By Wanjira Kamwere
Despite increased economic and social volatility people can breathe a sigh of relief thanks to advances in technology. Wanjira Kamwere, Business Development Manager and Program Lead, Myskills4Afrika – Microsoft. explains how through the Microsoft MySkills4Afrika programme, the organisation which was recently awarded a Halo Award: North America’s highest honor for corporate social initiatives and cause marketing, has formalised a route for staff to indulge this instinct.
The news headlines may paint a scary picture of inequality, patchy education, and social disconnection but many people and programmes are making a real difference every day – one person, or one intervention at a time. Scratch below the ‘breaking news’ surface, and we see improved health and life expectancy almost across the board, and technology is shepherding in a new era of information, connection, social impact, and efficiency. As Microsoft founder Bill Gates told The New York Times, “That ‘things getting better’ is the greatest story that no one knows”.
Advances in technology mean that we are smart, mobile and agile in our jobs, so that we can spend more time with our families, and collaborate and share our skills with people around the world. On an even more micro level, people are exhibiting a global mindset – one that focuses on empathy, collaboration, and our shared humanity.
At Microsoft, we strive to bring our corporate mission to life – to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more – and it attracts like-minded people to us. The famous Indian activist Ghandi once said : “Be the change you want to see in the world”- we believe that through the MySkills4Afrika programme, we have formalized a route for our staff to step forward and be that change.
MySkills4Afrika is a volunteer initiative at its core – pairing organizations that need support directly with Microsoft employees from around the world who have the right skills to meet those needs. Through MySkills4Afrika, Microsoft employees have made a lasting impact by transferring innovation, business, and technical skills to local practitioners in the parts of the world that have the most to gain from embracing them – and in the process, employees are inevitably transformed and inspired by the experience.
One illuminating example of this is the work MySkills4Afrika volunteer Abiodun Awojobi has done in Nigeria with four key non-governmental organisations (NGOs): Junior Chambers International, United for Education Foundation, Tony Elumelu Foundation, and Technology for Sustainable Development.
With each nonprofit, US-based Awojobi and Nigeria’s philanthropies lead Olusola Amusan worked with the local educators, leaders, and IT teams to best use Microsoft technology to achieve their goals. His work included upskilling people, as well as consulting with technical members of the local teams to create automations that help them lower operational time and costs involved in their critical NGO work. In addition to skills-building, Awojobi also helped the NGOs towards their strategic objectives to reach more beneficiaries than otherwise possible.
Awojobi’s volunteer story is emblematic of the impact of MySkills4Afrika: Local organizations are able to reach objectives not otherwise possible and creates a pathway for sustainable growth.
This is why we are so proud that this particular project is getting the amplification it deserves – so we can promote it to more Microsoft employees and more African recipient organisations. In fact, we just received a renowned Halo Award in this regard. The Halo Awards are North America’s highest honor for corporate social initiatives and cause marketing. Microsoft received a silver award in the Employee Engagement (Skilled Volunteering) category, awarded at the Engage for Good Conference in Chicago on May 24, 2018. It’s a real feather in the cap for a small team making a large impact: Awojobi’s work above is only the tip of the iceberg. In the last fiscal, over 125 MySkills4Afrika volunteers worked directly with 2,000 people across 224 organizations, impacting thousands of end-beneficiaries
As Engage for Good President David Hessekiel recently said, “The Halo Awards were created to acknowledge best in class corporate social impact programs. This year’s winners are a fantastic representation of the effective and innovative ways companies and causes can work together to create meaningful business and social returns.”
So, we know that doing good creates ripples and leads to more good. In fact, the immediate benefits of the MySkills4Afrika programme are two sided: Not only do the recipient organisations win, but Microsoft employees get world-class leadership development experiences, and we have solid data on the fact that it promotes job satisfaction and personal pride. Volunteers develop as globally minded and innovative leaders, and help Microsoft gain insights to the specific needs in the continent, so that we can develop further products that solve real-world problems for their users. Then, within the next broader ring of influence, these newly upskilled organisations bring measurable change and digital growth to their communities. In this way, positive change is exponential.