By Yvonne Thomas, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft YouthSpark

In May, Microsoft launched YouthSpark Challenge for Change. We asked young people aged 18-25 to share a social cause they care about and come up with an idea to address it using Windows and Office for a chance to win a volunteer trip to Kenya this summer. While changing the world can be a daunting task, hundreds of young adults from around the country rose to the challenge.

The submissions we received address a wide range of social issues such as technology literacy, bullying, cancer awareness, public health and nutrition, education and tutoring, clean water solutions, climate change, art and music therapy, and STEM education. We discovered that many people have already established their own nonprofit organizations and are seeking additional support and resources to boost their projects to the next level. Thank you to everyone who entered, and don’t forget to use your $25 gift card for Give for Youth.

So what happens next?

The YouthSpark Challenge for Change judging panel is reviewing all the entries and will select 20 finalists who will each make a short video explaining their project ideas. We’ll reveal the finalists on June 17 and turn the final round of judging over to you to select our five grand prize winners. Each finalist will receive a Microsoft Surface RT with Windows RT and Office Home and Student 2013 RT (perfect for making their videos!). Anyone can vote for his or her favorite project and video once a day through June 24. The five grand prize winners will receive an all-expenses paid volunteer trip to Kenya in August 2013, $2,500 cash to help kick-start their ideas, a Microsoft technology bundle including a Windows Phone 8 and Xbox 360 with Kinect, and the opportunity to serve as a YouthSpark ambassador for the year and take advantage of YouthSpark training and resources.

As they review submissions, our judges are looking for entries that are creative, can be implemented, and have the potential to create a positive impact on a real social issue. They’ll also evaluate how the entries propose to use Windows and Office. We would like to introduce you to them:

liz Liz Maw is chief executive officer of Net Impact, where she focuses on fostering the development of next generation sustainability leaders. During her tenure, Net Impact has more than tripled in size, formed partnerships with more than 50 global corporations, grown its chapter network to more than 300, and launched new research and projects on campus greening, curriculum change, and workplace sustainability. The World Economic Forum recognized Liz as a Young Global Leader in 2010, and Ethisphere named her as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics in 2011. Follow @LizMaw for her updates on Net Impact.

“Net Impact and Microsoft YouthSpark share the same vision – to empower the next generation to create a better future for themselves, their communities, and the world,” said Liz Maw, CEO of Net Impact. “I’m inspired by all the powerful entries in YouthSpark Challenge for Change and their potential to make a real difference. Choosing 20 finalists out of this group will not be an easy task.”

max Max Schorr is co-founder and chief community officer of GOOD, which began as part of a generational impulse to create positive change in the world and now reaches more than 4 million people each month through various communication channels. Schorr recently helped develop GOOD/Corps, an initiative to help businesses align their success with social impact. Follow @MaxSchorr for his thoughts on GOOD and GOOD/Corps.
romanus Romanus Berg is chief information officer of Ashoka and serves as a member of the organization’s Leadership Group. He currently serves on the board of NetHope, which works to share social solutions across citizen, government, and private sectors. Follow @RomanusBerg for his thoughts on Ashoka, NetHope, and social entrepreneurship.

In addition to Max, Liz, and Romanus, the YouthSpark Challenge for Change judging panel includes three Microsoft employees (left to right): Jay Victor, director of brand strategy for Office and Windows, Leonardo Ortiz-Villacorta, director of field engagement for Citizenship & Public Affairs, and Rachel Abbot, product manager of global campaigns for Windows.

image image image