The following is an excerpt from the 2020 CSR Impact Report.

As long as humanitarian crises disproportionately affect the most vulnerable members of society, there cannot be an Inclusive Future for all. Similarly, the promise of a digital economy—where connectivity unleashes new possibilities for creativity and innovation—cannot be realized until people’s basic needs for food, clean water, and adequate shelter are met.

That’s why Cisco supports organizations that help the most vulnerable among us. We are proud to partner with nonprofits and social change agents worldwide who are taking on the biggest challenges we face as a global society. Knowing that technology can help these organizations increase their impact, our support takes the form of both grants and donations of Cisco technology.

Our technology is particularly essential when used to restore connectivity in crisis zones. Cisco’s Tactical Operations (TacOps) team deploys trained team members to restore mission-critical communications—for free—in the wake of disasters and other events where first responders and affected populations need support. TacOps is a full-time team supported by employee volunteers who have been providing crisis relief and logistics support worldwide since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The team continues to evolve to meet changing global needs.

The organizations we support face an uphill climb due to increasing demand for their services. The UN has reported that as of 2020, nearly 80 million people have been forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, and human rights violations more than any other time in history. Natural disasters related to climate change are also increasing in frequency and intensity, which will lead to further displacement. Cisco’s long-term focus on helping vulnerable groups, like people facing displacement or homelessness, has enabled us to respond quickly to help where needed throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Whatever challenges lie ahead of us, Cisco will be ready to support those who need it the most.

Social investments in critical human needs

Despite rapid economic development in many parts of the world, millions of people still lack access to basic human needs: food, clean water, and adequate shelter. We empower nonprofits and social change agents worldwide to address these problems. Through scalable technology solutions, we help organizations improve the speed and efficiency of the services they provide. On the following pages, we describe a few of the nonprofits we partner with that are meeting critical needs near our headquarters and around the world. Learn more about our strategic social investments in the ESG Reporting Hub.

Destination: Home, a Cisco nonprofit partner since 2018, works closely with public sector and direct service organizations to develop and fund innovative strategies to reduce and prevent homelessness in Santa Clara County, California. In the last five years, Destination: Home and its partners have helped 14,000 people find permanent housing and provided homelessness prevention services to nearly 6000 individuals. Cisco committed to helping them continue and scale their work with a five-year, US$50 million commitment in March 2018.

During 2020, COVID-19 intensified many of the factors that make people vulnerable, such as unstable employment, lack of access to healthcare or childcare, chronic disease risk, and an inability to safely shelter in place. Pandemic-related assistance, therefore, became the main focus of Destination: Home’s work. The organization supported its partners in expanding temporary shelter capacity and provided hygiene kits, handwashing stations, and clean water to people experiencing homelessness. The organization also launched the Santa Clara County COVID-19 Financial Assistance Program, administered in collaboration with a group of direct service organizations. Over four months, Cisco contributed US$10 million to this fund, which has helped provide emergency financial assistance to 11,000 vulnerable, low-income households with a documented loss of income to help them meet their basic needs.

As organizations work to meet individuals’ basic needs, technology can play an important role. For example, as Cisco’s long-term partnership with Mercy Corps shows, technology can be used to help refugees find services, distribute emergency supplies, provide financial assistance to vulnerable communities, and support small businesses faster and more effectively.

We are currently in the third year of Technology for Impact, a five-year, US$10 million initiative to help Mercy Corps test and invest in advanced technologies to make an even bigger difference. Many of the technologies being tested are new to humanitarian settings, such as virtual reality therapies for posttraumatic stress disorder and a digital platform to help refugees access information and support services. Our support also includes donations of Cisco products for Mercy Corps’ 114 offices in 29 countries and 67 community WiFi hubs in six countries, with over 670,000 users since 2017. During fiscal 2020, Cisco supported the COVID-19 Resilience Fund with an additional donation of US$3 million, which helped Mercy Corps connect communities with reliable health information and provide digital cash services that give people the dignity of choice to meet their urgent needs.

Expanding TacOps’ reach

Cisco’s Tactical Operations (TacOps) team got its start helping communities recover from natural disasters, following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In recent years, its work has expanded to include not only fast-moving events like these but also sustained crises like forced mass migrations and disease outbreaks. With the increasing number, scope, and complexity of many types of crises, TacOps is growing its roster of trained volunteers to scale and sustain its work. During COVID-19, TacOps has provided remote support to testing centers, food bank warehouses, call centers, pop-up hospitals, and other facilities responding to the pandemic.

Now, we’re training not only our 300 Disaster Incident Response Team (DIRT) volunteers to deploy and maintain crisis communication networks, but also NGO IT staff and other corporate volunteer partners. A larger pool of skilled volunteers allows TacOps to focus resources on the most difficult challenges in the acute phase of a crisis, then hand over long-term operational and sustaining work to our partners. We are also leveraging Cisco’s expertise in cybersecurity and deploying our secure networks amid advancing security threats.

One prolonged crisis to which TacOps has been responding is the migration of Venezuelans from their home country in response to dire economic conditions and government instability. More than 5 million people have left the country since 2014, fleeing to Peru, Colombia, Brazil, and other countries. Migrants need Internet connectivity in order to take steps to restart their lives, such as applying for asylum, finding work, or accessing support services. In partnership with NetHope, TacOps has provided this essential access by setting up equipment at dozens of shelters and community centers along the migration route.

To learn more about the progress we’re making to power a more inclusive future through CSR, visit our Cisco ESG Reporting Hub, where you can read our CSR Impact Report.

CSR Impact Report graphic


Jennifer Boynton

Corporate Social Responsibility Content Strategist

Corporate Affairs