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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

September 20, 2012 at 8:26 AM

Microsoft announces YouthSpark initiative [updated]

Microsoft today announced YouthSpark, a new global initiative the company is undertaking, along with nonprofits worldwide, to combat the “opportunity gap” for young people.

The initiative hopes to create opportunities such as education, employment and entrepreneurship for about 300 million youths in 100 countries over the next three years.

Microsoft is partnering with hundreds of nonprofits worldwide in the effort.

The company is also investing $500 million in the initiative. Some of the money will be shifted over from other charitable areas in which the company is involved worldwide and some of the money will be new.

Taken altogether, that means Microsoft is committing the majority of its corporate cash giving to philanthropic efforts that support and serve youth.

“It’s the biggest step we’ve taken in the 37 years of the company,” philanthropically, said Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith.

The initiative will likely reach about 50 million people in the U.S. and about 250 milion in the rest of the world, he added.

The YouthSpark initiative does not change Microsoft’s corporate giving focus in the Puget Sound area. “We recognize this is our home state,” Smith said.

Support for, say, local arts groups and hospitals is “definitely not going to be going down,” he added.

The YouthSpark initiative is launching with three new programs:

  • Give for Youth, a global microgiving marketplace
  • YouthSpark Hub, an online space where people can find out more about the programs and resources
  • Innovate for Good, a global, social online community geared toward connecting youths with each other

In addition, YouthSpark will include Office 365 for education, free tech tools for teachers and students and Skype in the classroom.

More information on YouthSpark is here.

From earlier:

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and General Counsel Brad Smith are expected to announce a new citizenship initiative this morning.

The event, being held at Microsoft Studios, is being streamed live here.

I’m also covering the event and will update this post as the event proceeds. The following is in reverse chronological order.

9:04 a.m.: That’s a wrap.

9:01 a.m.: Smith talks about three new initiatives as part of YouthSpark:

* Give for Youth

* YouthSpark Hub

* Innovate for Good – a global online community – a social effort designed to allow youth to collaborate directly with each other

More details here.

8:55 a.m.: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer takes the stage. “Lately, we’ve talked a lot at Microsoft about big, bold bets that we’re making.” Windows 8, etc. Another bet the company’s making: To close the opportunity gap.

Ballmer announces a new program: Microsoft YouthSpark. A company-wide initiative to create opportunites for 300 million young people around the world for the next three years.

Focusing company resources on connecting young people with education, opportunities, entrepreneurship.

Doing three things:

* Focus corporate cash giving on nonprofits working with youth, including forming strategic partnerhsips with NGOs around the world.

* Focus on nonprofit programs empowering youth.

* Delivering global programs like Skype in the classrooms, Office for 365 for Education more broadly.

Says YouthSpark is about empowering young people to realizing their potential.

Says: “I think we’ll remember this year as one of the most important in Microsoft’s history.” For Windows 8. But also the way the company made decision to impact lives of 300 million young people around the world.

8:30 a.m.: Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith starts the event. In the studio audience are representatives from various nonprofits.

Smith: “It’s really young people who’ve perhaps been hardest hit of all.” Says there are over 2 billion people between ages 6 and 24 — a group that feels challenged because of global unemployment, opportunity divide between young people who have access to education and skills learning and those who don’t. Also difficult for some to have access to secondary education to get skills needed in high-demand jobs. Effects seen firsthand at Microsoft and other tech companies where there are more jobs in some areas than people to fill them.

Says Microsoft is working on “closing this opportunity divide.”

Introduces CEO of Boys and Girls Club in Puget Sound and the executive director of TakingITGlobal. They talk about some of the challenges faced by young people as well as some inspiring stories about them. Other nonprofit reps brought onstage too to talk about resources, training, mentoring needed by young people and what it means for them when they get it.

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