November, 2013

  • A Framework for Human Rights

    By Dan Bross, senior director of Corporate Citizenship

    Remember when you heard the word “networks” and thought ABC – CBS – NBC? OK, OK - I’m dating myself. Today the word “networks” is used in a variety of contexts – computer networks; virtual networks; and last but certainly not least – social networks.

    “The Power of Networks” was the organizing tenant of BSR’s 2013 conference in San Francisco, CA earlier this month.  As Aron Kramer, BSR’s President and CEO notes in a recent blog post, “networks are reshaping our world… (Providing) new opportunities for businesses and their partners to activate their networks, and … use the “Power of Networks” to … build a just and sustainable world.”

    As Microsoft’s senior director of Corporate Citizenship, I am part of a network of colleagues across a wide and diverse range of organizations (corporations; civil society organizations; academic institutions; investors; governments; et al) all working on the issue of human rights. Our work is as varied as the organizations we represent. While our focus and responsibilities may vary, I suspect we would agree that the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) has provided a much needed framework for our work. 

    Since the UNGPs were adopted by the UN in June 2011, we have taken a number of steps across Microsoft to work to fulfill our responsibility to respect the human rights of our rights holders, including: issuing our Global Human Rights Statement; launching the Microsoft Technology and Human Rights Center; and assessing the human rights impacts of our operations on an ongoing basis. These assessments – in Guiding Principles parlance – are referred to as human rights impact assessments or HRIAs and it was this part of our human rights work that I was invited to speak to at the BSR conference.

    Chloe Poynton, a member of BSR’s Advisory Services team moderated the session by outlining the responsibility of companies under the UNGPs to “know and show” their impact on human rights through an internal due diligence process (HRIAs). John Morrison, Executive Director of the Institute for Human Rights and Business explained that “businesses must never get the message that human rights are just about managing risk” and explained that companies are working collaboratively to assess human rights risks and develop common methodologies for greater alignment. 

    The other panelist, Chris Anderson, Rio Tinto’s Americas Director, Communities and Social Performance talked a bit about the need for human rights training/education within corporations, and Chris and I agreed that that one size type of training does not fit all and need to address aspects of human rights relevant for individual roles and responsibilities within an organization.

    During the question and answer portion of the session, I had an opportunity to speak a bit about the HRIA we completed prior to establishing a business presence in Myanmar and the importance of “baking” assessments into business processes.

    In my mind, the three key takeaways from the session were:

    • It is important for companies to be transparent about their human rights policies, priorities and processes.
    • There is a great need for companies to develop and deliver targeted internal human rights training focused on specific roles and responsibilities.
    • Delivering on human rights goals and commitments requires an ongoing and sustained effort given the dynamic nature of organizations and the ever changing human rights landscape.



  • Meet Giving Hero Washington State Opportunity Scholarship

    By Elisa Willman, Senior Manager MarComm, Microsoft Citizenship

    Attending an international school in India, Poorvi Shrivastav took her first computer programming class at the age of 7. Like most young people, she became obsessed with the gadgets, phones and computers that allowed her to email her classmates after school and stay connected with her father when he traveled. But Poorvi wanted more, she wanted to write the programs that made the technology work.

    Now a Software Development Engineer in Test at Microsoft, Poorvi is working to bring that same inspiration to other young people. She and her husband, Brahmjot Singh Kohli, teach advanced placement computer science courses at Hazen High School in Renton as part of Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS), a Microsoft YouthSpark program. They jokingly refer to themselves as the TEALS couple.

    TEALS places high tech professionals who are passionate about computer science education into school districts that don’t have the finances or skills available to offer such courses. Brahmjot and Poorvi heard about the program in 2012, shortly after they moved to the United States from India to work at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond. They both previously taught primary school math and were looking for a similar opportunity.

    “We know the U.S. is facing a shortage of people with STEM degrees and now we have an opportunity to impact high school students and improve that,” says Brahmjot. “I was introduced to programming very early and that is what led to my career in engineering.”

    As part of the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative and our Employee Giving Program, we’re featuring their story among 30 Microsoft employee Giving Heroes who are helping young people overcome a number of challenges and capture new opportunities. To further extend our support, a $1,000 grant will be donated in honor of Poorvi and Brahmjot to the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship, which provides young people the opportunity to take their aspirations in computer science to the next level in college. Highlighting their story also gives them a chance to raise even more money through the upcoming #GivingTuesday campaign.

    In the U.S. alone, there are projections of 1.5 million CS-related jobs by 2018. Unfortunately, U.S. college graduates are expected to fill less than a third of those jobs. TEALS is providing U.S. students with the skills they need to pursue technology in higher education and the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship is helping them finance the educations that will land them in 21st century jobs.

    Poorvi and Brahmjot are certain that some of the 55 students in their classes will turn their newfound computer science skills into college degrees. Since they started teaching the 7:20 a.m. classes two months ago, the change is already evident. 

    While initially some of the students seemed to be attending class because of pressure from their parents, the progress they’ve made has turned the obligation into real interest. Some are so excited, they want to encourage others to take the course next year and are planning an event to spread the word.

    “I can see on a daily basis the impact I can have on someone’s career choice,” Brahmjot says. “I predict that many of them will take up a career in computer science and for me that is huge.”

    Poorvi, who has a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology, gives special attention to the girls in the classroom because of the inequality of women in the computer science field. She encourages them, praises their successes, and assures them there is a place for them in the industry.

    “I was lucky that I went to a school with great teachers who taught STEM,” she says. “I owe many thanks to the teachers in India who got me interested in science and technology. If I am able to help impact a few students and make them interested, it will give me great satisfaction.”

    Meet other Giving Heroes by following #youthspark, #givinghero and #msftgiving on Microsoft Facebook and Twitter.  We’ll showcase inspiring employees making a difference for youth each day this month and leading into #GivingTuesday.

  • Globaloria Honored at 2013 Tech Awards

    By Joseph Beare, Manager of Communications, Corporate Citizenship, Microsoft Silicon Valley

    Dan’l Lewin, corporate vice president, technology and civic engagement at Microsoft, congratulates Education Laureates Idit Harel Caperton and Amber Oliver of Globaloria. Image: The Tech Museum of Innovation

    For the past decade, Microsoft has sponsored the education category of the Tech Awards, presented by the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California. The Tech Awards program honors innovators from around the globe who are using technology to benefit humanity. On Thursday, November 14, one of Microsoft’s exciting, up-and-coming partner organizations, Globaloria, was honored as a laureate in that category.

    Globaloria is an award-winning learning platform that introduces supplementary STEM curriculum into K-12 schools and encourages students to learn coding skills through interactive game design. Last year, Microsoft Silicon Valley and Globaloria partnered up to promote Digital Learning Day, a nationwide event dedicated to promoting digital literacy, particularly in underserved communities.

    Digital Learning Day was a tremendous success for Globaloria, Microsoft, and the participating students — some of whom were featured in a broadcast news segment on the local ABC affiliate station.

    Globaloria has affected more than 10,000 students and 500 educators across eight states and in 20 countries worldwide. We congratulate Globaloria for being honored as a laureate at this year’s Tech Awards.

  • Office 365 for Nonprofits: Helping Nonprofits Do More Good … Now in More Places!

    By Jane Meseck, Director of Citizenship 

    Back in September, we took a new step forward to help nonprofits more easily harness the power of technology to do more good. Significantly widening the scope of our Technology for Good program, we began donating Office 365 to nonprofits worldwide.

    Originally launching the offer in 40 countries with plans to roll it out in up to 90 countries by July 2014, Office 365 is now available in an additional 14 countries. Nonprofits in Argentina, China, Colombia, Jordan, Latvia, Lithuania, Morocco, Peru, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Tunisia, and Ukraine can now request a donation of Office 365. There’s no cap on the number of nonprofit employees who can get on board, whether the organization has 10 employees or thousands.

    Seamlessly accessing information from anywhere across multiple devices is essential to allowing nonprofit Splash focus on what’s most important — providing clean, safe drinking water to vulnerable children around the world.

    Splash provides clean drinking water to youth in Thailand and five other countries. 

    Before adopting Office 365, Splash was spending more time scheduling meetings and addressing inefficiencies than figuring out how to clean water for young people. With offices in seven countries, contact with international staff presented a particular challenge.

    Office 365 changed all that for Splash, allowing the staff to worry less about technology and focus more on their vital roles in achieving the organization’s mission.

    “Whether it's our country director in China, our bookkeeper in Seattle, or our hygiene team in Nepal, Office 365 gives all staff an easy way to communicate and stay connected,” says Lindsey Walsh, operations associate at Splash.

    Lindsey loved the ease of getting Office 365 up and running. After adding Splash’s domain to the system, she was able to easily migrate everything to Office 365.

    Office 365 also made a major rebranding easy for Splash. Formerly known as A Child’s Right, the organization was nervous about the change to Splash. Lindsey thought it would be particularly challenging with staff in different time zones all over the world.

    “I was shocked with how easy and seamless the process was. It took almost no time at all and I didn't hear of one staff member having a problem. It was as if no change happened at all, which I think is a true testament to how easy it was,” says Lindsey.

    For nonprofits with offices in multiple locations, Office 365 simplifies collaboration. Staff can view their colleagues’ calendars to find ideal meeting times, share documents without worrying about version control, and hold group meetings with high definition video conferencing. The added benefit of a cloud-based product is the ability to access documents from anywhere.

    “In China, we're about to announce that every single orphanage in the country has clean water, and in Thailand we also have exciting visions to scale in children's institutions. Office 365 has enabled Splash to have a system in place that supports our achievement of these goals,” notes Lindsey.

    If you work at a nonprofit, now is a great time to apply for a donation of Office 365 for Nonprofits. If you have a favorite nonprofit, please help us spread the news by sharing the video below. 

  • Sparking Change to Create a Better Future for Youth

    By Johann Koss, President and CEO, Right To Play

    Johann Koss speaking at the Big Red Ball at the Roundhouse, London

    I believe that play has the power to change a child’s life.

    Play provides children with the skills necessary to help them reach their full potential. It’s an innovative idea, and when it comes to international development, I believe innovation and collaboration are key to successfully building a better future.

    That's why I'm excited about our partnership with Microsoft YouthSpark. Through play and technological innovation, we're empowering young people and teaching them the skills they need — not to receive change, but to create it.

    At Right To Play, we operate play-based education programs in more than 20 countries around the world. We reach one million children and youth through weekly play activities that enhance their educations, teach critical health lessons, and help them develop the confidence and leadership skills to build more peaceful communities.

    But we can’t do it alone, which is where collaboration comes into play.

    With Microsoft’s investment, our Raising Her Voice program in East Africa aims to reach 110,000 children by 2015 through the power of play. The gender-equality-focused program is already reaching more than 77,000 young people – 53 per cent girls – in Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique.   

    And we are seeing the impact.

    Catherine Kobusinge, a teacher at Buhanika Primary School in Hoima, Uganda, says there have always been certain topics that she could not easily teach in her classroom. In Uganda, social conventions make conversations about sex, reproduction and issues like HIV and AIDS taboo.

    This, however, does not change the fact that HIV and AIDS rates in Ugandan youth are among East Africa’s highest – and they’re on the rise.

    So Catherine needed to get creative. Becoming a Right To Play Coach helped her do just that.

    At the heart of our programs are more than 13,500 Coaches. They are the local volunteer teachers and community leaders who lead our weekly programs and act as role models in their communities.

    As a trained Right To Play Coach in the Raising Her Voice program, Catherine now uses play to engage her students in activities and conversations that can save their lives.

    Catherine says the games have helped build her students’ confidence, and has opened up lines of communication – particularly with female students – that are helping teachers address sensitive issues, like reaching puberty, which might otherwise see young women quit school.

    Coaches like Catherine, who share our belief in the power of play represent our ultimate collaboration. Their investment is critical to the sustainability of our programs, and their creative application of Right To Play is educating and empowering the next generation of leaders.

    With Microsoft’s guidance and expertise, we’re leveraging technology to make greater investment in those Coaches futures too.

    We’ve already begun to create a digital library of our more than 600 unique games and activities, and we will be launching a pilot program in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya to train 3,000 Coaches in basic digital literacy. Not only will this help Coaches access our digital materials worldwide, but it offers them a set of skills that will improve their job prospects and benefit their communities.

    Today, to succeed we need to work together to find innovative new approaches that engage young people in their own development and empower them to become the architects of change within their communities.

    From play to education to skills. Now that’s innovation.


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