing ICT and other job skills training to thousands of at-risk youth and people with disabilities.
By working through umbrella organizations such as ATTAIN and POETA, Microsoft is able to more effectively deliver training programs through networks of local organizations. This approach also makes it easier for local organizations to share information about best practices.
The Black Country Consortium in the UK is another example. It works to revitalize a region hit hard by the decline of heavy industries such as manufacturing and mining. In the Black Country region, where unemployment has been a major issue for decades, only about 25 percent of adults have basic ICT skills. As part of a three-year partnership, Microsoft and the Black Country Consortium supported dozens of community technology centers that have taught a range of job-related skills to about 35,000 people.
Based in part on the success of the Black Country project, Microsoft in 2009 launched Britain Works, a nationwide program aimed at providing 500,000 people with the technology skills they need to get hired into the kinds of digital jobs that will lead the economic recovery.
In the U.S., as the unemployment rate soared toward 10 percent in 2009, we launched Elevate America—a program that has given hundreds of thousands of people free access to a wide range of ICT skills training courses and certification exams. Built partly on insights gained through the CTSP program, the Elevate America state voucher program is an example of how we are aligning our efforts with key government priorities. Working with 32 states plus the District of Columbia, we provided nearly 900,000 vouchers for no cost training and certification to support the unemployed, underemployed, and people transitioning careers with the skills training needed to get better jobs.
Building on our work with the states, we continued to sharpen our focus and refine our work, launching the Elevate America veterans initiative and Elevate America community initiative in the spring of 2010. The Elevate America Veterans Initiative was designed to help our country's most recently separated veterans and their spouses acquire the skills and resources that they need to be successful in today's workplace.
We’re working to address these challenges by partnering with public, private, and nonprofit organizations to provide not just technology skills training, but job placement and support services such as childcare, transportation and housing assistance to help U.S. veterans and their spouses succeed in civilian jobs and give them the opportunities they deserve.
Technology is not the cure-all to ending high unemployment. But it is an important ingredient in local, community-based programs that are so desperately needed to provide young people, the underserved, and the unemployed with the skills and opportunities they need to succeed in today’s workplace. I’m personally grateful for the opportunity to lead our community investment efforts and proud of our ability to be consistent, yet adaptable, to reflect what we have learned and what is needed to meet the needs of local communities.
This is the fourth in a series of posts looking at the lessons and insights Microsoft has learned from eight years of investing in community initiatives around the world:
Cross posted from the Software Enabled Earth blog
Today IDG’s Computerworld named Microsoft as one of the top green IT organization as part of its annual Top Green-IT Organizations feature. Of the seventy organizations that participated in the ranking, Microsoft was ranked fourth. We’re very pleased to rank among other leading organization committed to environmental sustainability and green IT practices.
Computerworld’s criteria for top green IT companies looks at how organizations are reducing energy consumption in IT equipment and how they’re using technology to conserve energy and lower carbon emissions. Other factors, such as corporate practices including recycling programs and telecommuting, are considered as well.
Microsoft has a current goal to reduce carbon emissions by 30% per unit of revenue by 2012 based on 2007 levels. Our current carbon reduction efforts are focused on three primary areas: facilities, travel and data centers. Some of our recent successes include:
In addition, our cloud computing services enable other companies to take advantage of Microsoft’s ultra-efficient data centers. In a recent study we conducted on the environmental impact of moving Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM to the cloud revealed that customers who choose to run these applications in Microsoft’s cloud versus on-premises can reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions on a per-user basis by at least 30 percent versus running those same applications on-premise. The benefits are even more impressive for smaller businesses who have the potential to realize energy and carbon savings of more than 90 percent.
We are certainly proud of the work we’ve accomplished and the progress we’re seeing at our company. We are flattered that Computerworld named Microsoft as one of the top green IT organizations, but we acknowledge our critics too. Do we have more work to do? Absolutely. We see the opportunity to improve in a variety of areas and remain committed to doing so. We plan to continue making the right investments to ensure that Microsoft remains an industry leader in green IT.
What if you had 24 hours to make a difference in the lives of people across the world’s 24 time zones? A group of Microsoft employees and pioneering philanthropists asked themselves this question as part of month of Giving at Microsoft. The answer came in the form of an event called “The 24 Hour Global Give and Go”. For a description of the event, here is a quick introduction from John Bartol:
So on October 24, beginning at 4pm on the International Date Line, and continuing at 4pm across 24 time zones, teams of Microsoft employees around the world will be running, biking, swimming, walking, sailing, flying, Kinect’ing, and just plain MOVING for one hour in support of named, local charities.
Have you ever witnessed the Olympic Torch Run? During this marathon the “torch” is passed on the hour, every hour from time zone to time zone. However in this case it’s a virtual torch, a Windows Phone 7. The handover each hour takes place via Microsoft’s internal social media channel OfficeTalk where a photo and post describes the hour journey.
You can follow the progress from around the world, throughout the day, on the Microsoft Citizenship Twitter and Facebook where we will be posting photos.
So far this year, 230 employees have raised over $12,000, much of which will be matched by local Microsoft subsidiaries.
If you want to see what 24 hours of global giving looks like, stay tuned with us.
The trip begins at 8pm PST, Sunday October 23. Below you will find updates from our teams around the world!
The first hour of the Global Give & Go is done! Here is the BATON PASS!!! KEEP GOING! -John Bartol and Nicole Fiset (pictured above).
90 plus registered in Japan to run & Kinect dance to raise 5,800USD to support the community in quake affected Eastern Japan!”- Mitch Tsunoda
Kinect dancing for a good cause!
Team Japan passes on the baton! Keep going!!
Team Shanghai is ready to rock at Xuhui park despite the cold rainy conditions.
Team Beijing did a ping pong event. Good luck to the other time zone teams!
India Hyderabad team all set for good warm up jog before the big game of cricket for Global Giving Campaign.
Another India team starts it Mega run at the park of Historic Qutub Minar
Passing the baton from India using Windows Phone 7
And passed on again for Armenia... Go Go Go!! -Doug Pierson
Team London warmed up and set out on a run described as "A brilliant day in London" by Inga Sheppard
The UK team is gearing up for various activities and representing their colors proudly!
A little bit of exercise for good, and the UK team passes on the baton. Keep going!
Team France prepares for the day's activities with a brain excercise
Team France passes the baton after their activity.
In Germany you could swim or skate. According to their team, "German Inline Skaters "survived" with nobody injured! :) Keep it rolling!"
In Mexico, Manuel Herrera Trejo walked around campus in support of his cause, and passed the baton off with the pictures you see above. Keep going!
Passing the baton from Brazil to GMT -3! Keep going!
Microsoft Staff gathered at Lucky Strike lanes in Bellevue, WA, to knock down pins for a few good causes.
Joined in partnership with the Seattle Seahawks, a good chunk of change was raised between bowling pledges and a silent auction hosted by the Hawks. One last baton pass over to Seattle for the final hour of the 24 Hour Give and Go!
Nicole Fiset leads the final leg of the 24 Hour Give and Go, kicking it off with this photo!
And the going is complete!! Great work everyone for making the 24 Hour Global Give and Go such a success!
Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of blog posts reflecting on the evolution and impact of Microsoft’s Community Technology Skills Program you can find links to the previous entries at the end of this post.
When I think of Ren Xuping, I think about rabbits, and the importance of deep local roots in running effective community technology skills programs. Ren is the Rabbit King of China, and no one better exemplifies the entrepreneurial chutzpah of China or the value of working with a trusted local partner when introducing technology skills training programs.
Growing up in the rural village of Yuanyang, Ren was too poor to attend high school. But he loved little animals and at the age of 13 began raising rabbits. Fast forward 30 years, and Ren is now the head of a thriving rabbit-breeding empire in rural Dayi County, Sichuan Province.
Ren has done a lot to help others in rural parts of China learn how to breed rabbits as a way to generate income. In 2006, Ren and his wife, Zhang, established the Rabbit King Poverty Alleviation Research Center, which provides technology training as part of a program that teaches farmers how to breed rabbits for profit. Funded jointly by Microsoft and a Chinese NGO focused on poverty alleviation, the center uses mobile training units to reach people in 21 villages in the mountainous region around Dayi.
Ren and Zhang also helped Microsoft establish a partnership with two Chinese NGOs to establish ICT training centers in the areas of Sichuan and Gansu provinces that were hit hardest by the 2008 earthquake, which killed about 70,000 people and left nearly 5 million people homeless.
In China, we came to rely on Ren and Zhang because they know how to effectively introduce technology and help people understand how it can be relevant in their lives. This is especially important when technology is being introduced into a community for the first time and there is likely to be some resistance or skepticism.
Partners with local roots are also effective at managing basic yet important details such as finding the best location for a new training center and identifying transportation options to ensure that people are able to get to the center. Strong ties to the community also help build a sense of local ownership.
Besides helping a project have greater impact, a strong local partner can help ensure a project’s sustainability. When the community has a sense of ownership, local leaders and residents are more willing to look for other means of support to keep the training center running after the grant runs out. Without such connections, organizations must spend additional time and effort to establish trust and credibility before they can deliver effective programs.
In India, for instance, Microsoft partnered for years with Drishtee, an NGO that uses a kiosk-based system to deliver services such as healthcare, education, and microfinance loans throughout the country. Drishtee’s practice is to identify a local entrepreneur and provide that person with the tools and training needed to deliver services through the kiosks. In working with Drishtee, Microsoft realized that it takes longer for a program to become established if it does not have substantial connections within the community. Drishtee understood right from the beginning that it had to find local entrepreneurs to run these kiosks and that it could not be something imposed from outside the community.
Microsoft often partners with intermediary organizations that can help identify and support local partners that have strong local community connections and locally relevant expertise. In Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, Microsoft has teamed up with the Trust for the Americas, an international NGO affiliated with the Organization of American States, to support more than 72 CTSP partners.
In 2004, Microsoft and the Trust launched the Partnership in Opportunities for Employment through Technology in the Americas (POETA) to help local organizations in 20 countries operate nearly 118 training centers. With a primary emphasis on providing skills training to people with disabilities and at-risk youth, POETA has helped raise awareness about those vulnerable populations throughout the region.
In addition to helping Microsoft find strong local CTSP partners, the Trust helps those organizations develop locally relevant curricula and provides the training and tools needed to run an effective ICT skills program (PDF). In addition to technology training, POETA-supported programs offer locally relevant job-readiness training as well as civics and business courses.
Next week, a final word (for now) on what we’ve learned and where we’re headed with the Community Technology Skills Program.
Photo: Drumming with Jason Brown at Visitacion Valley Boys & Girls Club, from the Performing Arts Workshop Flickr
While tough economic times have forced many arts organizations to cut back on staff and programs — or worse, close their doors — Performing Arts Workshop in San Francisco is expanding its reach to help even greater numbers of at-risk youth.
“The information we have been able to present about our programs has allowed us to make our case and secure funding when many other nonprofits have not been so fortunate,” says Anne Trickey, the nonprofit organization’s program and communications manager.
But this wasn’t always the case. Before the Workshop started using Microsoft Office 2010, important communications and fundraising vehicles sometimes got short shrift. For example, its annual report wasn’t always annual, admits Trickey. “We rely heavily on our donated Microsoft products from TechSoup to fulfill our mission and demonstrate the effects of high-quality arts education,” she says.
Without the new features of Office 2010, Trickey says it would be challenging to compile data for the organization’s annual program report in a timely fashion. “I especially love Microsoft Excel’s graph and chart features that allow us to pinpoint the exact data we wish to highlight and present it in a manner that’s consistent with our brand and formatting,” she says. Staff then uses this data to illustrate in Microsoft Word areas where the organization is excelling and where it can improve. “The report formatting allows us to present this data in a visually appealing way for internal stakeholders as well as funders,” explains Trickey.
Dedicated to helping young people develop critical thinking, creative expression, and basic learning skills through the arts, Performing Arts Workshop was established in 1965 to provide a creative outlet for inner-city teenagers. It was based originally at the Telegraph Hill Community Center and later at the Buchanan Street YMCA. Founder Gloria Unti led neighborhood youth— most of whom were in gangs or had dropped out of school —through improvisational dance and theatre.
Today, the Workshop’s commitment to underserved youth is stronger than ever. Its Artists-in-Schools and Artists-in-Communities programs reach thousands of young people in public schools, transitional housing facilities, and community centers each year. “Five years ago we were serving approximately 4,000 youth. Now that number is over 9,000,” says Trickey.
Each year, with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint, Trickey presents program highlights to the Workshop board and administrative staff at the organization’s annual retreat. “It’s very important for us to be able to strategically assess our impact over time and make decisions that affect programming for next year,” she says.
The organization also uses Microsoft PowerPoint as a training tool for its artistic staff. “Being able to link to documents and websites directly from the PowerPoint presentation keeps the teaching artists engaged and conveys the large volume of necessary information more easily,” notes Trickey.
Demonstrable results have never been more important for nonprofits to get noticed and win the favor of funders. “Before Performing Arts Workshop had Microsoft Office, we didn’t have a way to provide a quick overview of the necessity of the arts in education,” Trickey explains. Now the Workshop creates multiple handouts with graphic images, created from data compiled and formatted using Microsoft products, to tell its story in a compelling way. “We are able to successfully promote the benefits of teaching critical thinking and creative expression and to extend the reach of our advocacy efforts,” she says, “And it’s the TechSoup donations of Microsoft Office 2010 that made all this happen!”
To learn more about the Microsoft Software Donation Program, visit www.TechSoup.org/Microsoft.
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