Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
(Team Viva Farms takes home three awards; Photo by Karen Ducey, hosted on the SIFP website)
Monday evening while millions of Americans tuned in to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football, I watched a slightly different kind of competition that showcased the potential to touch the lives of millions in a way much more impactful than a touchdown. Taking place beneath the shadow of the Space Needle in the heart of Seattle, an inspiring duel of social entrepreneurs called the Social Innovation Fast Pitch was hosted by Social Venture Partners and supported by Microsoft, Ashoka, Microsoft Alumni Foundation, ADITI among others.
From high school students, to collegiate innovators, and seasoned business veterans - I watched 14 different visionaries pitch their idea to change the world, in front of a packed crowd of more than 600 people, with a mere 5 minutes to gain their vote, and mine as a judge for prizes worth $100,000.
At the start of the event, I was up on stage with a panel of esteemed judges who were all given 30 seconds to offer advice to the presenters. The judges, from many different backgrounds, explained that they would be looking for sustainable business plans, passion for the concept, proper budgeting to propel the idea, and much more valuable advice. I expressed to the presenters that I would like to see two things:
1) Originality in identifying the problem you wish to address as a social innovator
2) Originality in the solution you create to solve the problem as a social entrepreneur
You see, there are many ideas in this world and it is important for me to find a team that knows what it takes to make their ideas work. Commitment to be there for the long run is key and the ability to face repeated rejections and yet have the courage to keep moving forward. The entire group that was presenting showed me they had the staying power to make their ideas work. The two high school student presentations were the most impressive (SIFF, Money Sense) and the overall talent in the room was just plain scary. To see folks this young have the determination to pitch their ideas to a full room.
As a judge, my time was spent deliberating over the impressive group of candidates to deliver a just vote for one of the 14 extremely hard working teams. The categories included High School student groups, University student groups, for-profit groups, and not for profit groups. The innovative solutions ranged from solving childhood obesity, to minority procurement for government contracts, to bio diesel research labs as a way to create sustainability within Universities. As I considered a potential winner amongst the judging panel, our social media manager Nathan went out collecting a few 30 second pitches for you to see as an example of the tremendous talent filling the room. Here are a few:
Viva Farms was presented by Ethan Schaffer and received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the crowd, winning audience choice for both “Best Fast Pitch” and “Most Innovative” as well as an additional $30,000 for the “Social Venture Partners Award”.
Jon Botten had perhaps the most polished pitch on stage, so we decided to get his 30 second pitch, be sure to check out Dynamic Partners who won the “Zino Socitety Award”
The “Social Endeavors Award” went to Jolkona for their unique microgiving and reporting platform that helps nonprofits crowdsource funds online. They were all smiles as you can see in the picture to the left (Photo by Jolkona)
I was proud to present the “Microsoft Award for Social Innovation”, a $10k prize, to Flash Volunteer, a company that provides online tools to create, discover, and easily share community service opportunities via social media, mobile, and a unique crowd sourcing tool.
Among the stiff competition, one team won the grand prize of a $50,000 investment from the SIFP Seattle Fund: Food N' Me. Food N' Me is an effective nutrition system that changes eating behaviors in children and families utilizing the latest technologies to teach fundamental nutritional concepts to an increasingly tech savvy generation of students.
Congratulations to all of the teams! You can see the entire list of winners and their concepts here.
Pretty innovative ideas right? Check them out and let me know your favorite on twitter or in the comments below!
Today is the start of a very special month at Microsoft. It’s a time when our people invest their energy, passion and creativity in raising funds for nonprofit and community organizations.
While employees give their time and money throughout the year, October is the time that individuals and groups come together to raise money and resources for their favorite cause or community group. Every full time Microsoft employee in the United States can take advantage of corporate matching of up to $12,000 for the donations they make to nonprofit and community organizations. They also have the opportunity to volunteer their time and have those hours matched with a per hour payment to the chosen organization.
The 5K run which takes place on our Redmond campus is one of the largest giving events with over 1,700 runners last year.
2010 was the largest year of employee giving in the company’s history. Over $96 million was raised during the year (with corporate matching) benefitting more than 16,000 nonprofit organizations – and $53 million was raised in October alone.
That sets a tough target for this year but everyone is committed to making it the best year ever.
During the next four weeks there will be hundreds of employee-driven fundraising events from the popular 5K run to auctions, poker tournaments, employee-created photo books, music albums and much more.
As you’d expect, technology plays a role in making the Giving campaign successful. From our internal Give site which provides all the information and tools people need to get involved, to our online Auction site where you can bid for an astonishing array of items through the month and a new online and mobile volunteering application which matches people with organizations.
We’ll keep you updated on some of the more notable events, fundraising ideas and news from this month’s campaign. You can follow updates here on the blog or on Twitter where we’ll be using the hashtag #msftgiving
As October begins, #STEMtember, our month long focus on promoting the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education has wrapped up. We had a busy month of STEM education announcements and events across Microsoft and hopefully we managed to encourage some students, parents, and teachers to consider the importance of STEM education both for themselves and for society at large.
We started the month by releasing the findings of a survey that asked parents and students what did they think of STEM education. Discussion over these findings took place throughout the month on Twitter using the tag #STEMtember.
#STEMtember also featured a number of blogs highlighting some of the interesting careers you can pursue by studying STEM subjects:
· The 4 coolest STEM careers I wish I studied for…
· Meteorologist: Heroes of #STEMtember: Sunny science with Meteorologist Shannon O’Donnell
· Xbox 360 Kinect Hero: Heroes of #STEMtember: Atari, Math, and Trek dreams turning to reality with Kudo Tsunoda
· Coolest Math Professor: Heroes of STEMtember: A teacher of teachers creates innovative math curriculum using tech
· Bing Genius: Heroes of #STEMtember: Science is life with Stefan Weitz
· A Boeing Test Pilot: Heroes of #STEMtember: Engineering the power to fly high
· Exploring the question: What does your dad think you want to be when you grow up?
Who was your favorite Hero of STEMtember? Tell us on Twitter- #STEMtember
Given the great response we’ve had to the Heroes of STEMtember series, we plan to feature a new STEM Hero every month. If you have any suggestions for someone to include in the series let us know in the comments section of this blog or on Twitter by sending a message to @MSFTcitizenship.
We’ll continue to focus on STEM through the year, thanks to everyone for their support through #STEMtember.
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