September, 2012

  • Microsoft YouthSpark: A new chapter in Citizenship at Microsoft

    Lori Harnick, General Manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs

    Earlier today our CEO Steve Ballmer announced Microsoft YouthSpark, a new company-wide initiative to create opportunities for 300 million young people over the next three years.

    We’ve created Microsoft YouthSpark in response to the challenges facing youth around the world. The nature of the challenges vary region-by-region, but the unfortunate outcome is the same everywhere. There are new skills and experiences required for jobs, but our collective approach to educating and supporting young people is falling behind. The evidence for this is clear. Among others, the International Youth Foundation identified these troubling global trends.

    In Latin America, more young people than ever have access to education, but too many drop out of school or graduate without having acquired basic skills.

    In Brazil, approximately 40% of firms have difficulty finding qualified staff to fill vacancies due to low quality education.

    In contrast, there are a growing number of youth in the Middle East and North Africa who have university degrees, but they are more likely to be unemployed than their less-educated peers due to the realities of the job market in the region.

    This region has the highest youth unemployment rate in the world (approximately 25%) and to avoid increases in this rate, 15 million new jobs per year will need to be created over the next decade.

    Another contrast exists in Central and Eastern Europe, where the challenge is a dramatic decline in the working age population, due to emigration and poor health. Those who remain are more likely to have “traditional skills” and lack more enterprising “life skills” needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

    40% of private sector employers believe low workforce skills are constraining economic growth.

    In North American and Western Europe, despite educational opportunities for many, the jobs crisis has led to a growing number of NEET youth – those Not engaged in Education, Employment or Training – and they can quickly become marginalized, creating even more costs for society.

    Conservative estimates in the European labor market show that if just 20% more youth were working, the EU would save more than 21 billion Euros per year.

    In Asia, we see a large number of working poor, particularly in rural environments, and a lack of technical/vocational training to open new opportunities.

    In Asia, 70% of working youth are engaged in the agricultural sector where jobs are seasonal and offer no protections or access to safety nets.

    In Sub-Saharan African, we see deceptively low youth unemployment rates because youth are working at very low-skilled, low quality jobs simply to survive with no hope of pay that will lift them out of poverty.

    In Sub-Saharan Africa, youth are grossly underemployed leaving 72% of youth living on less than US $2 per day.

    These are some daunting statistics. But, at Microsoft we pride ourselves on taking on big challenges and this is no different for our Citizenship work. We continually review and analyze how we can do more to address pressing economic and social challenges. We believe we must move beyond bridging not only the digital divide but also the opportunity divide for youth -- an emerging gap between young people who have the education, skills and opportunities they need to succeed and those who do not.

    Bridging the opportunity divide means more than increasing technology access, although that is still critically important. It means empowering youth by transforming education and enhancing skills training, unleashing future innovators by providing youth with the inspiration and tools to imagine new opportunities, and helping young people find employment or start a new business or social venture.

    Through Microsoft YouthSpark, we are mobilizing our company and partnering with governments, nonprofit organizations, and businesses to help close the opportunity divide for youth.

    This is a new focus for our philanthropy efforts. We are committing the majority of our corporate cash giving to support nonprofits that serve youth and we are announcing a number of new Citizenship programs. But, Microsoft YouthSpark goes beyond philanthropy.

    We are activating the company around this challenge because that’s how we can have the greatest impact. We will help young people access a wide range of Microsoft programs that share the common objective of supporting and serving young people in their quest for opportunity. This includes, among others, Partners in Learning, Office 365 for Education, Skype in the Classroom, DreamSpark, Imagine Cup, and BizSpark.

    Through Microsoft YouthSpark, we will help empower youth to change their world…to reverse those daunting statistics, and to carve a new path for their future and ours.

    Please join us. How can you be the spark of change?





  • Research uncovers the reality of cloud computing for nonprofits

    10,500 NGOs Worldwide Respond to the TechSoup Global Cloud Computing Survey 

    Editor’s Note: We work with TechSoup Global to deliver our nonprofit software donations program to tens of thousands of nonprofits around the world every year. In addition to donations we collaborate to ensure nonprofits have the tools necessary to effectively deploy that technology and grow their impact.  TechSoup Global’s Dan Webb  provides highlights from their newly published 2012 Global Cloud Computing Survey and a look at what’s next.

    By Dan Webb, Director of Services and Solutions, TechSoup Global

    TechSoup Global has announced the results of its 2012 Global Cloud Computing Survey of 10,500 nonprofits, charities, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from 88 countries.

    At TechSoup Global, we’ve long worked with partners, like Microsoft, to bring available technology to nonprofit organizations. Together, TechSoup Global and Microsoft have enabled more than 180,000 nonprofits around the world to save more than US $3.2 billion in IT expenses. And we want to make certain organizations can effectively use the technology, not just to increase their own efficiency, but to better serve and transform their communities.

    Cloud computing is the next frontier for NGOs. It changes what’s possible for organizations on the ground. To understand the opportunities and challenges in adopting cloud computing, we conducted a worldwide survey of NGOs. We fielded our survey in May of this year and reached organizations in 88 countries. As a global organization, we are very interested in the worldwide results, but we are also interested in understanding what cloud computing means country by country, region by region. To this end, we translated the survey into 21 languages and received statistically significant results (over 100 responses) in 26 countries. More than 10,500 organizations worldwide spent the time to help us figure out what cloud computing means to them. You can read the full report in English. The TechSoup Global Network has also translated the executive summary into local languages.

    What we have learned in this survey is consistent with research studies released by organizations like NTEN.

    We found out about the advantages of cloud computing from the NGO perspective:


    We learned about the barriers:


    And we learned about the motivators:


    Taken together, we feel that the we — and by we I mean TechSoup Global, our worldwide network, and every capacity builder, funder, and technology expert who works in this field — can do more to make the cloud even easier. We need to fully understand the business processes of the organizations we serve. And we need to build solutions that meet the needs of organizations and, as much as possible, meet them where they are.

    We need solutions that include an ability to ask a question of an expert or another NGO user. We need solutions, like those from AidMatrix, that are for specific types of organizations. We need solutions that address security concerns in a language organizations can recognize.

    In short, we need solutions. And the cloud can enable us to offer those solutions broadly, to provide data back to organizations, and to determine benchmarks for services that can be used by funders and others. We just have to do it.

    When we start doing this, we will be closer to achieving our goal: offering technology that feels effortless to the users and allows them to spend their time working on their communities’ most pressing issues.

  • Youth Stories with a Side of Toast—Reflections from a New York City Breakfast Discussion

    Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship at Microsoft

    This morning, I had the opportunity to start my day with an inspiring conversation about the challenges facing today’s youth and how we can work to solve them. I was joined by over 70 participants who came to hear from two youth representatives and a youth-focused organization on a panel called, “Bridging the Opportunity Divide – Empowering Youth to Imagine and Realize their Futures.” Lori Harnick, Microsoft’s general manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs also joined in the panel discussion.

    Our gathering in New York came on the heels of the Microsoft YouthSpark launch last week where Steve Ballmer, our CEO, and Brad Smith, executive vice president, discussed Microsoft’s new focus for the company’s philanthropic efforts; namely, that the company is concentrating on addressing the opportunity divide facing youth. Microsoft YouthSpark is a new company-wide initiative to create opportunities for 300 million young people around the world over the next three years. The initiative brings together an array of existing, new and enhanced global programs and partnerships that connect young people with better education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities. Because we know we can’t do this alone, we are committing the majority of our corporate cash giving to support nonprofits that serve youth.

    Today’s youth panel was truly inspiring for me. Talking about global youth issues from a high-level is one thing, but it is so much more impactful and inspiring to sit down with young people and hear their stories of challenge and success directly.

    Mary Mwende told us about her journey from Mombasa, Kenya, to being one of ten girls chosen for the Global Give Back Circle, a mentoring and empowerment program. From here she was selected to take a Microsoft ICT course, where she learned about the power of technology for connecting people around the world. In 2009, she was recognized at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting and today she gives back through the Global Give Back Circle website “Hey Sister, Get Clued Up” and attends the American University in Dubai. A video of her story is here.   image
    Matt Howard is a young man who is involved with one of Microsoft’s newly announced youth partner nonprofits, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). NFTE and four other youth nonprofits will receive new funding from Microsoft to enhance existing youth programs or start new initiatives. During the panel, Matt shared his story about how his interest in poetry and introduction to NFTE helped turn his life around, and helped him develop an online platform for artists “CreaTistZone”.   image
    Peter Shiras joined us from another great youth organization, the International Youth Foundation (IYF). Microsoft commissioned a report with IYF chronicling the opportunity divide which was published in March this year. Peter has extensive international experience in Latin America and Africa and discussed the problems and solutions he sees from the ground. In particular, he talked about New Employment Opportunities (NEO), a partnership between Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and a consortium of companies that focuses on creating millions of opportunities for youth in LATAM. Peter believes that the consortium is an attractive model that can be replicated in other regions of the world.   image


    It’s so encouraging to me that Microsoft can partner with nonprofits that care as deeply as we do about helping youth reach their full potential. I’m also always impressed by the ingenuity, charisma and passion of young leaders, like Mary and Matt that are cutting a path for their generation. Matt said it best during the discussion when he noted, “When you help someone else realize their dreams, know that you are also making your own dreams real.”

    If you would like to become involved personally in empowering youth, visit the Give for Youth micro-giving marketplace. From here you can view real youth causes and support youth-focused nonprofits directly. Lori Harnick announced yesterday, during the Mashable Social Good Summit, that Microsoft would match individual donations through Give for Youth, through October 1st and up to $100,000. We are so excited to announce that, thanks to the generous donations of the community, in less than 24 hours $100,000 has already been donated. So today, we are extending that matching commitment by another $100,000. For more information on Microsoft YouthSpark, I encourage you to check out Brad Smith’s blog post and a video of Steve Ballmer making the announcement during the live campus event.

  • Day of Caring – A tradition of service, a celebration of giving

    Participating in United Way of King County’s Day of Caring has been a long-standing tradition at Microsoft. Since 1992, Microsoft employees in the greater-Seattle area provide a day of service for nonprofits in need of extra hands and in the process we get to know our neighborhood organizations a little better. Last Friday, over 5,000 Microsoft employees volunteered for this year’s United Way Day of Caring, supporting over 200 projects.

    This year the Citizenship team got together with the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group and the Microsoft Alumni Foundation and spent the day at the North Seattle Boys & Girls Club in Greenwood. The North Seattle location is King County’s oldest club, with a long history of being a fun place for area kids to get help with homework, learn new skills, or just hang out with friends. As the club works to expand the number of kids it will serve this year, our group tackled a number of projects to spruce up the interior and surroundings.

    The project at the North Seattle Boys & Girls Club required the work of over 80 volunteers to reseed and level the adjacent sports field, weed and clean-up landscaping surrounding the building, and paint the games room and offices inside. A great day was made even better by some local parents who offered to cook-out for us and provide homemade food for all of the volunteers. We ate well!

    To learn more about the programs offered through the Boys & Girls Club or to discover volunteer opportunities, visit North Seattle Boys & Girls Club or United Way of King County.


    Citizenship & Public Affairs Team at North Seattle Boys & Girls Club for United Way of King County’s Day of Caring 2012.

  • Microsoft's YouthSpark Invests in City Year's Work to keep Students in School

    Editor’s Note: Last week we announced Microsoft YouthSpark a new company wide initiative that aims to create opportunities for 300 million young people. A key part of YouthSpark is the work we are doing with nonprofit organizations focused on helping young people access education, employment and entrepreneurship.  Globally, our nonprofit cash grant recipients have been carefully selected with a focus on these specific outcomes. In the United States we’ll be focusing the majority of our nonprofit cash grants on five national nonprofit partners Boys & Girls Clubs of America, City Year, Junior Achievement, NFTE and Year Up. We wanted to share how they will be working as part of YouthSpark and today Michael Brown, Co-Founder and CEO of City Year shares his perspective.


    By Michael Brown, Co-Founder and CEO of City Year


    City Year is honored to be selected to receive support from Microsoft through its newly launched YouthSpark initiative, and we are pleased to welcome Microsoft as City Year’s newest National Leadership Sponsor. The YouthSpark initiative's mission is to create opportunities for 300 million youth around the world through various programs, including three-year support for national U.S. nonprofit organizations. We at City Year are tremendously grateful to partner with Microsoft to keep students in high-poverty schools in school and on track to graduation.

    Last year, Microsoft invested in a team of City Year corps members serving in the Diplomas Now collaboration at Newtown High School in New York City. The success of this team of inspirational young adults has led to this new exciting partnership. Microsoft’s support for City Year’s work as part of the Diplomas Now collaboration, which you can learn more in this feature story, is allowing us to deliver comprehensive and validated impact on the nation’s lowest-performing schools, where we address the early warning indicators – poor attendance, behavior and course performance – that predict whether a student is likely to drop out of school. Diplomas Now’s transformational national model is designed to help close the achievement gap, ensuring that students receive the right intervention at the right time to succeed in school.

    As part of Microsoft’s grant to City Year, Microsoft will sponsor City Year teams in three Diplomas Now schools in New York City, Chicago and Seattle, making it possible for us to deploy diverse teams of young adults in full-time service to these high-need schools as tutors, mentors and role models. In each school, trained City Year corps members support students every day, all day, year after year. They partner with schools to deliver evidence-based interventions, providing individual attention to help students succeed.  

    City YearCity Year corps member provides one-on-one tutoring to students

    Microsoft’s support will play a vital role in helping City Year to achieve our Long-Term Impact goal. This goal, announced at our May 2012 In School & On Track National Leadership Summit with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, is to ensure that 80 percent of students in City Year schools reach 10th grade successfully—nearly doubling the current rate of 44 percent—which will mean they are four times more likely to graduate. City Year also seeks to reach 50 percent of the off-track students in all of its markets and expand to reach the cities that account for two-thirds of the nation’s urban dropouts. Over the next 10 years, City Year aims to serve close to one million students a day.

    Thanks to Microsoft’s generous support, City Year is able to improve our national math capacity to reach close to 8,500 students for one-on-one math tutoring. Our national program design team will now be able to carry out key activities, including preparing online content, testing math activities in the field before being implemented nationwide, packaging site-specific best practices for national distribution and creating a framework for a Sharepoint resource library.

    Since 1999, Microsoft has been a valued technology partner of City Year providing over $19.4 million in software to ensure City Year’s network is fully integrated to leverage communications and collaboration for service impact.

    Microsoft shares our vision to prepare our youth to compete in a modern workforce by keeping them in school and on track to graduate. With Microsoft’s support, City Year can scale to reach an unprecedented number of youth in high-poverty schools nationwide, ensuring the right students receive the right interventions at the right time. Together, we can dramatically improve the graduation pipeline in America.

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