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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.
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.
It was amazing to see people from all kinds of organizations meeting together to figure out how to give opportunities to 300 million people over the next three years. Until you are in that room with everyone who seemed so genuine, it would be easy to be skeptical that this could really happen. But after seeing how everyone responded to Mary and Matts' stories (including me), I believe you all will meet that goal.
Allegra, thanks so much for your kind comments! That's our target, there's a lot of work to do, but it's something we'll be doing our best to achieve.