Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
By Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director, Citizenship and Public Affairs, Microsoft
I am in Tunis – this is where the Arab Spring got launched in December 2010. I have had the privilege of being in the Arab world for the last two weeks meeting and having discussions with youth and young entrepreneurs about how they perceive their future. The Arab Spring and the change that was ignited was all about ‘dignity’ – there has been a high level of unemployment in this region for years but what ignited the revolution was the loss of dignity. Over the last two days in Tunis I have met with leaders of the business community, government agencies, development agencies and young people and they all believe that there is hope and the biggest challenge is to restore dignity.
I met with the senior leadership of the “Fact-Finding Commission on Abuses” which was set up to investigate abuses during and after the revolution. The President of the Commission who is 70 years old and a very distinguished leader of the country told me he is now reenergized with this work and feels 10 years younger and is working continuously to conduct a thorough and transparent review so he can give hope to the country and restore dignity.
The three business leaders that I had lunch with have launched TARI9I an entrepreneurship effort to provide business skills to youth. They are convinced that without providing youth with skills to start their own business, especially those living in smaller towns in the country, they will continue to remain unemployed. They believe that in Tunisia the engine of job creation will be youth and they need skills. They launched TARI9I right after the revolution and since then have supported five new businesses and trained over 20 young people. While this is small, it is a very important effort and we have supported it as part of our commitment to help rebuild this society.
Later that day I met with several entrepreneurs that Microsoft has supported through its Microsoft Innovation Center. One of them was Mr. Afif Bouchoucha who is the founder of Business Information System – and was supported by TARI9I. He lives Gafsa, a small town in the middle of Tunisia. His company is focused on developing digital healthcare record keeping software and services. Others were focused on mobile gaming, or cloud services. Some of them were small 5-7 people firms and others were more established medium size companies employing over 100 people.
In Tunisia the youth are educated, the issue has always been a lack of good jobs. There isn’t a prevalent culture of starting a new business or enterprise. But it is a small country with big aspirations. I spoke to thirty young people who are part of the Microsoft Student Professional program to understand how they were doing and get a sense of their hopes and aspirations. After over a year and with a new government in place not everyone in that group was feeling optimistic. Many are but some worry whether anything has really changed or if they will become part of a lost generation.
The statistics on youth unemployment are not very encouraging. In Europe unemployment among youth is reaching record figures and North Africa is dependent on a healthy Europe to help drive its economy. If we are help restore dignity and provide hope to youth around the world we must focus on bridging the ‘opportunity divide’. At Microsoft believe we can do that through building the technology capacity of youth and provide them with hope. We are doing that by supporting innovative efforts such as TARI9I and the employability portal through Silatech. All of the young people I have met in this region believe they will have to make the change themselves, many are up for it, and some are apprehensive. What is very clear is that for all of them having ‘dignity’ is critical – let’s make sure that happens.
By Dan Bross, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship at Microsoft
Most image and reputation experts agree that trust is a positive driver of image and reputation, and trust is earned.
If trust is in fact earned, how can a corporation earn trust if it is a mystery? I am not talking about the products or services a corporation provides – corporations whose products remain a mystery usually aren’t in business very long. No – I am talking about a corporation’s mission, values, heart, soul, and North Star.
Recently, I was asked to speak on the topic of “Why Corporate America is Not the Villain” to a group of corporate public and government affairs professionals at the National Association of Manufacturer (NAM)annual public affairs conference on April 1 in Aventura, Florida (Microsoft is a NAM member). The organizers asked me and the two other panelists to offer thoughts and comments on why there is a serious disconnect between the general public and corporate America. Why is there so much corporate bashing? Why do studies indicate that trust in corporations remain near an all-time low? In addition to talking about the “why,” we were also asked to share our insights on what corporations should be doing to improve their public image.
Clearly, the facts speak for themselves - corporations are not villains. Villains don’t create and provide jobs. Villains don’t support communities. Villains don’t provide benefits to their employees, grow the U.S. economy, and manufacture and provide products and services consumers need. The list goes on.
In my view, any backlash against corporations is largely rooted in a lack of trust. People can’t be expected to trust an organization that they don’t know.
My message to the audience at the conference was that corporations should not only be talking about the great products they develop and manufacture and the services that they provide, but they should be talking about what they stand for. What is their North Star? Their mission? At Microsoft, our mission and values are to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential. We talk about our mission and values internally and externally and it defines who we are.
However, talking about what you stand for and the values that guide you is not enough. Corporate mission statements and values must come to life every day through the way a company operates. At Microsoft, we are committed to continued innovation, not only our products and services, but in how we operate. We are continually reviewing our business operations and working to improve them to fulfill our mission and live our values.
In today’s always connected world, a corporation’s image and reputation can go from highly positive to highly negative over the course of a few hours. While problems will of course arise and crises develop, a corporation that has not defined themselves runs the risk of being defined by the crisis.
The “corporate mystery” discussion continued the next day in Washington, D.C., at the annual meeting of the Council of Institutional Investors. The Council is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association of pension funds and other employee benefit funds, foundations and endowments with combined assets that exceed $3 trillion, and a leading voice for good corporate governance and strong shareowner rights. The meeting featured a long list of impressive speakers, including David Rubenstein, co-founder and managing director of the Carlyle Group; Meg Whitman, president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard; Eric Schneideman, Attorney General of New York State, and SEC Commissioner Troy Paredes. While they talked about a host of corporate governance issues, including proxy access, majority vote, and say on pay, the common thread and theme running through each presentation was the issue of trust.
To quote Attorney General Schneideman, “The lifeblood of American industry is trust.”
Editor’s Note: To celebrate Earth Day we’re cross posting this from the Microsoft Learning Born to Learn blog.
Guest post by Charles Brennick is the founder and director of InterConnection.org
Electronic waste is the fastest growing form of municipal waste. Every year Americans throw away three to four hundred million electronic items and with new laptops or tablet models coming out each month, those numbers will continue to grow.
Ironically, millions of people in the U.S. and around the world don't have access to computers. They aren't able to gain computer skills, access the Internet, or communicate by email. If only a small percentage of the computers we're throwing away were refurbished and reused, people in need would have the computers they need to create the futures they want.
If you're ready to donate your old computer, here are some important guidelines:
Donate to a Nonprofit: As a donor, you can write off the current retail value of your computer. BUT only nonprofit organizations can give donors a receipt for tax purposes.
Donate to an organization that does reuse: Recycling is good, but reuse is better. When a computer is recycled it is broken down into its component materials (copper, steel, etc.) and used to build something new. When a computer is reused, it is used for its original purpose and there is no loss of resources.
Use a Certified Recycler: There are two electronics recycling certifications that ensure recyclers properly handle all electronic waste and don't export it to countries that can't legally accept it. These certifications are Responsible Recycling (R2) and Estewards. Only donate equipment to organizations that hold one of these certifications.
Make sure your data is safe: Not all organizations that accept donated computers have the technology to safely destroy data on hard drives or the coverage to protect donors from liability. Ask the recipient organization about their data destruction policies and procedures before you donate.
I am proud to work at Interconnection, the leading charitable computer reuse organization in the U.S.. Microsoft is helping us encourage people to donate their surplus laptops as part of Microsoft Learning's 20 Years|20 Ways celebration. InterConnection is a Seattle based nonprofit that has shipped tens of thousands of computers to schools, nonprofits and community organizations in the U.S. and in forty countries. We are the first nonprofit in the U.S. to be R2 and ISO14001 certified and have strict data destruction policies.
Whether you donate through InterConnection or another certified recycler, thank you for taking the time to donate your old computer! If you don't have an old laptop but still want to support responsible computer reuse and recycling, I invite you learn more about other ways you can get involved.
Charles Brennick is the founder and director of InterConnection.org, a nonprofit that refurbishes and ships computers to underserved schools and communities around the world. Before starting InterConnection, he worked as a natural resource planner, an ecotourism planner in Costa Rica, and an environmental educator in the Peace Corps in Paraguay.
Earlier today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an updated list of the Top 50 purchasers on green power in the United States including clean, renewable electricity from solar, wind, and low-impact hydropower.
The top ten purchasers are:
You can read more on the list on the Microsoft Software Enabled Earth blog and directly from the EPA site.
By Lori Harnick, General Manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs, Microsoft
At just 26 years old, Wilson To has a plan to defeat malaria. And he’ll do it with a Windows Phone.
It’s an unlikely device for such a feat but it can be done. A student at University of California Davis, To is the team leader for a group of students who have developed an augmented app for Windows Phone that can detect this life-threatening disease. He participated last year in Microsoft’s global student technology competition, the Imagine Cup, which encourages students to help solve the world’s toughest problems.
Every year we see teams deciding to take their projects to market, and there was a lot of internal discussions about how Microsoft could provide teams with more support. Those discussions led to the creation of the Imagine Cup Grants program, a three-year, $3 million competitive grant program designed to provide students with the resources they need to transform their project into a commercial or nonprofit organization and most importantly bring the benefit of their technology to the people who need it most.
Georgia State University’s Imagine Cup team demonstrates their software design project at the U.S. Imagine Cup finals earlier today
Wilson and his fellow students in Team Lifelens were finalists at the 2011 Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals where the Imagine Cup grants were announced and in January 2012 they were named as one of four initial team recipients.
The Lifelens app has the power to transform global health. The app addresses the unacceptably high child mortality rates caused by the lack of detection and availability of treatment of malarial diseases. It has the potential to diagnose more diseases and enable the practice of care anywhere in the world. And with the grants funding, its possibilities have just begun.
Team Lifelens is using the Imagine Cup grant to fund further development of their project and lay the groundwork to transition what was once just an idea into a real world product. The investment is going toward distribution of their devices, subsidizing the phones and field testing. They are also preparing their IP/patent applications and plan to create a company to bring the technology to market in the near future.
Team Lifelens at the Imagine Cup World Finals in New York last year
Wilson has the small task of preparing for his college graduation in just a couple months’ time, but he’s not resting on his laurels. Today he attended the Imagine Cup U.S. Finals in Redmond as a mentor to a current U.S. Imagine Cup finalist team, New Game Plus. The team created a game design project that addresses deforestation and environmental sustainability and competed at the event today.
Through programs and initiatives like the Imagine Cup, Microsoft is committed to creating opportunities for youth through technology, training, and experiences that empower them to imagine and realize their full potential.
What will be the impact if we can empower more students such as these to transform imagination into reality and turn their ideas into real-world solutions with real-world benefits?
The possibilities are endless.
About the U.S. Imagine Cup U.S. finals
Earlier today Team FlashFood won first place in the U.S. Imagine Cup Software Design competition and will travel to Sydney, Australia, to represent the U.S. in the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals this summer.
For more information on the Imagine Cup U.S Finals visit: http://www.imaginecup.us
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