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Empowering “Makers” to Become Global Problem Solvers

MakerConCisco is proud to be a presenting sponsor of MakerCon, which will bring together leaders in the “maker movement” on May 12 and 13 at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California.

If you’re unfamiliar with the maker movement, it is, as Joan Voight wrote in Adweek, “the umbrella term for independent inventors, designers, and tinkerers.”

Thanks to the growth of shared “makerspaces” – with 3D printers, laser cutters, and computer-aided design programs – and open source hardware, these makers can build prototypes, collaborate with others, and turn their visions into reality. Makers value collaboration, openness, and learning new skills with and from their peers. They stimulate innovation and address social and environmental problems.

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Cisco-Supported Program Receives Public Service Award

This post was written by guest blogger Alex Belous, Education Portfolio Manager for Cisco Systems and the Cisco Foundation. Alex Belous

Each year, more than 1.4 million people visit the Museum of Science, Boston, where they marvel at exhibits covering everything from aviation to evolution. In 2004, the museum launched the National Center for Technological Literacy® (NCTL®), a program designed to teach visitors about science and engineering.

Shortly after, the NCTL recognized the need to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, and launched Engineering is Elementary® (EiE®) in 2005, a project that sparks students’ interest in STEM and helps children in grades 1 through 8 develop engineering and technological literacy.

The NCTL recently received the National Science Board’s (NSB) 2015 Public Service Award, which acknowledged the center’s pioneering work in engineering education curricula for K-12 schools nationwide.

At EiE, students take part in fun, engaging STEM activities (Photo courtesy Boston Museum of Science)

At EiE, students take part in fun, engaging STEM activities (Photo courtesy Boston Museum of Science)

“The center’s innovative exhibits, programs and curricular projects have brought engineering, technology and science to millions of students across the country and provided teachers with the professional training they need for the 21st Century classroom,” said Vint Cerf, chair of NSB’s Committee on Honorary Awards.

Since 2005, Cisco has supported the NCTL’s Engineering is Elementary program with $2.1 million in cash and product grants. Through the support of Cisco and other sponsors, the program has grown to be the nation’s most widely used elementary engineering curriculum, reaching 77,000 educators and 7.7 million children nationwide since its release in 2005.

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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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