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.

One aspect of this topic we discussed was mentoring. We often hear about the importance of “adults” mentoring youth, yet one of the things we’re most excited about is fostering mentoring AMONG youth.

Providing forums and platforms for youth to learn from each other about ways to harness their energy and smarts to change the world for the better is a critical step in the process of empowering youth to both imagine and realize their full potential.

One such forum is Innovate for Good, a global online community of socially-conscious and active young people sharing ideas, expertise, and actions.
 

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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.