Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
By Gretchen Deo, Program Manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs
Microsoft has a tradition of volunteering on a large scale for United Way of King County’s Annual Day of Caring and this year was no different with over 5,000 Microsoft employees and over 200 Microsoft alumni participating in 213 projects benefitting 152 nonprofit organizations and agencies. As team leader of the Marymoor Park Habitat Restoration Project, I was one of 80 volunteers who spent the day supporting the efforts of Eastside Audubon, the East King County Chapter of National Audubon, digging out invasive scotch broom and blackberries, so that native plants have a better chance to thrive. This, in turn, creates a better habitat for birds and other creatures.
The area within Marymoor Park that we concentrated on is called the “BirdLoop Trail,” which features the best birding opportunities in the park. Our group was large, so we broke up into four smaller groups to tackle different areas of the BirdLoop. The Citizenship & Public Affairs team spent most of our time in the Grassy Meadow removing scotch broom. It wasn’t any easy task, but using some handy weed wrenches, we removed all of the scotch broom in the meadow. It was nice to know that we were giving native trees and shrubs a chance to grow and preserving the natural habitat.
Maintaining this natural area will continue to take effort from a dedicated team of volunteers. If you would like to learn more, visit Eastside Audubon or United Way of King County for volunteer opportunities.
Citizenship & Public Affairs Team at Marymoor Park for United Way of King County’s Day of Caring 2011.
Change is inevitable in the world in which we live. Major disruptions are taking place economically, politically, socially, and technologically. While at times disturbing, these disruptions can spur the creative process and create opportunities to reimagine what we can do for the good of society as individuals, as organizations, and as communities.
I recently heard Malcolm Gladwell challenging the notion that the recent Middle East uprising are a Twitter and Facebook revolution. He instead pointed out that the Iron Wall came down during a time when most people in what was then East Germany had no access to information yet over a million people were mobilized many more then showed up in Tharir Square. Yet on the other hand we also know that how we consume and contribute to information flow has fundamentally changed.
What is common among the recent events in the Middle East is that they are leaderless uprisings with no visible leader in the mold of a Gandhi or King.
Why is that the case, what has changed? I would posit that the changes in how we consume and contribute information is at the center of these changes. We are no longer at the end of the information flow pipe as consumers of information rather we are at the center of information flow. We are both creators and consumers of information and actively adding to the body of knowledge. This I believe is a fundamental reimagining of the world and the opportunity it opens up for those of us in the development space is exciting.
These disruptions also prompt penetrating questions: For example, who are the experts? Are they the ones we have traditionally thought of as having expertise, or are they the people living in villages who, through the use of mobile technology, can provide data and information needed to diagnose health problems or make payments on microfinance loans in real time? What is the role of experts and specialists when technology is making critical services more affordable and accessible?
What are the new appropriate models of partnerships? As nontraditional approaches are becoming more pervasive, we see increased collaboration among large companies and nonprofits that often leads to unexpected positive outcomes. While many organizations are struggling, the ones that are creating greater value through collaboration-NetHope, for example-are seeing their membership grow.
Today nonprofits are increasingly thinking of businesses as essential partners in scaling up their impact and in achieving sustainability. Social entrepreneurs are realizing that not all breakthroughs will be exploited effectively by large corporations and that some early stage adoptions and innovations will come from them. Further, governments will have to be mindful about the timing and extent of policies that will be needed to help with these innovations that are taking place outside of the norms.
These disruptions are blurring the lines between charitable contributions, venture funding, and direct funding. Organizations can now access multiple modes of funding, and funders are increasingly being pushed to rethink their funding purposes and the outcomes they seek.
Nonprofit organizations are being forced to rethink the financial and social returns on their development investments. They can now share their research and learning more broadly, so they have the opportunity to reassess who is being served by their work. Is it the organization itself? The end recipients? The larger community? Or the entire development ecosystem?
In the same way, as services are being made more accessible institutions have to think of themselves not as isolated islands of privileged expertise, but as vital and precious elements in an ecosystem of different organizations that contribute to their evolution as well.
We must also reimagine the role of volunteers. Volunteerism is increasingly a long-term strategic commitment and investment by an individual or group of individuals and not merely a one-way act. Organizations and their volunteers are increasingly able to form strategic relationships toward specific goals.
Finally, we must reimagine the role of technology in nonprofit work. Technology is not simply a transactional tool that allows organizations to accomplish discrete tasks more efficiently. It can be-and must be-a transformational tool that organizations view as a powerful strategic ally in the successful pursuit of their mission.
Yesterday was a "pre-day" for the annual Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) here in Washington DC. Microsoft's Community Affairs team hosted a "Day in the Cloud," a series of sessions providing a deeper look at some of the online tools and how they can be useful for nonprofits.
The day's sessions included a look at Windows Live SkyDrive and the Office Web Apps, which enable people to create, collaborate and share documents and information. We also explored Bing Maps and the different Bing Map Applications that nonprofits can use to share valuable information and insight such as rich visual representations of community health metrics and service locations. One of the highlights of this session was Photosynth, a neat tool that allows any individual to upload photos to a "synth" and create a multi-dimensional photographic array which can be used to complement storytelling and documentation. (We even took a virtual tour of some D.C. sites.)
Shawn Michael and Linda Widdop of NPower Seattle and NPower Pennsylvania, respectively, led a discussion on Dynamics CRM for Nonprofits. We had an informal lunch at DuPont Circle's Flippin Pizza, followed by a session on Microsoft's software donations program and an impromptu training session from NPower's Shawn Michael on SharePoint for nonprofits. There was a great deal of interest in our SharePoint for nonprofits webinar earlier this month; you can access a recording here.
It was likely that the 2,000 wired technology professionals in the same hotel had something to do with the on and off connectivity issues, but in the end we managed to connect with Xbox 360 Kinect at the evening's Science Fair! The Microsoft Citizenship booth includes a Kinect, which was a highlight last night at the Science Fair for many. We hope to see you tonight; Dance Central dance-off anyone?
Thursday was a great conference pre-day, and we are looking forward to Friday's and Saturday's NTC sessions. You can follow the conversation, in real time, from this year's Nonprofit Technology Conference on twitter at #11NTC, or follow our team's tweets from @msftcitizenship. Watch our Facebook page for images from the conference as well.
In 2005, Microsoft started working with the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) of the George Washington University in Washington, DC on a program supported by the Andean Development Corporation to incorporate an ICT and Governability content module into the school’s special program on Governability and Political Management.
The ICT module, created with help from Microsoft, has been instituted in the school’s various seminar sessions in Washington D.C. and Peru. Its goal is to help close the digital gap in Latin America and the Caribbean by training political leaders to incorporate ICT at the government level and to familiarize their citizens with it.
By the beginning of 2008, approximately thousand students from the region – mostly professionals receiving additional training – had participated in the program and enrollment rates continue to grow. GSPM is in talks for expansion to all Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as Spain and Russia.
Stephen Campbell is a man who doesn't let obstacles get in his way. A swimmer since his youth, he lost his sight at the age of 16, but that didn't stop him pursuing his passion for the sport. He began competing in high performance swimming at the age of 17, breaking two swimming records when he competed in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics in the 100m Freestyle, 400m Freestyle and the 100m Butterfly races.
"When I lost my eyesight, swimming helped me realize there's more to life than sitting at home. I can jump into the pool and not need any help from anyone. When I am in the pool, there is ultimate freedom."
Campbell's other accolades include winning the coveted President's Plate, awarded by the University of Ulster Sports Union to the sportsperson of the year for the University of Ulster's Coleraine and Magee campuses. In October 2009, he set three new Irish records at the International Paralympic Committee European Swimming Championships in Iceland and broke two Irish records at the U.S. Paralympics 2009 Swimming World Championships. In August 2007, Campbell won the Silver Medal in the final of the 200m individual medley at the International Blind Sports World Games in Brazil.
He has taken a similar approach to his other passion; technology.
Stephen, who is studying for a Bachelor of Science Honors degree in Multimedia Computing and Design, says he's always had a passion for technology. "When I lost my eyesight at 16, technology took over my life. When you can't see, technology can be a valuable tool," he said.
He is a third-year student at the University of Ulster at Magee College in Derry in Northern Ireland recently worked with Ireland's Institute of Sport's Career Athlete Development Programme to secure a technical internship at Microsoft. The Programme, a partnership with the Irish Government and Microsoft, helps elite athletes gain real-world experience in the workplace.
Campbell's Microsoft internship started in September 2010 and will finish in July 2011. "I took to Microsoft like a duck takes to water," Campbell said. "High performance sports is so similar to working at this company. As an athlete, you need to be motivated and set yourself constant short, mid and long-term goals to know how you are improving. And that is the culture at Microsoft - it's a highly driven workplace." That discipline is also reflected daily in Campbell's tough schedule, which includes a two-hour early morning swim training session, then off to work and school.
As part of his internship, Campbell gets the opportunity to work across several Microsoft product teams, including Windows and Office. On the Windows Core team, Campbell worked closely from Dublin with the team back in Redmond, Washington to test Windows Narrator from an end user's perspective and give feedback on what could be improved. Windows Narrator is a light-duty screen reader utility included in Microsoft Windows 7 that reads dialog boxes and window controls in a number of the more basic applications for Windows.
Gary Keegan, Director, Irish Institute of Sport; Fiona Mullan, International Staffing Director, Microsoft Ireland; Mark Christie, Middle Distance Runner; Stephen Campbell, Paralympic Swimmer; Liam Harbison, CEO , Paralympic Council of Ireland (photo courtesy of University of Ulster)
"Hiring a talent like Stephen who is focused on realizing his potential by focusing on his ability rather than his disability, has proven to all of us the opportunity which exists here. Like his passion for swimming, Stephen has a passion for technology and is demonstrating just how enabling technology is," said Fiona Mullan, International Staffing Director, Microsoft Ireland.
"Working on the Narrator project was most exciting to me because I was able to come at the project from a user's perspective to help improve the application because I knew what would be successful. I also knew that millions of people with vision impairments will be using this application and I was thrilled be making a difference in their lives by helping to improve it," he said.
After working in Windows, Campbell then moved to a role on the Office International Product Group, where he is learning the ins and outs of program management - from how to manage a team of people to managing the delivery of a team project. He's also exploring new tests to perform to help future versions of Office.
Campbell will continue to compete in swimming. He is currently training for the European Championships in July 2011 in Germany, and is hoping to join the Paralympics team for the games in London in 2012. While Campbell says the London games will possibly be his last competition, his future in technology is just beginning.
You can read more about Stephen's story at the Microsoft Global Diversity & Inclusion site.
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