Sometimes, even the best of our intentions can go unfulfilled if we don’t communicate effectively. That’s why I founded the IBM Toastmasters Club of Singapore after experiencing a huge improvement in my own oratory skills after working with my neighborhood Toastmasters. After founding the club, my first order of business was to find ways that Toastmaster members and other IBMers in Singapore could use their improved communications skills to spread the word about our corporate responsibility initiatives.
IBM’s Activity Kits and other On Demand Community tools enable us to engage the communities in which we live and work through a variety of skills-based service opportunities. Among my early outings using IBM’s citizenship tools – in this case the “Hello, Watson” Activity Kit – was a presentation I made to 700 students at Singapore’s Anderson Secondary School. The talk was a big hit, and prompted many of the students to ask if they could download a Watson application for their mobile phones. The “Hello, Watson” kit helped me share IBM’s influence with a young audience of mobile device users, who now would have an increased understanding of IBM’s technical and cultural relevance in their lives.
Some people may think of our cultural and historical sites as permanent, but we in the preservation field remain very much aware of the delicacy of our cultural heritage. Natural disasters, human aggression and the passage of time all can jeopardize the cultural and historical sites that many of us take for granted. That’s why the California-based nonprofit CyArk has operated internationally since 2003 to create a free, 3D digital online library of the world’s cultural heritage sites. In 2011, IBM joined forces with CyArk to preserve and share some of California’s cultural heritage.
The recent 6.0 magnitude earthquake that rumbled through Northern California focused attention on the need to preserve and protect the State’s cultural sites, including Wolf House – the family estate of author Jack London, and a designated California and National Historic Landmark. To help preserve the legacy of the site, CyArk, the California Department of Parks and Recreation and local engineering firm Locus Construction Services initiated the digital archiving process. Assisting them were students from Technology High School in Rohnert Park, California, who volunteered their time as part of an IBM Teachers TryScience project.
On International Volunteer Day 2014, we reflect on the interdependence of service and leadership.
The word “volunteer” has lost some of its luster in recent years, and that’s unfortunate. In a world where nearly every culture celebrates selflessness and caring for others, it seems only fitting that influential organizations should incorporate service into leadership development. IBM takes this commitment several steps further – not only by integrating citizenship and service into the company’s overall business strategy, but by enabling other companies to participate in IBM’s Culture of Service, and standing as a global example of how a values-driven organization can affect meaningful and sustainable change.
To volunteer is to contribute value by giving of one’s self. And when what one gives – time, talent, innovative technologies – has the power to transform its recipient, one does more than simply serve. Deploying cloud and mobile technologies to coordinate disaster relief & recovery or enable management of essential public health issues saves lives. Developing data analytics solutions that make timely transportation possible amid the crushing populations of growing cities moves economies from second-rate to world class. Connecting people – to information, to their governments and to each other – allows us to aggregate our intelligence to preserve our humanity. A culture of service inspires the desire to serve, and provides the opportunities and tools that make service possible.
There are no reliable treatments or vaccines for the Ebola virus – the significant global health threat behind the growing humanitarian crisis in West Africa. That’s why IBM’s
World Community Grid – the virtual supercomputer for humanitarian research – is launching Outsmart Ebola Together to help find a cure. The research project will be directed by Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire of The Scripps Research Institute. Dr. Saphire is among the world’s preeminent Ebola researchers, and has been seeking a cure for the disease for more than 11 years – long before the current crisis. In her observations below, Dr. Saphire reflects on her approach to finding a cure.
The current outbreak of the Ebola virus is the largest in history, and has been described by the World Health Organization as “the most severe acute public health emergency seen in modern times.” While previous outbreaks have ended when the disease was contained and disappeared from the human population, the scope of the 2014 outbreak raises the possibility that the virus, rather than disappearing again, could become endemic – permanently persisting in human populations in one or more areas.
Currently, there are no approved treatments or vaccines for this deadly disease. In response to this urgent need, I reached out to my colleagues around the world to create the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Immunotherapeutic Consortium, a collaborative effort of the world’s top Ebola experts to pool our knowledge and skills to find a cure as quickly as possible. Some compounds show promise as treatments for Ebola virus and are currently being tested through fast-tracked studies. However, we are still looking urgently for a definitive cure, and more must be done.
After launching its first P-TECH school (the Norwalk Early College Academy) this fall, the State of Connecticut plans to open two additional schools in time for the next academic year. Why the rush? Because Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy understands the urgent need to provide a navigable pathway from high school to college and career for his state’s young people. P-TECH already is doing that in New York City, across New York State and in Chicago, and now communities in New London and Windham, Connecticut will benefit from IBM’s innovative reinvention of American education.
Connecticut’s announcement of two new Early College Opportunity programs based on the IBM P-TECH model comes on the heels of IBM’s release of an updated P-TECH Playbook designed to guide the development of these and future P-TECH schools. The Playbook offers case studies, “best practices” and other resources to help school districts, higher education institutions and corporate sponsors form the public-private partnerships that are essential to connecting education to jobs. By following the Playbook, such cross-sector partnerships will be able to develop the academically rigorous and economically relevant workplace skills curricula that characterize P-TECH schools. These open-admissions schools work within existing budgets to close the gap between college and employment preparedness and the real-world, global demands of the 21st Century.
The Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC) of Philadelphia recently hosted its annual fundraising event, and I was reminded of the valuable partnerships that are helping us transform the quality of life for our city’s young adults. The UAC’s mission is to “unite government, business, neighborhoods, and individual initiatives to improve the quality of life in the region, build wealth in urban communities, and solve emerging issues.” Our partner
IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs has played a critical role in helping us meet our goals. The fundraising event attracted more than $500,000 in donations, and brought together over 900 community and business leaders to help us fulfill our mission.
As the fiscal sponsor for more than 55 partner organizations, UAC provides back-end financial and human resources support that frees non-profit organizations to dedicate
their time, talent and treasure to providing crucial services for more 150,000 adults,
youth and children. UAC aspires to become a high-tech, high-touch, high-quality resource for our partner organizations, and IBM is helping us on this journey. With the help of an
IBM Technology Road Map Impact Grant, we developed a scalable technology strategy that will enable us to meet our partners’ needs today and into the future.
As philanthropy has evolved in America, nonprofits, funders, and municipalities have
begun to adopt a “Collective Impact” model for collaborating to help solve their communities’ most pressing issues. Using a core organizational structure, Collective Impact communities build solutions based on a common vision, continuous communication, mutually reinforcing activities and shared metrics for success. To manage significant issues of social change – for example, fighting hunger, ending homelessness, eliminating educational disparities – the Collective Impact model also seeks collaboration between the public and private sectors.
In North Carolina, United Way of the Greater Triangle currently is transforming itself
from a traditional funder into a Collective Impact organization to champion community-level solutions more effectively. We believe we can address critical societal issues – and create sustainable change – by working with a network of companies, nonprofits and community leaders. But to affect this comprehensive and holistic approach to community engagement, our decisions need to be driven by data and based in fact. That’s why United Way
of the Greater Triangle was delighted to receive an IBM Impact Grant for SPSS Predictive Analytics.
Dengue fever is a debilitating tropical disease that threatens 40 percent of the world’s population. As part of World Community Grid’s 10th anniversary celebrations, research partner Stan Watowich, Ph.D., talks about how the program enabled his team to identify a new drug lead that could stop the virus in its tracks.
Dengue fever, also known as “breakbone fever”, causes excruciating joint and muscle pain, high fever and headaches. Severe dengue, known as “dengue hemorrhagic fever”, has become a leading cause of hospitalization and death among children in many Asian and Latin American countries. According to the World Health Organization, more than 40 percent of the world’s population is at risk from dengue – with one study estimating that there were 390 million cases in 2010 alone. The mosquito-borne infectious disease is found in tropical and sub-tropical regions primarily in the developing world, and belongs to the flavivirus family of viruses, together with Hepatitis C, West Nile and Yellow Fever.
Although dengue represents a critical global health concern, it has received limited attention from affluent countries until recently, and is widely considered to be a neglected tropical disease. Since no approved vaccines or treatments exist for the disease, we launched Discovering Dengue Drugs – Together on IBM’s World Community Grid in 2007 – using a computer-based discovery approach to search for drugs to treat dengue infections.
IBM created the P-TECH grades 9 through 14 schools model because we recognized a serious societal problem, and had the skill and desire to address it. In short, too many of America’s young people were being trapped in unending cycles of poverty (whether or not they could find full-time or part-time work), while American industry – starved for skilled workers – needed to re-sharpen its competitive edge. The solution was not to write checks, but to get involved. Only by fostering a community of stakeholders including educators, employers, governments, parents, teachers and students would we solve a problem together that no single sector could solve alone.
Each P-TECH school is a partnership that unites school districts, community colleges
and corporate sponsors in service to a singular goal – to help our young people succeed.
P-TECH schools help students succeed by focusing their education on academic rigor and workplace readiness, by providing each young scholar with a mentor, and by making each graduate first in line for employment consideration with the school’s corporate partner. What began in 2011 with one school in Brooklyn, New York is spreading to nearly 40 schools around the nation, and could reach 100 schools by 2016.
What’s P-TECH’s “secret sauce”? We’re sharing the recipe through a new website which houses our updated digital playbook. Together, these resources deliver the tools, case studies, research and guidance that school districts, higher education institutions and businesses can use to establish new P-TECH schools. Whether you are an employer, an educator, a government or community leader, a parent or several of the above, we invite you to examine and share these materials.
Get involved. Speak up. Take action to provide our children with the 21st century education they need and deserve.