Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
2012 MIDLAS Team
Even in the face of the extended economic downturn in one of the most isolated cities on earth, Midland Information, Debt, and Legal Advocacy Service Inc. (MIDLAS), remains focused on prevention. “It’s easy to be reactive, but we are committed to being proactive,” says Julia Burch, Chief Executive Officer of what she describes as a very “holistic” organization. MIDLAS provides free professional services — including financial counseling, emergency relief, domestic violence legal advice, disability advocacy and tenancy advocacy — to help empower disadvantaged and vulnerable residents of the northeast metropolitan region of Perth, Australia.
Founded in 1989 with just one financial counselor and one part-time administrator, MIDLAS has grown into a staff of 16 full- and part-time employees. “We service as many clients as possible in an area with tremendous unmet need — about 2,000 annually and counting,” says Burch. At 72 percent, the overwhelming majority of MIDLAS clients receive some form of government income support.
Two years ago, the organization was using a variety of versions of outdated Microsoft Office software on a mismatched collection of Macs and PCs. This made file sharing and collaboration a challenge. “A computer should be a productive tool,” says Burch. “In our case, our technology was an absolute mess.” Then Burch learned about DonorTec, the technology donation program of TechSoup Global partner Connecting Up and applied. “We couldn’t believe our luck!” she says of the discovery that MIDLAS could request donated Microsoft products.
Upgrading all of the organization’s computers to the latest version of Office had an immediate positive effect on productivity. Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 drastically improved compatibility so that PC and Mac users with updated software can now share files and collaborate easily.
Having everyone on Outlook has enabled staff to better organize contacts and track communications, while the new version of PowerPoint is the go-to choice for creating presentations and training materials. Burch adds, “We now also bring our laptops on client visits to share financial and other tools and write up case notes in real time.” The new software has made MIDLAS’ delivery service much more connected and efficient.
“Getting the new technology was symbolic for us too,” says projects manager Craig McAllister. “It has inspired us to push our boundaries and expand our services,” he says. “We understand that crisis isn’t just something that happens between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. We want our clients to be able access information and resources 24 hours a day. This lies at the core of what we do.” He and staff members have improved the website to highlight services and resources for clients. They are also using social media like Twitter and Facebook, in addition to blogs, videos, and webinars, to promote MIDLAS.
The organization’s social media campaign aimed to raise awareness of its services, disseminate important information and advocacy options to clients, and build stronger connections within the social services community. Honoring its success, MIDLAS recently received the “Community Services Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Raising the Profile of Community Services to Western Australians.” Its work has been cited as being fundamental in reducing the levels of poverty in the communities MIDLAS serves.
Most of MIDLAS’s clients have multifaceted and complex issues. “When things go wrong, they can have a snowball effect,” says McAllister. Some clients may find themselves faced with the decision of having to choose between paying the rent and refilling their medical prescription. MIDLAS staff work closely with individuals to ensure that they never have to make this choice. “Our Microsoft donations from DonorTec have allowed us to work smarter and stay in closer contact with our network of other social service organizations to help the people of Perth.”
CEO Julia Burch with Craig McAllister and another MIDLAS staffer at Western Australian Community Services Excellence Awards
More about nonprofit software donations from Microsoft
Do you work with a nonprofit? The Microsoft nonprofit software donation program, which is operated in partnership with TechSoup provides software donations to eligible nonprofit organizations around the world. Find out more at: http://www.microsoft.com/ngo.
While literacy isn’t traditionally considered part of well-child visits, one organization is working to change this. Reach Out and Read believes that “immunizing” kids against illiteracy is just as important as general pediatric preventative care. This innovative nonprofit builds on the unique relationship that exists between parents and medical providers to develop early reading skills in children.
“We partner with doctors and nurses across the country to promote early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms and give new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud,” explains Eric Belford, Reach Out and Read’s Director of IT. “Each child, from age six months through five years, walks away from the doctor’s visit with a new, developmentally appropriate book.”
Getting parents more involved in their child’s reading development also helps kids avoid the pitfalls of school failure, including low self-esteem, skipping class, dropping out, substance abuse, and teenage pregnancy — all things that can perpetuate cycles of poverty.
The Boston-based organization of 48 full- and part-time staff members has been working to increase literacy rates among youth for more than two decades. Two years ago, it began establishing satellite offices around the country to spread the positive message of reading to even more parents. This expansion served as the tipping point for a complete technology overhaul.
During this time, the organization added a dozen staff members in the Carolinas, Indiana, and Washington State. “After setting our remote staff up with new laptops, we needed a way to provide a seamless connection to our IT services at the National Center,” says Belford. “Microsoft has this great new technology called DirectAccess that helps us do just that.”
A volunteer teaching a child how to read
A pediatrician with a child, book in hand
A parent and child reading a book
The only caveat was that in order for DirectAccess to work optimally, Reach Out and Read needed to upgrade all of its server and desktop software. This was no small feat. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this all at one time without help from Microsoft and TechSoup’s donation program,” Belford says. The nonprofit requested multiple licenses of Windows Server 2008, Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows Exchange Server 2010, and Office 2010. “These donations immediately cut down on support time and costs by speeding up sluggish computers and eliminating incompatibility issues.”
Having all employees on the same technological page not only increased work efficiency and improved internal communication, but also ensured that email attachments received from outside the office — from everyone from medical partners to donors — could be easily opened, read, and shared. “From a support point of view, this has been invaluable,” Belford says. One staff member in particular experienced immediate relief once her computer was upgraded to Office 2010. “Her mailbox was too large and was slowing down her machine,” he remembers. “The new version of Outlook solved the problem immediately.”
Belford hopes to continue to improve the organization’s technology platform this year by requesting Microsoft’s Lync Server through TechSoup. “This will help us continue to improve communication and collaboration efforts with our satellites,” Belford says with excitement. “We’ll be able to more easily share documents and use video capabilities to work together.” This ultimately means sparking a passion for reading in even more kids.
Reach Out and Read serves upwards of 4 million families annually, and as a result, more children are entering kindergarten with larger vocabularies, stronger language skills, and a six-month developmental edge over their peers. Microsoft and TechSoup are proud to play a behind-the-scenes role in helping to “immunize” kids against illiteracy, one young reader at a time.
Do you work with a nonprofit? The Microsoft nonprofit software donation program, which is operated in partnership with TechSoup provides software donations to eligible nonprofit organizations around the world. Find out more at: http://www.microsoft.com/ngo .
October is employee giving month at Microsoft. It’s a time when employees across the United States come together to raise money and donate their time and expertise to nonprofits and local communities. Of course while October is the employee giving campaign, our people volunteer their time and expertise throughout the year. Here’s an example of how the folks in our Customer Services and Support organization are giving back.
The team, made up of volunteers from our Customer Service and Support teams, helped schools and orphanages install new IT infrastructure and helped the Malawi Learning Partnership to reach more schools. In addition they trained and mentored teachers and students to ensure that their knowledge remains in the country long after the team have returned home. Over 20 teachers were trained to equip them with the skills they needed to create and maintain a network at their school. The work included IT Master Classes for students, a local business forum and a conference where engineers talked about new technology and participated in a discussion about the challenges facing Malawi due to poor technology infrastructure.
The volunteers held a DigiGirlz event which reached over 120 young girls. The purpose of DigiGirlz is give girls the opportunity to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops. This event had girls aged between 11 and 18 years old. Most of these girls had never used a computer before, but by the end of the day they had typed their resume and cover letters in Microsoft Word, learned how to create a PowerPoint presentation, how to create a website, create a video game with Kodu, and how to stay safe online.
The Malawi “Fundraising Project” Water is life
Since June, the CSS Malawi Citizenship Project team has been raising money to fund Water Pumps which provide clean water for people in Malawi.
A group of over 40 team members across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa are organizing a variety of fundraising events.
The objective to support the installation of 10 new boreholes which will provide access to safe & clean water for 2500 people in TA Mphuka in Southern Malawi where only 22% of population have access to safe water. This project is running in partnership with Concern Universal.
Microsoft engineers went to one village to see how the money raised so far is used and the joy of the people having a water pump repaired and access to clean water was just indescribable!
How can you help? Donations can be made through Justgiving.org.
More info? Visit the CSS Malawi Citizenship Facebook page.
It’s not every day that our passions and skills merge to form the perfect profession, but in Martin Denton’s case, that’s exactly what happened. In the mid 1990s, after years of working in IT for Marriott International, Denton enrolled in a basic Internet class and created the first version of nytheatre.com, one of the first websites to chronicle and review theatre events in New York City.
“TechSoup has given my organization — which is almost exclusively a Microsoft shop — access to lots of lovely tools and software that I couldn’t have afforded on my own.”
NYTE is the producer of New York's first original, regularly scheduled podcast series about theatre, nytheatrecast.com. Since 2000, NYTE has also published the “Plays and Playwrights” series, a yearly anthology of plays by emerging playwrights. In addition, NYTE operates indietheaternow.com, launched last August, dedicated to getting new plays into the hands of the public and revenue into the pockets of up and coming playwrights. “It serves as a lab for developing new work and provides a platform where playwrights can attract attention and collect royalties,” says Denton.
In 2009, Microsoft selected NYTE as a “Show Your Impact” contest winner and awarded the organization $25,000 to use toward new software. “This award was the catalyst for completely upgrading the website and moving the organization to the next level,” Denton says. He’s now getting ready to implement a full text search to the site. “We have huge archives and reviews of more than 8,000 shows, so being able to easily find information is critical to our success.”
As a result of NYTE’s organization-wide Microsoft upgrades, the site is much easier to update and maintain and more user-friendly. Denton has added new design and functionality, while eliminating a lot of the grunt work. What once took up his entire Sunday now takes just a few clicks. “Before, I had to painstakingly create each new web page, one at a time. Now the process to get new reviews and listings on to the site takes about five minutes. The productivity gain has been immense!” he says.
NYTE uses MapPoint to geocode locations of more than 200 venues listed on nytheatre.com. Its new SQL Server/C# 2010 system makes the listings and website infrastructure run more smoothly. And it also helps Denton manage his volunteer base. This is especially important during the New York International Fringe Festival every August. People sign up to review nearly 200 theatre, dance, puppetry, comedy, and dramatic productions that all take place over this 17-day period. Also, as a result of the new SQL Server database, Denton added a "Trip Planner" feature to display a customized page showing exactly what shows are playing during a given period of interest.
Microsoft Expression Studio helps Denton manage images, and Expression Web assists in editing XML files. “Having access to these tools has allowed me to build things I couldn’t have imagined building before. The organization is 1,000 percent better than it was.”
Since he builds and maintains the sites himself, Denton says he often turns to the many resources that Microsoft provides for support. “Any issue or question I have can usually be easily resolved through forums,” he says. “There is also a huge Microsoft user community that shares solutions, helpful hints, and experiences.”
Meanwhile, the new Microsoft technology has also enabled Denton to double his coverage of indie festivals and performances and to spend more time adding blogs, interviews, and reviews.
Denton’s passion and access to new technology continue to fuel his successful promotion of the work of hundreds of nonprofit theatre companies to an audience of 3 million people annually — all at no cost to the nonprofit theatres themselves. “Thanks to Microsoft and the TechSoup donation program, we’re able to optimize the websites so they are more secure, easier to use, and able to support even more artists than ever before.”
Mark Denton and NYTE managing director, Rochelle Denton, in Times Square. (photo credit: Daniel Talbott)
Lori Harnick, General Manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs, Microsoft
We have been talking quite a bit lately about the need to close the opportunity divide for youth – the gap between those who have the access, skills, and opportunities to be successful and those who do not. Bridging this gap is the focus of the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative and of a discussion I had the opportunity to participate in this week at the Business Civic Leadership Center Global Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference aims to bring together a wide range of civic, business and corporate social responsibility leaders from across the globe to discuss how companies can work together to cultivate solutions, strategies and innovations to improve economic, environmental, and community conditions in emerging and developing markets around the world.
I was honored, to not only open the second day’s agenda and introduce Leila Janah, CEO of Samasource, but also to participate on a panel exploring business solutions to solve the growing global youth underemployment crisis. My fellow panelists included Jennifer Silberman, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, Hilton Worldwide, Kris Balderston, Special Representative for Global Partnerships, U.S. Department of State and one of our nonprofit partners, Sean Rush, CEO, Junior Achievement. John Sullivan, Executive Director of the Center for International Private Enterprise, moderated the event. What is most inspiring about this type of discussion, with such a dynamic group of people across the public and private sectors as well as non-profit organizations, is the innovation and passion that each and every person brings to solving such a critical problem – not only for the future and health of the global economy – but for the future of our young people.
In the world, we have more young people – 1.2 billion – than at any time in the planet’s history. There’s broad agreement on the urgent need to provide them with the education, skills and employment opportunities they need to be successful and help spur the growth of our global economy. There is no greater power to solve the growing youth underemployment crisis than the power of partnership – of CSR, corporate, nonprofit and government leaders working together. We are excited to be part of that dialogue and committed to being part of the solution.
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