Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
Andrea L. Taylor, Director, North America Community Affairs, Microsoft
Since 2006 when I began leading Microsoft’s North America Community Affairs program, there have been countless visits to the nation’s capital for important events including the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2008. This week’s trip, however, to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of The Faith & Politics Institute and to accept the inaugural Philanthropic Leadership Award on behalf of the company, was very special.
The Institute, with its unique mission – fostering trust, civility and productivity amid increasing challenges across the political spectrum, has never been so timely. For two decades this organization has served hundreds of members of Congress and congressional staff by offering experimental pilgrimages, reflection groups, retreats and public forums.
During the Gala Dinner, members of this bipartisan group spoke eloquently about their transformative experiences at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama or Robben Island in South Africa. The bridge, an icon of the civil rights era, was the site of Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, when police officers attacked peaceful civil rights demonstrators on their march to Montgomery, the state capital. Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town and now a museum, was the location where former President and Nobel Laureate Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, including current South Africa President Jacob Zuma, were imprisoned in the apartheid era.
Among the speakers were Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, who participated in the Selma March as the president of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), and The Honorable Amo Houghton, a retired member of the House of Representatives from New York. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and Senator Roy Blunt, were recipients of The Lewis-Houghton Leadership Awards and both reflected on their impactful experiences as longtime members of the Institute.
Just as the Institute has a proud legacy of two decades of service in the interest of bridging the divides that arise in a thriving, robust democracy, Microsoft has worked since its founding in 1975 to promote and support corporate philanthropy and to cultivate a tradition of giving back to the community through investments that seek to close the opportunity divide.
Last week, we completed our annual giving campaign during which employees in the U.S. were encouraged to give their time, talent and treasure in the places where they live, work, and play. We expect our campaign to exceed the $96 million generated last year from cash donations and the company match up to $12,000 per employee to benefit 16,000 nonprofit organizations related to education, health and human services and the arts.
When accepting the award, I highlighted the Institute and Microsoft’s shared goals to build community and bridge the divides that will build on our longtime partnership and help to change the world. It was also a special honor to be seated next to Congressman Lewis, a personal hero, who I first saw (but never met) at the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 when Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. made his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Remembering that occasion, I jokingly shared with the audience that I was disappointed that Congressman Lewis didn’t remember me among the crowd of more than 250,000 peaceful demonstrators that day. Then quickly added that I was much younger then!
In this moment of celebration of 20 years of service by The Faith & Politics Institute, Microsoft extends hearty congratulations for the work that has been accomplished and thanks for allowing us to be part of this proud history by recognizing our investments in communities and charitable engagement.
Congressman John Lewis @ Faith & Politics Institute Gala with Andrea Taylor
Andrea Taylor with Rev. Doug Tanner, Senior Advisor & Founder, The Faith & Politics Institute
LaDeana Huyler, Microsoft Accessibility
This week, at the Partners in Learning Global Forum in Washington, D.C., more than 700 of the most innovative educators from around the world came together to discuss their big ideas. These extraordinary educators are focused on improving teaching and learning through the effective use of technology in the classroom. One way educators are creating a better future for students is through helping their students with disabilities learn and communicate in new ways with accessible technology.
Educators are faced with the challenge of both integrating technology into the classroom and teaching students of all learning styles and abilities, including students with disabilities. Students with disabilities face unique challenges in learning and in life. Microsoft has long been dedicated not only to building accessibility into our products but also providing accessibility resources for educators.
We are continually growing our commitment to accessibility in education by listening to what teachers need and creating the accessibility training resources they request. In response such requests, Microsoft recently published Accessibility Curriculum Resources for Special Education for Windows 7 and Office 2010 . This curriculum resource provides specific examples and best practices that show how the PC can be personalized for students with learning style differences or physical disabilities. And, it shows educators how to create accessible documents and teaching materials in Office 2010. Teachers are using Office 2010 to prepare effective teaching tools to support students with disabilities. With Office 2010, teachers can create animated instructional presentations, convert documents to audiobooks, and include subtitles with audio and video media. They can also check the accessibility of a Word document, Excel worksheet, or PowerPoint presentation with Accessibility checker.
Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) is just one example of a school district that is leading the way, and I had the privilege of touring their staff training center and visiting with their accessibility specialists this week. Loudoun County Public schools has a ten-person assistive technology team that utilizes the built-in features in Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office products to help educators throughout their district incorporate accessibility best practices into the curriculum in a cost-effectively way. Read how Loudoun County Public Schools uses familiar technology to make learning more accessible for all students. At the Global Forum, teachers had an opportunity to attend the accessibility teacher training workshop and get hands-on experience using the accessibility features of Windows and Office. We also shared the story of a blind student named Ignacia Picas who attends Colegio San Benito, a school in Santiago, Chile that uses accessible software to help Ignacia reach the top of her class. Ignacia using a laptop running the Windows operating system and its accessibility features, Microsoft Office, and JAWS screen reading software to fully integrate into her classroom and maintain a near-perfect grade point average. Her teachers provide her with quizzes and exams in Microsoft Word document.
While here, we have met with educators from Chile, Portugal, Germany, Australia, Russia, the United States, and Ireland to have in-depth discussions and share best practices about the use of accessible technology in schools. On the Partners in Learning network, we plan to continue this global dialogue to help educators worldwide lead the way in engaging students through accessible technology.
Derrick McCourt, Regional Manager, Microsoft
Our Citizenship work is a great way of enabling our people to work together outside their day-to-day teams. I am immensely proud of the track record the team here is building up.
In Scotland one of our community partners is nonprofit Aberlour. Founded in 1875, Aberlour is the largest Scottish children's charity. They provide help to over 6,000 of Scotland's most vulnerable children, young people and their families each year. They have over 700 staff working across Scotland in more than 40 service centers, helping children and young people who need additional care and support to achieve their potential and to live safe and fulfilling lives.
Microsoft with paint brushes to the ready at Aberlour’s Borders Options service
It’s fair to say you don’t work at Microsoft without having a passion for technology, and the myriad ways it can help people and organizations to realize their full potential. What struck us in our early meetings with Aberlour was that they share a similar level of passion – in their case a passion to improve the lives of vulnerable children and young people. They’re a forward thinking organization with a strong vision of how technology could transform the effectiveness and reach of their work. They combine this vision with a tremendous commitment and enthusiasm to make it happen. Add to this our shared commitments to Scotland and it was easy to see why this partnership felt like a great fit from our first meetings.
Central to our partnership with Aberlour has been a donation of Microsoft software and IT expertise to enable dramatic improvements in their efficiency, freeing up staff time to work with greater numbers of vulnerable children. The key projects include:
· Implementing a customer relationship management system to support record keeping and better record capture outcomes for children. This enables service improvements, best practice sharing and more effective influencing of policy issues.
· Use of management information for informed decision making, improving tenders and applications for funding, enabling better responses to the complex needs of children in care.
· Improving communication, enabling smarter working practices, reducing costs and improving efficiency for Aberlour’s 700 staff across 48 sites.
In the first year of deployment, Aberlour have made savings on travel expenditure of £120,000. They will also save £15,000 on IT maintenance systems over three years. The improved operations have also contributed to Aberlour winning £700,000 of new funding for service provision.
As well as the technology-enabled transformation that is at the heart of the partnership, we’ve also been bringing our people together through volunteering and fundraising. Since our first steps together in early 2010, we’ve been able to:
· Train Aberlour staff, enabling them to provide internet safety training to safeguard approximately 6,000 children
· Engage 40 Microsoft employees in six different volunteering activities at Aberlour
· Organized fundraising balls and Christmas Giving Tree gift collections.
In October this year our partnership received fantastic recognition when we pat on the back. We were awarded the Corporate & Trusts Award at the Institute of Fundraising Scotland Awards Dinner. In their submission, Aberlour highlighted the direct impact the partnership has had on the services they provide to children:
· Increase in the number of children and families Aberlour can work with and better reporting on the impact on their lives
· Increase in the number of services for children by increasing the number of successful tender and funding applications
· Increase in staff time spent with children and parents given smarter working practices and increased IT efficiency
· Increase in the sharing of best-practice information and guidance both internally within Aberlour and externally to other charitable organizations and partners and stakeholders particularly in relation to key childcare policies
· Demonstrated increase in staff skills through a reduction in support requests and an increase in IT training delivered to staff
· Reduction in costs in terms of staff time, travel, procurement, deployment and maintenance.
There’s some healthy rivalry with our Microsoft colleagues south of the border (in England), which is why winning this award for our work in Scotland is just that bit more special.
We won’t be resting on our laurels though. We have further work to do on the new technology deployment. And we want to build on the depth and range of contact between our organizations, supporting Aberlour’s continued success, and continuing to build team strength and staff morale at Microsoft.
Microsoft’s Bob McGonigle as Santa to deliver presents to Aberlour’s Bankfoot service
This year’s Global Washington conference, which celebrates Washington State’s global development sector, has got underway this morning. The conference, which runs today and tomorrow, has a packed agenda that will focus on the challenges facing global development work in the midst of rapid innovation, political instability and shifting global, regional and local priorities.
The event was kicked off this morning by Bookda Gheisa, executive director of Global Washington; Lori Harnick, general manager of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Microsoft; and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.
You can follow the event on Twitter with the hashtag: #globalwa.
During her opening comments Lori observed: “The Global Washington conference is a unique opportunity to gather Washington State’s global development sector together to both celebrate our efforts while challenging ourselves to find ways to continuously work with our resources and realities to bring about a better, fairer, and safer world. It’s about a wonderfully diverse sector including individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and academic institutions; sharing ideas, combining your expertise, and often working together in partnership to support the achievement of core development objectives such as disaster response, improved health, environmental sustainability, better education and youth empowerment, economic growth, and improved governance.“
The annual conference is an important milestone in Global Washington’s work to convene, strengthen, and advocate on behalf of the global development sector in the state. It combines high-caliber speakers who will provide valuable insight and the latest knowledge with an opportunity for people to meet and talk. Keynote speakers will include national experts on development’s role in the current geo-political climate and visionaries with innovative approaches to its most pressing challenges. The conference will also give select local organizations the opportunity to showcase their work and will provide all attendees with time to connect and collectively brainstorm solutions to problems.
You can find the conference agenda here and you can watch a live stream of the event here.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn addressing the Global Washington conference this morning. You can watch a live stream of the event at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/globalwa
Charles Thrasher, Operations Project Manager and Co-Chair Microsoft Net Impact Chapter
I spent four hours talking to MBA students at the annual Net Impact conference this past weekend. I talked continuously about Microsoft as a matrixed organization and the potential for an individual to influence change far beyond their pay grade. I talked about Microsoft’s sponsorship of the first corporate chapter of Net Impact and how Net Impact could be used as a fulcrum for employees to lever change, exerting greater influence than possible for an individual alone. Together we’re stronger, more capable, more innovative and bolder than we are alone.
Our presentation Bringing Net Impact to Your Organization: A Microsoft Case Study proved popular. The room was crowded to capacity with an audience of MBA grads, professional chapter members and corporate representatives. They were engaged and filled the Q&A session with relevant questions, continuing even after the presentation.
There are a lot of people closely watching what we’re doing and an audience eager to follow our experiment. We have more than just internal stakeholders.
One thing I realized from the conference was the discrepancy in the number of full-time positions available in corporate citizenship and the number of people hoping to fill them. The odds are slim to none that all of those hopes will be realized. Many will be unsuccessful if they define success as a full time position in citizenship. Then something Dan Bross said resonated with me. Any employee can more effectively influence sustainable business practices at Microsoft than can a full time employee working in corporate citizenship.
That surprised me. It seemed counter-intuitive. Later it made sense.
As members of Net Impact we have the power of the group and the freedom of volunteers. We can focus on achieving resulting and taking responsibility for our passions without assuming all the overhead of a full-time position. We can be as fluid as water flowing through the cracks of formal org structures, finding the point of leverage where persistence and passion can produce outsized results. We can work for a meaningful outcome rather than an annual review, an outcome that’s personally meaningful like the recent conversation about creating learning software for autistic children. There was passion in that conversation because it was parents talking about their children or the children of friends and relatives. It was personal. It meant something to them and the people they loved. Acting upon that passion, whether or not it contributes to the company’s bottom line or is captured in a balanced scorecard, is the freedom of a volunteer.
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