By Yvonne Thomas, Senior Manager, Global Programs, Microsoft Corporate Citizenship & Public Affairs

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in The Millennial Impact Conference (MCON12), a virtual conference designed specifically to help leaders engage the Millennial generation. Sponsored by the Case Foundation, speakers and chats throughout the day covered a variety of topics on Millennial engagement - getting Millennials involved in your cause; how friends, peers and social media can influence Millennials; the impact Millennials are making on society along with best practice sharing and the ability to hear directly from Millennials sharing their perspective.

Millennials Genevieve L’Esperance, a McGill University Student, and Kevin Takisaki, a high school teacher, joined me and Emily Yu of the Case Foundation’s Social Citizens initiative, to discuss some of the challenges they see in their communities, how they are working with others on spearheading change and to share some of the resources or supports that they use.

Genevieve, who teaches girls about technology and STEM skills, talked specifically about challenges she sees with girls in technology studies or careers:

“A challenge I observed is the attitude toward careers in technology, especially girls in tech. Using a web channel (a combination of YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter), I work to bridge the gap between the technology industry and youth. Also, I run and participate in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) for Girls conferences across North America. These conferences, aside from the usual keynotes, include sessions that range from programming classes to introductory engineering. These programs are run as part of Teaching Kids Programming and we find support from many major tech corporations and educational institutions, like Microsoft, McGill University and the MONA Foundation. The intention is to engage and empower Millennials through tech skills.”

As a high school teacher, Kevin is not only a young person himself, but spends his days working with young students. He observed:

“I have found that a large number of youth have the ideas and passion to create new and innovative solutions/technologies but lack the resources to get their idea off the ground. I think that if the leaders of the world were able to provide more opportunities for youths to realize their ideas then it may help to create ground-breaking advances and in turn more jobs.

(Through Microsoft’s Innovate4Good event) Being able to connect with youths all around the world to share perspectives has changed my view on what is possible. Seeing that other youths are striving to realize their dreams has helped me to make every effort to attain my goal of bettering communication in education. Being surrounded by ambition and creativity can only help to create a community/generation in which innovation is the standard.”

Throughout our virtual session, and throughout the day of MCON 2012, it was clear that there are a lot of opportunities to engage the Millennial generation – and that Millennials clearly want to be engaged in meaningful, impactful ways – not any different than the rest of us. MCON 2012 was one more great way to think about what’s possible with and for this generation and generations to come.

Microsoft and the Case Foundation are investing in the potential and power of young people – along with many others. But, there are more than 1.2 billion young people in the world between the ages 15-24. The big question is - how will YOU engage them?

More information and data discussed in our chat:

· Through our Citizenship efforts, Microsoft is focused on addressing an “opportunity divide” among young people around the world – a gap between those who have the access, skills, and opportunities to be successful and those who do not.

· The recently released Opportunity for Action Report, from the International Youth Foundation, commissioned by Microsoft, documents the growing economic and social challenges facing youth around the world and the urgent need to provide the education, skills and employment opportunities required for them to succeed in today’s rapidly changing global economy – and provides specific actions that can be taken.

· Case Foundation through its Social Citizens Initiative, is working to increase the effectiveness of fearless next generation change makers, to inspire the inactive, and to influence the institutions (be it nonprofit, business or government) where Social Citizens live, work and play.

· The Millennial Impact Report: the third annual Millennial Impact Report gathers information from an online survey of Millennials, ages 20-35, that included 6,522 responses from 14 institutions, three focus groups, and an online survey of 89 nonprofit professionals.

· Youth Unemployment: One In Eight Global Youths Will Be Unemployed This Year, Report Says; By Bonnie Kavoussi, The Huffington Post