Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Microsoft Seeks To Unite Top Washington Companies On Public Policy Agenda

by June 11th, 2010

Seattle blogger Nick Eaton has a noteworthy report on Microsoft coming out of the closet, politically. A turning point of sorts was a high-profile campaign by the company earlier this year urging lawmakers to keep moving ahead on the politically thorny planned replacement of the State Route 520 floating bridge. The push included a full-page ad in the Seattle Times.

For the global software giant headquartered in Redmond on Seattle’s booming Eastside, there’s just too much at stake to not try to take the lead in collaborating with other major businesses headquartered in Washington to improve the economy and business climate on the home turf. But they’re not singing the usual song about business regulation. Instead, the priorities are things that affect their bottom line but also matter to us all: transportation, infrastructure, education, and growth and opportunity in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Eaton reports that according to Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and senior vice president for legal and corporate affairs:

To remain a good place for businesses..and to become a more attractive place for corporations, Washington needs to focus and invest in three major areas: innovation, transportation infrastructure and education. Moreover, as Asia becomes the world’s biggest economic power, as Microsoft expects, the Seattle area – with its large Asian community, proximity to Asia and history of trade with Asia – has a golden opportunity to become those Asian companies’ landing point for expansion into the United States.

Microsoft wants to take a leadership role in getting Washington businesses to get the state to where it needs to be. Of course it’s selfish, Smith said, but it should also help the state economy as a whole. “We’re very committed to collaborative efforts,” he said. “We can be counted on to do our share, or even a little more than our share, but we also can be counted on to be collaborative.”

Eaton notes that other corporate heavyweights headquartered in Washington state include Costco, Amazon, Starbucks, Paccar, Weyerhauser and Expeditors International.

The question that remains is exactly what sorts of broader policies would Microsoft and its collaborators advance to improve transportation, for instance, and education? Widespread electronic tolling in Central Puget Sound, keyed to real-time congestion levels? More incentives for telecommuting? Charter schools, which have been shot down time and again in the state? Greater per-pupil funding, enabled by the proposed new state income tax that’s being championed by Bill Gates Sr.? What really works, and what doesn’t?

Moving from the general to the specific is tricky. Not to mention fraught with political peril. The zeitgeist is a piquant stew right now. A few ingredients to keep in mind. Government budget deficits. Tax fatigue. User fees. Public-private partnerships. Empowered consumers.

So Microsoft sharing the weight is good strategy. There are already numerous business advocacy groups in the state and Central Puget Sound. But somehow, none of them have been able to generate enough momentum on the big issues Smith identifies. The success of any business coalition such as that envisioned by Smith will depend in part on its ability to motivate its employees to participate, as well. Microsoft has already shown it can do that. It will be interesting to see how the specifics of the policy agenda develop.

RELATED: “Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000″ Transportation 2040‘”

Seattle Area Group Continues Mission Work In Drug-Ravaged Guinea-Bissau

by April 30th, 2010

From Chris Collins, who was raised in Shoreline, just north of Seattle, and now works as a reporter for the Fresno Bee. With his family, he’s long been involved in mission work and would like to share this:

Flame is a Christian Seattle-based nonprofit that runs a school in Guinea-Bissau, one of the tiniest and poorest countries in the world. The West African country is quickly gaining an international reputation as the continent’s first narco-state. As the United States cracks down on the cocaine trade, Latin American drug cartels are increasingly turning to Guinea-Bissau and other poorly-governed states in West Africa as places where they can ship their product in bulk and then smuggle it into Europe. It’s estimated that the drugs that flow through Guinea-Bissau each year are worth more than the country’s GDP. As a result, many of the unemployed and poor in Guinea-Bissau are turning to this lucrative new trade instead of contributing to their country’s economy and society. Cocaine addiction among Guineans is a rising concern.

Flame is trying to help counter this trend. The trade school it has built in Canchungo, the country’s third-largest city, offers a post-secondary education that gives its students piratical skills that translate into jobs. It offers classes in sewing, computer basics, auto mechanics, and English. The school’s administrators and teachers are all native Guineans. The school has been open for more than two years and has more than 100 students. It has become a critical asset in the community. Eventually, Flame hopes to build similar schools in other cities in Guinea-Bissau and throughout West Africa.

Flame will host its annual fundraiser this Saturday, May 1, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Christian Reformed Church (14555 25th Ave NE in Shoreline).

Is All Entrepreneurship “Social”?

by March 11th, 2010

Ashoka, a prominent global non-profit focusing on social entrepreneurship, identifies some archetypal social entrepreneurs:

Susan B. Anthony fought for Women’s Rights in the United States, including the right to control property and helped spearhead adoption of the 19th amendment. Vinoba Bhave (pictured, left) was founder and leader of the Land Gift Movement, he caused the redistribution of more than 7,000,000 acres of land to aid India’s untouchables and landless. Dr. Maria Montessori developed the Montessori approach to early childhood education. Florence Nightingale was founder of modern nursing, she established the first school for nurses and fought to improve hospital conditions. Margaret Sanger was founder of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she led the movement for family planning efforts around the world. John Muir was a naturalist and conservationist, he established the National Park System and helped found The Sierra Club.

Ashoka says social entrepreneurs are about “creating solutions to change society for the better. While a business entrepreneur might create entirely new industries, a social entrepreneur comes up with new solutions to social problems and then implements them on a large scale.” The vitally important work of people such as Vinoba Bhave, John Muir or Florence Nightingale was both social and entrepreneurial, true. But cannot traditional entrepreneurs also contribute mightily to addressing social problems? Writes Carl Schramm in the Stanford Social Innovation Review:

826 Seattle Works To Help Kids Build Writing Skills

by March 3rd, 2010

Here’s a non-profit mission I can really get behind, one that draws on social capital in the Seattle community to help ensure young students develop a love of learning, and in particular, writing.

826 Seattle is a nonprofit writing and tutoring center dedicated to helping youth, ages six to 18, improve their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around our belief that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.

Ain’t it the truth. “Strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.” Good writing provides not only marvelous entertainment and intellectual enrichment, it also fosters clear and compelling communication, which is essential to building bridges across divides to solve problems facing our society.

826 Seattle offers a range of programs. Trained volunteers provide in-class support for writing projects designed by teachers. For drop-ins, there’s homework assistance and tutoring in writing, math, science, foreign language and other subject at 826 Seattle’s north side headquarters from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday during the school year. There are a variety of writing workshops for students. The Spring 2010 offerings seem guaranteed to help unlock creative writing potential and excitement about writing. The creative piece is crucial not only as a tool of expression, but can help build mastery of syntax, grammar, vocabulary, and organization.

The 826 Seattle experience begins with passage through a mysterious portal, as public television station KCTS-9 reports:

826 Seattle volunteer applications are here. You may also be able to help provide items on their wish list. The organization is profiled in a Seattle’s Child article by Cheryl Murfin, “826 Seattle: Where Young Writers Grow.”