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How a Mobile App Will Feed Many

Wesley_KingThis post was written by guest blogger Wesley King, a business systems analyst at Cisco

It’s that time of year again. No, not quite Christmas in July; not Thanksgiving. Forget Daylight Savings Time, Memorial Day, and Bring your Daughter to Work Day.

I’m talking about the time to give back. Here at Cisco, it’s a big deal – every single day of the year.

For me, most everything in my life is in flux – I just moved from the East Coast to the West, transitioned into being a mobile worker and volunteered outside the country for the first time. On top of all that, I took my first trip through a black hole with Interstellar.

The Impact of Change

Here on this planet, however, there is no sadder distinction between haves and have-nots than the disparate contents of our stomachs. The malnourished and the underfed need our help. Thankfully, I work for a company where both the leadership and larger employee base want to do their part in providing a great life for every one of Earth’s inhabitants.

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5 Tips for Women Starting a Social Purpose Business

Heather_FranzeseThis post was written by guest blogger Heather Franzese, co-founder and executive director of Good World Solutions.

I spoke recently at the Lead On women’s leadership conference in Silicon Valley about how to build a successful social enterprise or social purpose business. The women I spoke with were working on diverse issues from elder care to human rights to breast cancer. But all wanted to achieve the maximum impact with their limited resources.

I’ve pulled together some tips from my experience over the last four years launching a social enterprise that leverages mobile technology to give voice to factory workers and improve their working conditions. No matter what issue you’re trying to tackle, these tips will get you closer to the impact you envision:

  1. Don’t try to do it alone. Assemble a team of advisors on key content areas. In the early days of Labor Link, I used BoardMatch, LinkedIn and my network to find individuals who were passionate about our mission and could advise on areas like talent development, pricing strategy, and ‘mobile for development.’
  2. Start small and iterate. We applied the principles of Lean Startup to Labor Link, starting with a ‘minimum viable product’ that we tested in Peru. Based on that learning and evidence of initial traction, we switched our technology approach from SMS to voice-response before expanding to India and China.
  3. Know yourself and find others who complement you. Going back to #1, build a team that brings diverse strengths to achieving your mission. Our team is using Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0 tool to deepen our understanding of what we each do well so we can lean into our strengths.
  4. Place a few unlikely bets. In the beginning, you have nothing to lose so it pays to take chances. I attended a small conference in Switzerland where I was one of only two Americans in attendance, but I happened to sit next to the Head of Ethical Trading for Marks & Spencer. They were one of our first customers and have been a great partner for years.
  5. Once you have traction, focus focus focus! This is the hardest advice to follow. In the beginning, we tested Labor Link across different workplace types – rural farmers, factory workers, and home-based artisans. We found that the factory workers manufacturing our clothing and electronics are eager for their voices to be heard, and companies have an urgent need for real-time data from this workforce. So we put agriculture and artisan sector work on the back burner to dedicate all our energy to improve the lives of factory workers.

Whatever social issue you’re trying to address, take care of yourself. There’s no shame in getting lots of sleep. In fact, it’s coming back in style. You cannot achieving maximum impact if you or your team members are always on the verge of burnout.

A Purpose Economy 100 (PE100) global changemaker, Heather Franzese is the Executive Director of Good World Solutions and has been working for 15 years to improve the lives of vulnerable workers in global supply chains. Her award-winning social enterprise has leveraged mobile technology to give voice to factory workers and real-time data to leading clothing and electronics companies. Since 2010, the organization’s Labor Link platform has reached over 200,000 workers in 16 countries, including China, India, Bangladesh, and Brazil.

Heather brings together industry experience with Columbia Sportswear Company and field experience working with small-scale farmers in West Africa. She sits on Etsy’s Manufacturing Advisory Board and holds a master’s degree in economic development from Harvard Kennedy School.

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Proud to be a National Leader in Veterans Employment

On April 23, Cisco was honored to be part of the 4th anniversary and expansion of the Joining Forces Initiative, a White House project sponsored by first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to support service members, veterans, and their families through wellness, education, and employment opportunities.

Cisco first partnered with the Joining Forces Initiative in 2013 on the IT Training and Certification pilot program, which resulted in over 380 transitioning service members getting high demand IT training.  Eighty eight percent of those who got a new job indicated the program contributed to them getting a new job. The program is being expanded through state partnerships, starting with North Carolina.

During last week’s event, held at Micron technology in Manassas, Virginia, the First Lady called out Cisco for our commitment to hire and train veterans and military spouses. Thanks to Mike Younkers, Senior Director of Systems Engineering and Gena Pirtle, Corporate Affairs Program Manager, who represented Cisco.

Cisco appreciates the support of the Joining Forces initiative and their partnership on our Veterans Program, which helps service members, spouses, and veterans get training leading to career employment.

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Girls Power Tech Inspires Young Women to Pursue IT Careers

Kelly Kramer, Cisco’s Chief Financial Officer, shared an inspirational message with more than 100 young women on Cisco’s San Jose campus yesterday: “You don’t need to live under gender stereotypes; you can be whatever you want to be!”

Her words wrapped up this year’s Girls Power Tech event, in which we opened our doors to more than 125 girls ages 13 to 18 for a day of site tours, presentations, and employee mentoring. Girls from non-profit partners Citizen Schools and City Year spent the day learning about the Internet of Everything and talking to us about career opportunities in the IT field.

More than 100 girls attended Girls Power Tech on Cisco's San Jose campus , where they found inspiration to pursue careers in IT.

125 girls attended Girls Power Tech on Cisco’s San Jose campus , where they found motivation to pursue careers in IT

In more than 91 Cisco offices in over 56 countries around the world, Cisco welcomed more than 3,300 female students from local schools, Cisco Networking Academy classes, and other non-profit organizations in celebration of International Girls in ICT Day, held on April 23.

Through our efforts, we are encouraging girls and young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and become the next generation of innovators – the dreamers and doers who will use technology to change the world.

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Seeing the Connected World Through the Eyes of Children

Creative. Problem Solver. Team Player.

These could easily be a part of a job description in LinkedIn, but for me these words describe the group of 5th and 6th graders I had the privilege to meet last week.

Through a Cisco volunteer program called Programa Escuela, elementary school students have the opportunity to learn firsthand about the latest technology from Cisco employees: from connecting things through the Internet of Everything to how cities are becoming “Smart.” This is especially relevant to the classrooms we visited in Barcelona as their community is continually referenced in the Smart City space.

The goal of the program is to teach children about technology, inspire them to keep up their studies, especially around STEM-related areas (science, technology, engineering and math), and to engage them in a hands-on project where they can apply their knowledge. They also receive coaching and mentoring around project work and communication skills.

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