YouthSpark, Microsoft's latest philanthropic effort, is a three-year initiative aimed at creating opportunities for 300 million young people worldwide.
The new initiative will focus Microsoft's philanthropic efforts squarely on youth, which sits in line with the UK's recently announced partnership with UK Youth, a charity working with disadvantaged students across the UK. To achieve the YouthSpark goal, Microsoft will concentrate its corporate giving on non-profit organisations that provide technology and business skills training for youth; will launch new citizenship efforts including a global micro-giving site; and will mobilize its broader business to help support youth with free software and training.
The overarching goal is to help address the opportunity divide—the gap between young people who have the access, skills, and opportunities to be successful and those who don't. With youth worldwide facing an unemployment rate roughly double that of the rest of the population, it's no small undertaking.
"Through Microsoft YouthSpark, we're focusing our citizenship efforts and other company resources on connecting young people with opportunities for education, employment, and entrepreneurship…By working with our partners, we can help empower young people to change their world, and we are committed to using our technology, talent, time, and resources to do that."
Steve Ballmer, CEO Microsoft
As a global technology company with offices across the globe, Microsoft believes it is well-positioned to help close the opportunity divide for youth. The initiative has three broad goals: empower youth by helping transform education and expand digital inclusion; unleash future innovators by giving youth the inspiration and tools to imagine new opportunities; and help youth realize new opportunities of employability and entrepreneurship.
To do all that, Microsoft developed several new youth-focused citizenship initiatives.
The first is Give for Youth, a global micro-giving marketplace focused specifically on raising funds for non-profits that support youth causes around the world. Anyone can search the site to find young individuals who are facing various hardships, make a donation to the non-profit that is supporting them, and follow the impact of the contribution. While micro-giving has been around for several years, Give for Youth is the first site to focus exclusively on helping young people. The portal will hopefully inspire employees and others worldwide to tackle the opportunity divide through a personal, one-to-one connection, she said.
Microsoft also announced that it will focus the bulk of its corporate cash giving on nonprofit organisations that have missions to give youth the skills, education, and job training they need to succeed.
Yet, YouthSpark will go beyond philanthropy. Microsoft is launching the YouthSpark hub, which brings together all the services, programs, and resources offered across the company, including the Imagine Cup, Partners in Learning, Office365 for Education, DreamSpark, and Skype in the Classroom.
Princes Trust and UK Youth are the two UK Charities that have been included within Give for Youth. This way, you can see the projects which fundraising will support and find out more about the young people we are helping.