May, 2012

  • Get involved in building a foundation for a Digital UN

    By Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship at Microsoft and Board Member of the Foundation for a Digital UN

    Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is playing a central role in development work around the world. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon believes in the power of ICT as a strategic enabler and in the opportunity it provides to transform the UN, creating a more effective, efficient and transparent organization.

    The Foundation for a Digital UN is being launched under the support of the United Nations and it strives to provide knowledge, technology and resources that can be leveraged and mobilized to further the goals of the United Nations around the world. The Foundation will focus on how ICT can support the UN’s goals and strengthen its global program activities. The UN’s global mandate is vast, spanning peace and security, economic and social development, humanitarian assistance, human rights, international law and additional diverse issues such as climate change.

    We have already seen the impact of technology at the United Nations. Very early on, Microsoft and its employees helped develop a people registration and tracking system for refugees for UNHCR. The impact of this system has been to help re-unite thousands of families as they stream into refugee camps. Most recently through Skype we have been able to connect refugees to their families from camps in Dadaab in Somalia and Kenya.

    Rather than focusing on specific technologies, the Foundation for a Digital UN seeks to solve problems that may span many United Nations programs and provide the opportunity to function cooperatively and efficiently for the benefit of everyone. Under the motto “perfect information to aid an imperfect world”, the Foundation will leverage technology to enhance communication, knowledge sharing, and improve decision making on a global scale. It will support the Millennium Development Goals through more adaptable, nimble and innovative solutions that complement existing UN Program activities and other public-private partnerships.

    The United Nations operates within long-term planning and budgetary constraints which at times limit its ability to offer solutions that leverage cutting-edge technology, affecting its ability to deal with urgent global problems as they arise. The time has now come when, to achieve truly high impact and better results, it needs additional support. That is where the Foundation will play a key role, by providing sound strategic guidance and contributing expertise, technology and financing. Through this support the Foundation will be able to increase knowledge sharing; speed the delivery of aid in the most optimal manner; increase the use of mobile technology; and reunite families in the times of crises.

    Microsoft along with the other partners including Intel, Cisco, Landmark Ventures and Global Partnerships Forum are joining in this effort. We believe that there is an urgent and unmet need to leverage the power of technology to address global issues and invite other organizations to consider getting involved with the newly launched initiative to address these opportunities for global social innovation. Contributing to global well-being will put you on the side of those partners that are socially responsible citizens of the world, doing their part to advance the human condition. United, we will be able to push forward key initiatives that will help the United Nations deliver their mandate.

    Please join us at

  • Collaboration, Persistence and Community: Our take on the essence of Innovation

    Editor’s note: Recently we help an Innovate4Good@Microsoft event in Brussels, you can read a report from the event here.  Michalis Tolkas and Jasmer Dhingra both attended the event and we thought it would be interesting to get their perspective on the event and how young people can connect and innovate for the good of society. This post originally appeared on the Microsoft.EU blog.

    By: Michalis Tolkas and Jasmer Dhingra

    How do we inspire innovation in young people? How can we successfully marry technology with social entrepreneurship? How do we foster ideas for positive change?

    These were a few of the fundamental questions that the Innovate4Good@Microsoft event tried to answer.

    Bringing together over 110 young people from more than 20 countries of the wider European region in Brussels for two days, Microsoft’s initiative aimed at fostering a community of innovative thinkers and collaborative problem-solvers. Being myself a strong supporter of Steven Johnson’s quote that “chance favors the connected mind”, I found this an extremely well organized event where young people who have made a difference in their environment stood in front of their peers to present particular business development concepts and applicable solutions to social issues. And the count? More than 160 ideas were sticky-noted on the wall within a few hours of brainstorming between folks of different countries, languages, cultures, backgrounds and interests.

    The inspiring talks of Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director of Global Community Affairs at Microsoft, encouraged us to look for our own path to success. It was a pleasant surprise to listen to the principles that you’d want to shape your professional or academic career from someone that has become successful by following them.

    Be unreasonable, don’t be afraid of fear, expect and embrace failure, were a few of the ideas shared by Akhtar, who also offered the following inspired moment of laughter, which captures the essence of collaboration and tolerance of failure: Passion? Leave passion for the bedroom. It’s compassion that matters to me, what will make the difference in your work.

    Innovate4Good offered what I see as one of the most important initial steps for promoting innovation: networking. It cultivated networks of young people, resources and opportunities. And before Jasmer, a friend, co-panelist at Innvoate4Good and bright example of a youth leader adds her impressions, I’ll close as I closed my speech at the youth panel: We need to seize each opportunity that comes our way, no matter how small it seems. Because in this interconnected world we live in, each opportunity is just a dot of the bigger picture of our potential that waits to be fulfilled.

    Read the rest of the post here.

  • National Hurricane Preparedness Week: Are you ready?

    The U.S. National Hurricane Center has named May 27th –June 1st National Hurricane Preparedness Week.

    Eastern Pacific hurricane season kicked off on May 15th and Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1st, both lasting through November. As residents in potentially impacted communities and response organizations work diligently to prepare, it is a valuable reminder to ensure that response plans are ready.

    Preparedness is key to reducing impacts and increasing resiliency to natural disasters.  Visit the Microsoft Disaster Response page for useful information on technologies available to help prepare, and links to organizations such as FEMA and for tips on how to plan in advance of potential natural disasters.

    Throughout the week we will be featuring posts from the National Hurricane Center including preparedness quizzes and information to increase awareness and personal & family preparedness for hurricanes. Check back often!

    One of the key things to remember is getting prepared ahead of time.  For example think about the most important documents, forms and information you would need in the event of an unexpected natural event.  One thing you could consider is saving all that information to Microsoft SkyDrive, a free online storage service when you can save documents, files, and photos and make them accessible from any device (including smartphones) and any location with internet access.  Note: If you already have a Hotmail, Messenger or Xbox account, you already have access to SkyDrive. If not, you can easily sign up using your existing email address by logging in at

    Natural disasters often occur without notice or allow for very little preparation. Get prepared ahead of time.


  • Fast Five (Software) Features for Nonprofits 5/25: Dynamics CRM


    It can be challenging for nonprofits to manage their many tasks including constituent relationships, donations, pledges, memberships, and volunteer tracking. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is an out-of-the box solution that can help with all of that – and more. This week’s Fast Five will show you how.

    1. Nonprofit template

    We understand that nonprofits have different needs than for-profit corporations. That’s why we created a free, pre-built template specifically for you. It helps improve your interactions with donors and volunteers and better yet, it can be used with the cloud-based Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online or the on-premise version, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. You can even import sample data to give you an idea of what’s possible.


    (image source)

    2. Quick campaign fundraising

    In addition to general, fundraising efforts, we know that nonprofits often need to respond to sudden and unexpected events such as natural disasters. Quick campaigns are effective ways to mobilize financial support to accomplish a specific result. This feature allows you to identify a select group of constituents, manage your communications, easily track donations in real-time, and quickly respond to campaign feedback. Here’s how to set up a quick campaign:

    1. Select Marketing Lists from the Navigation Panel.

    2. Click Quick Campaigns button in the top menu.

    3. A wizard will pop up to walk you through the steps.

    It’s then quite easy to track the progress of the quick campaign activity:

    1. Navigate to Marketing area in Navigation Panel.

    2. Click Quick Campaigns.

    3. Select Campaign Response section.

    3. Microsoft Outlook integration

    If you’re like me, you have Microsoft Outlook open pretty much all day. So why not gain access to your Microsoft Dynamics CRM functionality and records from within Outlook? With a simple download and the Quick Start Guide, you can have the two programs seamlessly integrated within minutes. Easily view your e-mails, calendar, contacts, or tasks from within the familiar Microsoft Outlook interface.


    (image source)

    4. Nonprofit accelerators

    We realize that sometimes CRM software doesn’t quite have all the features your organization needs or doesn’t connect easily with other software you use. Luckily, there is a robust and varied supply of nonprofit-focused accelerators available for download as well as a bunch of other accelerators that should also be of use, depending on your need. These accelerators provide specialty features that focus on things like event management, partner management, and more.


    (Image Source – The downloadable PDF)

    5. Partner ecosystem

    Sometimes the out-of-the-box functionality isn’t 100% right for how your organization works. This is one reason why Microsoft Dynamics CRM is customizable. But not all nonprofits have the time or skills to make such customizations. This is where having a strong ecosystem of partners who understand both the technology and the nonprofit industry is super helpful. These partners offer a myriad of services – implementation, training, customization, and other ways to extend the power of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. You can select the one that has the skills you need and contact them via the information provided at the link above.

  • Cross Post: Utilizing Video Games and Playful Learning To Help Youth Bridge the Opportunity Divide

    Editor’s note: This week Microsoft joined partners at three events dedicated to answering one question: How can enhanced public/private partnerships improve the quality of the education that students receive in the subjects that are crucial for creating the high paying jobs of the future and for bridging the opportunity divide in communities across the country? 

    Today Dr. Elizabeth Grossman, of Microsoft’s Technology Policy Group, joined the Global Women’s Innovation Network for a panel on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) Education on Capitol Hill. Dr. Grossman described how expanding the availability of computer science education in high school is critical to preparing students for opportunities in the 21st century economy.

    On Tuesday, Microsoft’s Andrea Taylor, Director of North American Community Affairs, spoke at the Atlantic’s Technology in Education Forum for a discussion exploring how technology can prepare students for next wave jobs. 

    Jumpstarting the week, Microsoft’s Vice President for Government Affairs Fred Humphries and Education Design Director Alex Games helped launch the 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge Youth Winners Celebration.  The multi-year competition aims to motivate interest in STEM among youth.  Reflecting on the event, Games published a piece on this unique video game challenge and why it is so important to incorporate playful learning into STEM education. 

    2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge

    Games writes:

    “As any experienced teacher can tell you, one of the best ways to captivate children while teaching them is to make lessons interactive and fun, allowing them to forget they are actually learning.  I saw just how true this was as a judge of student designed video games for the National STEM Video Game Challenge.  The competition promotes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education by harnessing kids’ natural passion for video games.  Earlier this week, I visited Washington to meet the winners – some of our nation’s most promising future game developers. 

    Read the full post here on the Get Game Smart blog.

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