Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
By Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director, Citizenship and Public Affairs, Microsoft
Every year at the Imagine Cup, over 300,000 students from around the world come together to solve some of the world’s toughest problems using technology. The array of issues being addressed at the Imagine Cup each year is incredible, from helping students with visual impairments, to supporting refugees, reducing the impact of malaria and helping improve the response to humanitarian disasters. We’ve spent a lot of time in Microsoft thinking about how we can best help some of the teams take their ideas from the competition floor out to market where they can have a real positive impact.
That’s the idea behind the Imagine Cup grants program, which was first announced at the Imagine Cup 2011 Worldwide finals in New York last July, and is designed to help students bring the benefits of their projects to the world. It’s a three year $3 million program that combines cash, software, consulting and other support, and winners will be announced in early 2012.
The grant process is competitive, and is open to Imagine Cup 2011 worldwide finalist teams. The program is specifically designed to help student teams build a business or nonprofit organization to bring the benefits of their solution to market. We will award up to three teams with grants.
All Imagine Cup 2011 worldwide finalist teams are eligible to apply for these grants starting today with their Imagine Cup 2011 projects.
All the applicants will be judged on four criteria:
1. Project impact and viability
2. Team quality and motivation
3. Solution design and innovation
4. Problem definition.
You can visit the Imagine Cup website to learn more about the Imagine Cup grant award, the criteria and judging process. The applications deadline is November 11, 2011, and the winners will be announced in early 2012.
In the meantime, we’ll keep you up to date on the program and will share the stories of how students are solving some of the world’s toughest problems.
Watch this space!
By John Seethoff, Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, Microsoft
With the approach of Microsoft’s annual shareholders meeting on November 15th, I am excited to take a look back at some of the recent results of Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to promote the long-term interests of our shareholders, as well as to maintain internal checks and balances, strengthen management accountability, and foster responsible decision making.
· Corporate Citizenship: In March, Microsoft was one of a select few companies named to the Ethisphere Institute’s 2011 List of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. On October 3, we released our annual Citizenship Report describing the many activities Microsoft has been pursuing under the dual themes of “Serving Communities” and “Working Responsibly.”
· Say-On-Pay at Microsoft: Back in 2009, I blogged about the Microsoft Board of Director’s decision to implement a “say-on-pay” policy. At that time, the Board of Directors determined that a triennial vote would be preferable based on a number of reasons I outlined in the blog. In our first say-on-pay vote, shareholders overwhelmingly supported Microsoft’s executive pay practices. At this year’s shareholders meeting, we will hold Microsoft’s second ever say-on-pay vote in addition to a say-on-frequency vote. We continue to believe there are valid arguments for a variety of vote frequencies depending on a company’s specific circumstances. Nevertheless, considering input we have received in our shareholder outreach and the preference evident from voting results at other large companies, we recommend shareholders vote to hold the say-on-pay vote every year.
· Director Video Series: In 2009, Microsoft began posting video interviews with members of its Board of Directors to provide deeper insights into our directors’ backgrounds and perspectives on board service. In July, we posted our most recent interview, with Charles H. Noski, a Microsoft board member since 2003 and currently Vice Chairman at Bank of America Corporation.
I am excited that Microsoft Board members Dina Dublon, Reed Hastings and I have been selected to the Directorship 100 by the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), which honors individuals who are committed to the highest standards and best practices in corporate governance, as well as helping to promote NACD’s initiatives to further boardroom diversity.
In June, I was elected as Chairman of the Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals for the 2011-2012 term. During my chairmanship, I hope to work with other corporate governance leaders to develop new approaches to continue advancing governance practices that build long term value for companies, their shareholders and other stakeholders.
As we prepare for the annual meeting, I encourage all shareholders to review Microsoft’s Annual Report, proxy statement and a letter from our Governance and Nominating Committee with an overview of our citizenship and governance efforts from the past year. I look forward to meeting with our shareholders again in November as we continue our work to implement forward-thinking corporate governance practices and to develop new policies that further promote the interests of our shareholders.
I invite you to leave a comment on this blog below. For additional information about corporate governance at Microsoft, please click here.
A lot of factors determine whether a community technology skills program is successful. One of the most important is identifying strong community leaders with a deep understanding of community needs, a vision for how those needs can be met, and a willingness to take risks and innovate.
Whether it’s a political leader, a community leader, or a youth leader—at the end of the day, you need the support and energy of someone that the community looks up to. In my experience, when you meet these kinds of people, you often know it right away. There’s a certain magnetism they exude, a demonstrated passion for what they do, a vision of what they want to accomplish, and a clear-eyed sense of what’s possible.
Rodrigo Baggio, a well-regarded social entrepreneur in Brazil, is one such individual. Charismatic and energetic, Baggio is focused on addressing what he calls “digital apartheid”—the lack of access to information technology for most of the world’s population.
In the mid-1990s, Baggio founded the Center for Digital Inclusion (CDI), which uses technology “as a medium to fight poverty, stimulate entrepreneurship, and create a new generation of change makers. Supported in part by Microsoft since 1999, CDI has established more than 821 community technology centers in 13 countries, including Brazil, where the centers provide computer and Internet access to nearly 295,000 people.
As Baggio’s reputation has grown, many community leaders throughout the region have approached him about setting up technology programs in their towns. That’s been great for us, because Baggio’s network of local relationships has enabled Microsoft to scale our efforts and directly support where it can be most effective.
Another thing I have observed is that the most effective leaders also have an ability to anticipate and adapt to change. One thing we’ve been able to do well is find partners who are willing to see their programs grow and evolve, and who understand the need for course corrections. Finding leaders who can adapt but stay true to their mission—who can stay focused on what we’re trying to accomplish together—is a very powerful thing.
Gabriela Barna, director of Educating for an Open Society (EOS) in Romania, comes to mind in this respect. When Microsoft’s partnership with EOS began in 2006, it focused on providing basic ICT skills training to people in underserved areas through a network of public technology centers. But as we shifted our emphasis to providing a range of workplace skills, Barna found creative ways to move with us without having to compromise on her organization’s mission. EOS now tailors its courses to meet the needs of employers, and thousands of unemployed Romanians have benefited from EOS training programs.
We’re not experts in working with the chronically unemployed, and we never will be. So we need leaders who know their community well, have lots of credibility and connections, and can execute. We know that the quality of the partnerships we create with an organization is about 90 percent of what determines the success of any of our projects.
Another example of a strong local leader is Deborah Alvarez-Rodriguez, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties in California. Goodwill Industries runs a variety of training programs for people trapped in long-term, intergenerational poverty—including those with limited education, individuals exiting the criminal justice system, the homeless, and people with disabilities. Goodwill also has programs to help military veterans and people who lack basic English skills.
In 2007, Alvarez-Rodriguez approached Microsoft with an idea for a CTSP partnership. With financial support and software donations from us, Goodwill has implemented a state-of-the-art online self-assessment tool that lets people customize technology skills training to address their specific needs and build on their strengths.
In my next blog post, I’ll tell you about another remarkable local leader we’ve worked with – Run Xuping, the Rabbit King of China.
This is the third 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:
Yesterday employees and their families turned out for what’s always the most colorful - well perhaps with the exception of the Flamingos - event of the Microsoft employee giving month.
This year participation was up on last year as spouses and domestic partners were allowed to join the fun. The registration fees will benefit four nonprofit organizations; Teen Feed, A Better Seattle, Washington Trails Association, and Northwest Organization for Animal Help. Representatives from each organization were at the event sharing the work they do.
In addition to the actual run, there was music, refreshments, entertainment, and the most adorable puppies you have ever seen.
As you can see it was a fun day for great causes. All of our pictures are available on Facebook.
The race started at the fields outside of Building 8 on Microsoft Redmond Campus.
Employees warm up and stretch, getting ready to take on the 5k.
Everyone was out in full support of their teams and friends united to rally around the causes.
The starting line was rather colorful as the racers put their game faces on.
And we are off! The 5k begins!!
Amongst the fastest of racers, we spot our own Jane Meseck.
Runners make their way around Microsoft Redmond campus.
Encouragement throughout the 5k put a smile on the runner’s faces.
Microsoft Citizenship’s Gretchen Deo, Kevin Espirito, and Jane Meseck celebrating a successful 5k with the rest of the runners.
More pictures available on the Microsoft Citizenship Facebook.
Stay up to date on the latest posts from the Microsoft employee giving month.
And a few more pictures for good measure, these puppies need adoption and were hanging out at the 5k with N.O.A.H.
When Microsoft first began working on strategies to increase access to technology in underserved communities, we assumed that the most successful programs would be those run by nonprofits with a track record of success operating community technology centers and ICT skills training programs.
It was a logical assumption, but, as we learned, not necessarily a correct one. In the eight years since we launched the Community Technology Skills Program, the NGOs that have proven to be the strongest and most effective partners are those with a well-defined social mission and those focused on meeting specific local needs.
What we have seen is that such organizations are better equipped to design programs that prepare people with skills relevant to the local economy. And programs that are locally relevant are more likely to be embraced—and therefore effective—within the community.
In Portugal, for instance, the Technological Centre for the Textile and Clothing Industries (CITEVE) has been working for more than two decades to increase ICT proficiency among textile workers. Faced with intense competition from lower-cost producers in other countries, Portugal’s textile industry has been forced to shed thousands of jobs.
In 2006, Microsoft helped CITEVE establish four technology skills training centers in central and northern Portugal, where the nation’s textile industry is centered. In addition to providing textile workers with the computer skills they need to keep up with the industry’s increasing use of technology, the training program helps displaced workers gain other skills—such as career planning and resume writing—that will help them find jobs in other sectors of the economy.
In the Philippines, we formed a partnership with the Visayan Forum Foundation Inc. (VFFI) to address another important local issue: helping victims of human trafficking learn skills that can set them on the road to a better life. VFFI operates a network of safe houses for women and children who have been victims of forced labor or sexual exploitation or who are at risk of being victimized. In 2006, Microsoft and VFFI launched a program called Stop Trafficking and Exploitation of Persons through Unlimited Potential (STEP-UP), which combines technology training with other courses in life skills and job skills. In addition to opening new economic and educational opportunities for those who complete the program, the STEP-UP training helps trafficking victims by building their confidence and self-esteem. Since the collaboration began, more than 30,000 individuals have graduated from the STEP-UP program, and Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, president of VFFI, has told us that the program helped participants reintegrate into society and made them more employable.
In Kenya, Microsoft partnered with an NGO called the Informal Sector Business Institute (ISBI) to help shift the country’s informal, cash-based economy—which supports 80 percent of Kenya’s working population—to a more sustainable and stable business model. With support from Microsoft, ISBI launched a 50-hour computer skills training course to complement its classes in accounting, management, marketing, and business English.
In the U.S., one of Microsoft’s key partners is Per Scholas, a nonprofit organization that equips people in underserved communities with the skills necessary to compete for entry-level ICT jobs. Per Scholas offers a tuition-free 15-week computer technician training course that emphasizes hands-on experience. It also teaches students how to repair donated computers, which are then sold at low cost to disadvantaged youth and families in the New York City and Miami areas. More than 2,400 Per Scholas graduates have earned ICT industry-recognized computer technician certifications, and Per Scholas has provided refurbished PCs to more than 72,000 low‑income people.
Each of these organizations – in Portugal, the Philippines, Kenya, and the U.S. – exemplifies the impact that organizations can have meeting local needs with the use of technology and support from companies like Microsoft.
Next week I’ll talk about some of the amazing local community leaders I’ve met, what makes them tick, and what makes them such great partners.
This is the second 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:
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