Anyone Can Be the Spark of Change

By Lori Harnick, General Manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs

Around the world, new skills and experiences are needed for new economies to succeed, but the approach to educating and training young people for this new world is not keeping pace. On Sunday, I had the honor of hosting an engaging panel at the Mashable Social Good Summit in New York, focused on a topic we at Microsoft care deeply about – helping to close the opportunity divide among the world’s young people. This divide is separating those who have access, skills and opportunities for success from those who do not, and when you consider youth unemployment globally is currently double that of the adult population, it is easy to see how critical it is that we find new ways to close this chasm.

To help lend a voice to this issue, I was joined by Mari Kuraishi, co-founder and president of GlobalGiving Foundation, which helps social entrepreneurs and non-profits raise the money that they need to improve their communities; and by Microsoft Researcher danah boyd, who through her research is exploring how social and digital networking can help support youth in taking responsible risks to achieve success. We were also joined by Mary Mwende and Anthony Carmona, two very inspirational young people whose diverse, personal experiences illustrate how together we can help youth succeed.

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The panelists gather at Mashable Social Good Summit: (left to right) Lori Harnick, General Manager of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Microsoft Citizenship; Mary Mwende, a Global Give Back Circle youth beneficiary; Anthony Carmona, a NFTE youth beneficiary; danah boyd, a senior researcher with Microsoft Research and Mari Kuraishi, co-founder and president of GlobalGiving Foundation.

For Mary, her journey started in the slums of Mombasa, Kenya, and with the support of Microsoft partner Global Give Back Circle, has brought her all the way to American University of Dubai. For Anthony, a high school student in New York City, his involvement with Microsoft partner Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) helped him realize the dream of creating his own business, to provide computer and networking support to people in their homes. Both Mary and Anthony’s experiences, while different, demonstrate how non-profits, corporations and even individuals can help be a force for change in the lives of young people. Mary noted that the investments of time, energy and most importantly, resources --including financial –are the tools that young people need to not only dream big, but to realize that dream. Mari reinforced this, sharing that by applying a model of micro-giving to the opportunity divide problem, anyone around the world can help provide those essential resources to the places and people who need it most.

That’s why we partnered with GlobalGiving Foundation to create Give for Youth, a micro-giving website dedicated to helping individuals fund and follow the dreams of young people across the globe. Give for Youth is a key part of our new companywide initiative, Microsoft YouthSpark, which our CEO Steve Ballmer announced last week to create opportunities for 300 million young people around the world over the next three years.

We want to help more young people like Mary and Anthony, and we know many others want to do the same. So, now through Oct. 1st, Microsoft will match all individual donations made through Give for Youth, up to a total of $100,000. We know these efforts cannot solve every problem, but helping individuals, one-by-one, will go a long way toward creating real and lasting impact in communities big and small. Join us. Donate today, and be the spark of change for youth around the world. Mary, who is now giving back herself through the development of the website Hey Sister, “Get Clued-Up” summed it up best at the end of our discussion when she said, “Nothing comes from nothing. Invest in youth.”

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