Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
October is a month of giving back at Microsoft when employees around the United States host or participate in events to raise money for nonprofits. There are hundreds of events taking place across the company throughout the month, but we’ve found a new favorite.
The Plastic Pink Flamingo Flock!
During October at Microsoft, for a small sum donated to the nonprofit of your choosing - and matched by Microsoft - you can have your co-worker Flocked.
What is that, you may ask.
Well, your chosen victim will arrive into their office to face their work day, only to find it filled with those infamous and charming pink Flamingo yard statues. Awesome.
But it doesn’t end there. There are actually four flock options:
1) Flock‘em – your standard offering where you can have your colleague’s office stuffed with Flamingos
2) Flock Migration - allows the ‘flocked’ victim to pass the flock over to another colleague (increased donation over option 1)
3) Flocksurance – enables you to protect yourself from an unexpected flocking (increased donation over option 2)
4) Flocksurance Side Stepper – this is the premium product which allows you to override another person’s Flocksurance.
Now, this all sounds very interesting, but we felt that we couldn’t report on this particular initiative without seeing it in action.
So we decided to try it out on a beloved colleague.
Here’s the report on Flocking in action.
Editor’s Note: The Flamingo Flock was the brainchild of the Operations team at Microsoft. And please be assured no birds were harmed in the process of this flocking. We assure you the offices are kept cozy overnight, Microsoft also has all the free pop, coffee, and water you can drink.
Team Oasys, a team made up of Mohammad Azzam, Monir Abu-Hilal, Hani Abu-Huwaij from the German Jordanian University, in Jordan, also the third place winners in the Software Design category at Imagine Cup 2011, recently presented their technology solution at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Approximately 40 people from around the world gathered for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities where Hani AbuHuwaij gave a live demonstration of the cost effective assistive technology his team developed that allows people with severely limited mobility or quadriplegia to use a computer by moving their head.
Members of national delegations to the Conference of State Parties, government members, nonprofits and the Disabled Persons Organization watched as Hani demonstrated how his system allows people with quadriplegia to control the computer, move the mouse, and type by utilizing an infrared device and a Wii-mote. After seeing the demonstration, one attendee even expressed interest in deploying Project Horizon in her own country.
From the beginning, Hani and Team Oasys have been determined to create not only an exciting idea, but a practical solution that can be manufactured and distributed to individuals with quadriplegia. The team competed at Imagine Cup 2010 with a project that could detect the spread of deserts; they received feedback from the judges that they needed a stronger business plan. They spent the next year cultivating their business knowledge and a strong understanding of the assistive technology market they wished to enter through Project Horizon. Their hard work was acknowledged in New York this July when they visited the James J. Peters VA Medical Center and demonstrated their software to Patient Care Center Director, Edward McLaughlin, who said, “It’s the best system that we have for our patients.” The video below shows more from their visit.
When we caught up with Hani after his presentation he told us, “It was such an honor to be at the United Nations Headquarters to present our project to some of the world's biggest changers. The feedback I received for the project was amazing; lots of representatives were interested in learning more about Horizon. Presenting at the United Nations was an experience that I will remember for a long time from now, and I think that it was the perfect chance for us to let the world know about Horizon and its value.”
Hani and his colleagues haven’t lost any momentum since the Imagine Cup or their UN presentation; they are committed to turning Horizon into a real, implemented project that can change lives around the world. Currently, they’re spending time tweaking the technology behind their software to make it more user-friendly and cost effective.
As Microsoft approaches the eighth anniversary of its Community Technology Skills Program (CTSP), I have been taking some time to reflect on the opportunities imagined and realized, the amazing things we’ve learned about running a global community investment program, and how all of that will guide our work in the years ahead.
Since CTSP was founded in September 2003, the program has touched the lives of more than 200 million people. In Colombia, we have seen former combatants in the country’s long-running civil conflict sitting side-by-side in free computer classes that offer them new hope for employability and economic opportunity. In Portugal, where the once-thriving textile industry is in decline, thousands of displaced workers have attended computer skills classes as a way to prepare for new careers. Even in regions where few jobs exist—such as the poverty-stricken Eastlands of Nairobi, Kenya—technology training is giving young people the skills they need to establish their own small businesses.
Over the years, Microsoft has invested more than $400 million in CTSP cash and software grants with over 1,500 community partners offering technology-related job skills training. During that time, Microsoft’s approach to CTSP has evolved as we have learned what works (and sometimes doesn’t work). But our focus has remained consistent: providing technology skills training to empower individuals and create economic opportunities that can help transform underserved communities.
Over the coming weeks, I’ll post a series of blogs reflecting on the insights we’ve gained and how our community investments have matured since the CTSP program began. My hope is to stimulate a conversation about the role that multinational corporations can and should play in local communities, and the most effective ways to accomplish that.
For example, the initial CTSP plan envisioned grants being used to provide ICT access and basic skills training for a range of purposes—from teaching the elderly how to use the Internet to helping reduce social ills such as human trafficking. As the program expanded and more people attained basic ICT skills, we saw that the most successful local community efforts were focused specifically on providing ICT skills for employment and livelihood.
In Sri Lanka, for instance, rural farmers began using newly acquired computer skills to get quick diagnoses of crop diseases. And in India, computer training and access enabled fishermen to get up-to-date information on the location of local fish stocks.
Over time, Microsoft has sharpened the focus of CTSP to deliver workplace skills training that will have a lasting, measurable impact. For example, we have learned that NGOs with a well-defined social mission and focus on providing people with skills relevant to their local economy are the most successful partners. We know that strong community leaders with a vision and deep local roots can greatly influence the participation level and effectiveness of community programs. We’ve seen that it’s possible to run a global program with a unifying vision while enabling decision making at the local level. And we are closer than ever to aligning our community investments with our core business and competencies.
I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. At the same time, I’m cognizant that the world has changed since we started CTSP, as has the technology landscape and the role of technology in society and in peoples’ lives. To keep pace, our community investments will continue to advance as well—building on what we’ve learned and on the evolving needs of local communities and governments.
We will continue to explore ways to sharpen the program’s focus, both in term of helping underserved populations access technology and helping those who have access but lack the opportunity to apply those skills to their own growth and development. We will continue to draw on the many lessons learned—through our experiences on the ground, in partnerships with NGOs and intergovernmental organizations, and through insights gleaned from academic research on the program and its impact.
In the next post later this week, I’ll discuss what we learned about the importance of identifying partnerships that meet local needs.
Note: This is the first in a series of blog posts reflecting on the evolution and impact of Microsoft’s Community Technology Skills Program.
Over the past few weeks we’ve posted several important public reports on our progress advancing environmental sustainability at Microsoft, including the Environmental Sustainability chapter in our just-released 2011 Citizenship Report and our 7th annual filing with the independent Carbon Disclosure Project. With that information as a foundation, I wanted to share a few thoughts on both the progress I’m proud we’re making and where we have more work to do.
For several years, we have championed the need for optimizing the energy-efficiency of information technology and this year, we released our most comprehensive guidance to date: “The IT Energy Efficiency Imperative” including guidelines for developers to design energy-smart applications. We’ve provided this framework for driving energy efficiency at every level of the IT environment to our wide partner and customer community, ranging from software developers and hardware manufacturers to Chief Information Officers.
We have also worked diligently on the transformational role of cloud computing. The cloud will allow us to rethink the role of IT and energy, so that we’re not just thinking about how to reduce the impact of IT, but also about how IT can reduce the impact of the other 98 percent of the energy consumed by buildings, transportation, industrial processes, etc. The cloud both creates great opportunities to increase the net energy efficiency of computing and to enable new environmental solutions, but the same technology also poses challenges for us at Microsoft as we seek to meet our ambitious carbon reduction goals at a time of rapid growth in our data center capacity.
The tremendous energy savings potential resulting from more efficient use of information technology is only part of the story, however. Even more significant are the savings across the economy that cloud computing can enable. For example, Microsoft has partnered with Ford and Toyota to offer cloud-based software programs that will manage when electric vehicle owners recharge their vehicles. This will help make electric vehicles more efficient to operate and reduce demands on the power grid that could require new power plants be built. We’ve also helped innovative small businesses like Wisconsin-based Orion Energy Systems Power use the cost savings and scalability of the cloud to develop innovative new energy saving services for their lighting customers. Microsoft and our ecosystem of partners are working to accelerate the development of energy-smart solutions, which we’ve detailed in a recent paper “The Central Role of Cloud Computing in Making Cities Energy-Smart.” We believe that the rich capabilities of the cloud enable more people and organizations to use energy and resources much more efficiently by providing new ways of getting, managing, and understanding valuable data, and automating conservation activities.
Part of the challenge we face comes from the increasing number of customers who’ve moved their IT services to Microsoft’s more efficient cloud. This has serious repercussions for Microsoft’s carbon footprint. While some of our data centers rely on renewable power sources—hydropower in Quincy and wind power in Dublin—the overall growth in our data center services has increased Microsoft’s electricity use and therefore our carbon emissions.
Understanding the global and local impact of cloud computing is a priority for Microsoft. In 2010, we commissioned one of the first studies of the relative energy impacts of cloud computing: a study by Accenture and the environmental consulting firm WSP that looked at the total energy and carbon savings resulting when organizations move common business applications such as Microsoft Exchange for email from their own servers to servers hosted in Microsoft’s data centers. The study found that large enterprises can expect to cut their energy and carbon emissions per user by at least 30 percent, and in the case of small businesses, the result is even more dramatic, with potential savings of up to 90 percent.
What accounts for these savings? A good analogy is mass transit, where moving thousands of people around on a shared infrastructure rather than single-occupancy vehicles results in significant energy savings and reduced environmental impact. The same is true in cloud computing. In many businesses today, applications often run on servers that are only using about 10 percent of their capacity, yet still draw a significant amount of power.. With huge economies of scale, cloud operators like Microsoft can optimize the processing of computing workloads and operate computer hardware in the most efficient manner. Microsoft’s recently opened state-of-the-art data centers in Quincy, Washington, and Dublin, Ireland that use 50 percent less energy than traditional data center designs.
We are continuing to drive efficiency measures in our data centers and across our operations. We are also creating a roadmap for our environmental commitments beyond 2012. We continue to work with customers, developers, partners and others to ensure that together we unlock the energy saving potential of cloud computing.
By Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist, Microsoft
I'm pleased to share with you the Microsoft 2011 Citizenship Report. The report provides an overview and assessment of our work over the past fiscal year (July 2010 to June 2011) to serve communities and work responsibly.
We release our Citizenship Report at the same time as our Annual Financial Report to give our broad base of stakeholders a full view of Microsoft’s financial and non-financial performance. Corporate responsibility means more than returning value to shareholders – it means engaging with stakeholders to address our responsibilities in the areas of environmental, social and governance issues. We believe all corporations have, as part of their license to operate, a responsibility to contribute positively to society on a global scale. To quote our company’s founder, Bill Gates: “It takes more than great products to make a great company.”
Our Citizenship Report details our efforts to increase business value while also benefitting society. Our goal is to provide continued transparency and accountability across our business operations. To support this, we have evolved our reporting to candidly and thoughtfully discuss our social and environmental performance, our progress against goals and our focus going forward. We clearly share where we are on track, where we are falling short and how we intend to close the gaps.
Throughout the report you will find examples of how our Citizenship efforts are influencing how we conduct our business, engage with partners and stakeholders, and fulfill our commitment to strengthening communities and providing opportunities for individuals around the world.
I’m proud of the progress we made this past fiscal year. The following are just a few examples:
The report also discusses areas where we have opportunities for improvement, such as continuing to diversify our workforce and reducing our carbon footprint. The data and analysis in the report and the conversations they inspire will inform continued improvement in our business and Citizenship performance.
I hope you can take a few moments to review the report online, and I also encourage you to visit the Microsoft Local Impact Map to find stories of individuals and communities that have been impacted by our programs. For more on our strategies, areas of focus, and latest news, visit www.microsoft.com/citizenship.
Finally, I hope you will share your thoughts with us and provide feedback on our report, please e-mail us at: email@example.com.
Posted by Dan Bross
Senior Director, Corporate Citizenship, Microsoft
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