Press Release – REDMOND, Wash. — Dec. 1, 2016 — On Thursday, Microsoft Corp. renewed its Affordable Access Initiative grant fund for a second year. The fund assists companies working to bring internet access and new technologies, services and models to underserved markets. The application process is now open for a new set of partners.
“The social enterprises we support have inspired us with practical, high-impact and scalable approaches to help close the digital divide,” said Microsoft Affordable Access Initiatives Director Paul Garnett, writing in NextBillion. “It’s a privilege to see these solutions take shape, and to play a role in helping local entrepreneurs spur job creation and economic growth.”
In the fund’s first round of investments, Microsoft awarded grants to 12 businesses offering affordable internet access or cloud-based services in fields such as power generation, health, education, finance and agriculture.
AirJaldi, a 2016 grant recipient, provides high-quality Wi-Fi broadband connectivity at reasonable rates to more than 90,000 public- and private-sector clients in rural India. Vista Africa, another recipient from last year, is a cloud-based software platform that helps healthcare providers more easily screen, track and treat patients’ health in areas where connectivity is limited.
In addition to receiving funding and software to help power and develop their businesses, grant recipients will join a growing ecosystem of other grantees and funders to further increase their impact.
This initiative is also connected to the work of Microsoft Philanthropies, which is helping to bring technology’s benefits to those who need them most. Microsoft Philanthropies is making its digital literacy, online safety and computer science education programs available to grant recipients and the communities they serve.
“Too many people around the world lack internet connectivity and the educational, commercial and economic benefits of cloud-based services,” said Mary Snapp, corporate vice president and head of Microsoft Philanthropies. “Affordable Access Initiative grants, and the technology ecosystems they help support, empower entrepreneurs to provide connectivity, which then enables the creation of critical services for those who need it most.”
How to apply
Applicants must be commercial organizations with two or more full-time employees and have a prototype of a working solution and preferably paying customers. Such products and business models might combine new cloud services and applications, low-cost forms of internet connectivity, and new payment mechanisms designed for consumers and smaller businesses in underserved markets. A list of criteria, and the application, can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/affordable-access-initiative/home. Applications will be accepted until midnight PST on Jan. 31, 2017.
Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
By Elaine Cohen
As companies make efforts to define material impacts in their Sustainability Reports, Elaine Cohen, Author of Understanding G4: the Concise Guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting – shares why there should be robust process standards for the determination of material impacts.
Earlier this year, I had quite a lot of fun as a GRI-appointed Quality Control Officer, whose role is to attend GRI training courses as an observer and report back to GRI if certified GRI training is being conducted professionally, competently and in line with GRI standards. This is fascinating for me, mainly because it’s so interesting to hear what training delegates ask about and comment on during the course. In one session, a delegate asked the ultimate G4 (now GRI Standards) question – the very same one that I asked GRI Standards leading architect Bastian Buck of GRI, three years back:
Is it OK to write a G4 report with just one material issue?
The answer of course is Yes and No.
Yes, because technically, if you have determined that your organization has only one material impact, then disclosing this and using GRI to report it does actually tick the box.
No, because, I believe, no organization can be so simple that its impact is entirely mono-dimensional. Even micro-businesses operate across more than one dimension. No business has just one stakeholder.
Behind this ultimate question, then, is the deeper consideration of how organizations define their most material impacts for the purpose of strategy development and reporting. It’s not so much about whether you can ride the framework with one material issue; it’s about the value you derive from understanding what’s material for your business.
Materiality and Strategy
One of the positive developments following the introduction of G4 was the elevation of materiality from dormant to active in the minds of companies and reporters. Transitioning to G4 has generally appeared to cause companies to engage in some level of thinking about what’s material and how to define it. In some cases, this has been a meaningful exercise where materiality is the result of insightful stakeholder dialogue and the precursor to a multi-year sustainability strategy and basis for reporting. In other cases, we are still seeing the disconnect – where companies have, on the one hand, a sustainability strategy and, on the other hand, a list of material issues that bears no resemblance to the strategy and a report which covers everything except what is deemed material. The next stage in materiality maturity is helping companies to see that this all plays out on the same playground. Sustainability strategy has to be the result of materiality analysis. Materiality can never be in a vacuum.
Materiality and Impacts
Which brings me to another interesting and highly geeky thing I did this week. I listened in on the GRI Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB) meeting (for the second time). It’s fascinating to be a fly on the wall as the GSSB debates the different aspects of developing GRI Standards. I have to commend GRI and GSSB on full transparency here – all the meeting documents are available and the meeting itself is audio live-streamed (shame about the video!) – and it’s a truly illuminating discussion… if you are a reporting geek like me.
One of the topics that came up this time around was the definition of materiality and the clarification of this in the new GRI Standards. GRI maintains that to date, people have “misinterpreted” the definition of materiality, and that the new terminology in GRI Standards makes this much clearer. GRI Standards 100:1.3 states: “Relevant topics, which potentially merit inclusion in the report, are those that can reasonably be considered important for reflecting the organization’s economic, environmental, and social impacts, or influencing the decisions of stakeholders. In this context, ‘impact’ refers to the effect an organization has on the economy, the environment, and/or society (positive or negative).”
In G4, material impacts were defined as follows:
In the GRI 100 Glossary of the GRI Standards, it is now clarified as follows:
A Sustainability Report should therefore report impacts OF the business and ON the decisions of stakeholders. It is not about the impacts of sustainability on the business. The guidance matrix in the GRI Standards remains the same in the GRI Standards is it was in G4 (though the colors have changed a little 😌) (NB: I remind you that a matrix is NOT necessary for GRI Reporting – a list of priority issues is perfectly adequate.)
This the application of this matrix – or specifically, the focus of each of the axes – has commonly been misused in G4 reporting.
3M’s 2016 Sustainability Report, for example, uses reputation on the Y axis and stakeholders on the X axis:
The Fedex 2016 Global Citizenship Report uses stakeholders and business success:
Both these approaches do not reflect the actual intention of the GRI framework. The GRI approach is designed to create a report that reflects impacts on the economy, people and planet. The shape and size of the impact of your specific business is key to defining your positive (or negative) contribution to society. The primary focus in sustainability reporting should be the size and nature of the impacts OF your business and how your business affects our lives. In the GRI Standards, that should now be crystal clear. The outcomes of the way your business addresses mitigating negative impacts or enhancing positive impacts is reflected in your reputation, business success and value creation.
In the conversation at the GSSB, where I was a fly, a concern was raised that some companies have spent fortunes on materiality assessments that include this measure of “importance to business success”. “What should they do now?”, was the question. Well, it’s not the end of the world. There is some overlap. Quite often, these issues will naturally coincide. Almost always, in fact. But in the next review of material impacts, there’s an opportunity to better align with the letter and spirit of the reporting standard (and stakeholder expectations).
Which brings me to the more important question: How do you prioritize material impacts?
Materiality and Prioritization
The big weakness in the GRI Standards is the lack of robust guidance for defining the process for prioritizing material impacts. GRI could have been prescriptive in this area. The GRI Standards omit the guidance that was contained in G4 around the stages of defining material impacts: identification, prioritization, validation and review. However, even that guidance did not prescribe a robust process for getting from the universe of many impacts to the fewer most material impacts. Few companies, if any, actually report this process in a way that help us understand the voices that counted in prioritizing specific impacts.
It’s easy enough to define the landscape of relevant issues. But the prioritization has often been reduced to a number-crunching exercise, where different groups give scores to different topics, the numbers are added up and voila – you have a matrix. The outcome of this process can vary widely depending on which voices you count, what weight you give to each voice, how each voice assesses the value of each impact and the weighting factors you use to roll that up into one coherent list of issues. These details are rarely disclosed by companies. The entire basis upon which material impact reporting rests is therefore not transparent and possibly, not robust.
The bank describes its process for defining material impacts:
This looks like an invested process. A universe of 50 issues was established. Representatives of six stakeholder groups (including employees as one group) took part in an online survey to rank the issues in order of importance. The online input was supplemented by the opinions of Lloyds external Stakeholder Advisory Group who provided “proxy representation on behalf of some of these groups”. The responses were weighted according to “stakeholder group sample and data quality with priority given to direct feedback and Stakeholder Advisory Panel feedback”. Then it was all rolled up into a set of 14 issues in 5 categories that appear to have equal priority as the most material impacts.
The issues look to be a reasonable mix of what we might expect a large banking group to prioritize at a general level. But they could also be the issues of any bank anywhere in any country. Trust in business, job creation, access to products and services, customer satisfaction – this tells me nothing about Lloyds Banking Group that is specific to that company. This begs the questions: How detailed was the initial universe of material issues? How was the weighting of stakeholder responses constructed?
Another bank, for example, presents a more company-sector specific picture. Westpac Australia’s materiality matrix includes impacts such as positive impact finance, financial capability and empowerment, digital product and service transformation (an issue which is sweeping the banking industry worldwide for obvious reasons) and macroeconomic and demographic trends that are current in the materiality assessment period.
Westpac’s matrix refers to impacts that are important to stakeholder and important to the business, but, despite this bank’s detailed disclosure of stakeholder issues and responses, we are still left in the dark about the process used to assign prioritization to these top 18 material impacts. What influenced the positioning of the dots on this matrix? How were the different stakeholder inputs evaluated?
Next week, I will be presenting the findings of an analysis I performed on behalf of BSI, the UK’s national standards body, of sustainability performance and reporting standards that are used predominantly today. The presentation will serve as a basis for dialogue at an event hosted by BSI to consider where standardization or additional focused guidance may assist companies in advancing sustainability performance and reporting.
If materiality is central to reporting, does the process of defining materiality not merit greater structure and transparency? Good process, good outcome. But what is the process for determining materiality? Every company uses its own logic to develop a process that delivers a result. But if the process is flawed, then the result is flawed. How can we know that companies are reporting the most material issues? If the process is different in every case, the outcomes are not comparable. One of the recommendations I am tabling for discussion next week is that there should be robust process standards for the determination of material impacts. What do you think? I’d welcome your thoughts as we consider this fundamental question that goes to the heart of relevant corporate transparency. The actual event is fully booked with a long waiting list, so if you have a strong view, write to me here or comment on this blog. I am very interested to hear your views.
In the meantime, the good news is that companies are making efforts to define material impacts. Even an imperfect, undisclosed process is a start. As I often say, 80% of something is better than 100% of nothing.
Elaine Cohen is a CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional an Ice Cream Addict! Author of Understanding G4: the Concise guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting AND Sustainability Reporting for SMEs: Competitive Advantage Through Transparency AND CSR for HR: A necessary Partnership for Advancing Responsible Business Practices. You can follow her on Twitter @elainecohen
Re-published here as part of Your Mark On The World’s collaboration with CSRlive.in
SDSU psychologists discover brain connections in people with autism show more symmetry between hemispheres.
Press Release – SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Dec. 1, 2016) — Divvying up tasks between the left and right hemisphere of the brain is one of the hallmarks of typical brain development. The left hemisphere, for instance, is involved in analyzing specific details of a situation, while the right hemisphere is involved in integrating all the various streams of information coming into the brain.
A new study by neuropsychologists at San Diego State University suggests that in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) the brains’ hemispheres are less likely to specialize one way or another. The finding gives further insight into how brain development in people with ASD contributes to the disorder’s cognitive characteristics.
The study, led by Ralph-Axel Müller, Ruth Carper and Jeffrey Treiber of SDSU’s Brain Development Imaging Lab, investigated how connections within the brain develop differently in children and adolescents with ASD than in their typically developing peers. Using a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique known as diffusion tensor imaging, the team studied the brains of 41 participants with ASD and 44 without, examining how densely connections formed between different regions of white matter in the brain.
They found that in typically developing young people, the right brain hemispheres had densely packed connections.
“This fits with the idea that the right hemisphere has a more integrative function, bringing together many kinds of information,” the team wrote in a summary of their research.
However, in the participants with ASD, these brain connections were more evenly distributed across both hemispheres. The findings are published in the December issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
“The idea behind asymmetry in the brain is that there is a division of labor between the two hemispheres,” Müller said. “It appears this division of labor is reduced in people with autism spectrum disorder.”
That lack of specialization could manifest itself in what Müller calls “weak central coherence”—a concept best summed up in the idiom, “not seeing the forest for the trees.” Many people with ASD are very good at seeing details but have difficulty putting it all together into a cohesive narrative, he explained.
More research is needed to determine whether these brain-connection asymmetries cause this inability to cohesively assemble information, or are actually the result of it, Müller added. That and other future research will benefit from SDSU’s first imaging facility, which will play a central role within the Engineering and Interdisciplinary Sciences Complex, scheduled to open in 2018. The facility’s MRI machine will be installed early next year.
About San Diego State University
San Diego State University is a major public research institution that provides transformative experiences, both inside and outside of the classroom, for its more than 36,000 students. The university offers bachelor’s degrees in 91 areas, master’s degrees in 78 areas and doctorates in 22 areas. Students participate in research, international experiences, sustainability and entrepreneurship initiatives, internships and mentoring, and a broad range of student life and leadership opportunities. The university’s rich campus life features opportunities for students to participate in, and engage with, the creative and performing arts, a Division I athletics program and the vibrant cultural life of the San Diego region. For more information, visit www.sdsu.edu.
Employees continue year-round spirit of giving back to local communities and those in need with planned non-profit fundraising and donation events in all major regions
Press Release – Plano, TX, December 1, 2016 – GENBAND, a leading provider of real time communications solutions today announced that its global employee base continues to live out its year-round commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and giving with annual holiday campaigns and charitable events across the globe.
“We get together as a company to support our communities on our annual Global Day of Service in June every year, but the holidays are also an important time to give back. I am always impressed by our employees’ creativity, dedication and commitment to supporting the communities in which they live,” said Robin Wright, EVP of Corporate Operations and Human Resources. “We have activities planned in virtually every region of the world. It is such an honor and privilege to work with a team that really looks forward to assisting those in need.”
This year’s employee-led initiatives include:
GENBAND employees in its Plano, Texas office are partnering with the Texas State Guard and participating in the TXSG Toy Drive, to collect donations of new, unwrapped toys, gifts and prizes for children in local hospitals. The mission of the TXSG Toy Drive is to collect and distribute new toys to every pediatric patient at dedicated children’s hospitals in Texas during the holiday season and leave a year’s worth of toys behind.
The Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina GENBAND team is continuing its long history of working with United Way of the Greater Triangle to raise funds for a wide variety of local organizations. Team members are also holding fundraisers to assist the Boys & Girls Clubs of Johnston County in reviving its operations following flooding caused by the recent Hurricane Matthew.
GENBAND’s Ottawa, Canada office has a longstanding tradition of supporting United Way Ottawa and this year is no different. Funds will be raised through a variety of events including raffles, a bake sale and a pancake breakfast. GENBAND Ottawa team members raised $20,500 CDN last year and exceeded that raising more than $22,000 CDN in 2016.
In Galway, Ireland GENBAND employees are holding a coffee morning in aid of Age Action, a local non- profit dedicated to improving the quality of life of older people and to transforming attitudes towards aging and older people. The Galway office is also collecting items for a shoebox toy drive in support of several other local charities.
Employees in Sydney, Australia are collecting new, unwrapped gifts and food donations for Stuff the Bus, an annual event aimed at helping local families and individuals who are experiencing difficult times during the holiday season.
In Toronto, GENBAND employees will be donating gifts to the Sick Kids Treasure Box. Run by the Hospital for Sick Children, treasure boxes play a special role in the treatment and care of children, who are allowed to select a special item from a treasure box and keep it forever after undergoing a scary or uncomfortable procedure.
Finally, New York City employees are participating in a coat drive for the 28th New York Cares Annual Coat Drive.
Additional events and campaigns are being held throughout the world. GENBAND’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives include its annual Global Day of Service or GENBAND Day. Each year, GENBAND employees donate an average of more than 40,000 service and volunteer hours to their local communities.
Helping Hundreds of People Stay Warm Accepting All Donations Until December 16, 2016
Castle Windows, The Girl Scouts and One Warm Coat®, Warming communities…one coat at a time.
Press Release – (Mt. Laurel, New Jersey – December 1, 2016) In the spirit of giving, this Thanksgiving season, Castle Windows has teamed up The Girl Scouts of Mt. Laurel for their annual Coat Drive that will benefit ONE WARM COAT, a national organization whose mission is To provide anyone in need with a warm coat, free of charge.
Castle Windows and The Girls Scouts invite area residents to give away clean and gently used coats at any area Castle Windows location or school location listed. One Warm Coat is dedicated to collecting and distributing gently used warm coats–free of charge–directly to local children and adults in the immediate area. The coat drive program provides an easy way for individuals and families to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors by simply passing along coats and jackets that are no longer needed.
The process is simple: the general public can drop off their extra coats at a Castle Windows locations www.castlewindows.com or at the Castle Drop Box at one of the school locations listed below. All donated coats will be given to a local agency for distribution- one warm coat, warms the heart.
Look for the Castle Windows Drop Off Boxes at:
About Castle Windows:
Castle Windows has been in business for over thirty-five years it is a multi-million dollar company established in New Jersey. Castle operates in the North East and the Mid-Atlantic area, in fifteen different states. Castle Windows is a Better Business Bureau Accredited company, continues a long history of energy efficient, and environmentally friendly products. We offer a wide selection of top quality custom-made windows, doors, siding, roofing, and more. All windows are manufactured in the USA. Castle “The Window People” can be contacted at 1-800-360-4400, or find us online at www.castlewindows.com, and make sure to like us at www.facebook.com/CastleWindows.
About One Warm Coat:
One Warm Coat is national non-profit organization that supports and encourages coat drives. It helps individuals, groups, companies and organizations across the country collect coats and deliver them to local agencies that distribute the coats free to people in need. More than four million coats have been provided to those in need at no cost since its inception in 1992.
Text to Give:
Press Release – (Englewood, New Jersey – December 1, 2016) Vantage Health System hosted a Beefsteak Dinner commemorating 59 years of providing programs helping those with mental illness within Bergen County. The mental wellness programs are for young children, teens, middle-aged adults and senior citizens who may be going through a personal crisis. Vantage helps patients regain their life with programs and support needed to conquer depression, anxieties, addictions and thoughts of suicide.
The Beefsteak dinner was held at The Brownstone located at 351 W. Broadway in Paterson, New Jersey on Monday, November 14th. All funds raised at the event goes directly to behavioral healthcare and social service programs for people of all ages.
PHOTO CREDIT: CHRIS MARKSBURY
Vantage Health System is one of the state’s main providers of mental wellness where no one is turned away due to lack of income. Vantage would like to thank the sponsors for this event NVE Bank, Atlantic Stewardship Bank, Day Pitney LLC, First Commerce Bank, Leuzzi Service Group, Malesardi, Quackenbush & Swift and Genoa Foundation.
About Vantage Health System
Vantage Health System is a private not for profit 501 (C) 3 charitable organization. In operation since 1957, Vantage is a system of community based facilities and programs located in Bergen County, NJ. Vantage provides services to children, adolescents, adults and elders with mental health, addiction, developmental and eldercare challenges. No one is turned away due to lack of income. Vantage Health System offers a full range of clinical services. For access to care or more information, please call 201-567-0059 or visit our website: www.vantagenj.org.
Press Release – PARSIPPANY, N.J. (Dec. 1, 2016) – GAF, North America’s largest roofing manufacturer, is proud to renew its national partnership with Habitat for Humanity. The company will continue to donate roofing materials to Habitat for Humanity builds across the U.S. and Canada where GAF factory-certified contractors volunteer their roofing installation services. GAF, along with their GAF Master Elite® and Certified™ Contractors, contributed to nearly 280 Habitat for Humanity homes as part of the 2015-2016 partnership.
“We are thrilled to renew this amazing partnership with Habitat for Humanity for the sixth consecutive year,” states Paul Bromfield, chief marketing officer at GAF. “Through this program, we are able to not only support the Habitat mission, but also the GAF focus on supporting our dedicated contractors who are top installers in their area who also want to contribute to their communities.”
Thousands of GAF Master Elite® and Certified™ Contractors in the United States and Canada are eligible to participate in the partnership. All installed roofs carry a GAF System Plus Ltd. Warranty.
“Habitat is grateful for the volunteer labor and donation of construction materials, which is key to Habitat’s mission to create affordable housing,” said Colleen Finn Ridenhour, deputy director, Corporate, Foundation and Institutional Relations at Habitat for Humanity International. “The GAF partnership is helping lower home construction costs of Habitat homes making it possible to partner with even more families working to build a decent and affordable place they can call home.”
Founded in 1886, GAF is the largest roofing manufacturer in North America. The Company is an operating subsidiary of Standard Industries.
GAF products include a comprehensive portfolio of steep-slope and commercial roofing systems, which are supported by an extensive national network of factory-certified contractors. Its success is driven by its commitment to Advanced Quality, Industry Expertise, and Solutions Made Simple. GAF was the first roofing manufacturer to offer a Lifetime limited warranty on all of its laminated shingles, which then evolved with the introduction of the GAF Lifetime Roofing System by extending the Lifetime coverage beyond just the roofing shingles.
With a focus on social responsibility, GAF developed Advanced Protection® Shingle Technology, providing excellent durability and wind resistance while reducing the use of natural resources. The company also developed single-ply and asphaltic roofing membranes with excellent durability and high reflectivity to meet the most rigorous industry standards while helping commercial property owners and designers reduce energy consumption.
GAF also supports the roofing industry through CARE, the Center for the Advancement of Roofing Excellence, which has provided education to nearly 200,000 professionals. CARE’s mission is to help professional contractors and distributors build their businesses through sales and management education, and to provide product and installation training to contractors, distributors, architects, property owners, and related industry personnel. For more information about GAF, visit gaf.com.
About Standard Industries:
Standard Industries is a privately-held, global, diversified holding company with interests in building materials, aggregates, and related investment businesses in public equities and real estate. With over 7,500 employees and operations in more than 80 countries, Standard maintains a team-oriented culture of meritocracy, operational excellence, and a passionate focus on investing in its people.
About Habitat for Humanity
Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in southern Georgia. The Christian housing organization has since grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in nearly 1,400 communities throughout the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering, or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability, and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit habitat.org.
Luxury Hotel Brand to Help Provide a Family of Four Dinner for an Entire Week When Guests Book Direct on OmniHotels.com
Press Release – DALLAS (June 21, 2016) — Just as Omni Hotels & Resorts says ‘goodnight’ to millions of guests every year, the luxury hotel brand will now Say Goodnight to Hunger! Beginning today, for every stay booked directly on the brand’s website, OmniHotels.com, it will make a donation to Feeding America® to provide a family of four dinner for an entire week.* Donations will benefit Feeding America and local members in the 42 communities where Omni Hotels & Resorts’ 60 properties are located.
Omni’s goal is to help Feeding America provide more than 18.2 million meals each year for food banks to feed kids, families and seniors in communities across the United States. Say Goodnight to Hunger is the largest campaign launched by a Feeding America hospitality partner.
“Say Goodnight to Hunger is an initiative I am personally proud of, because it embodies one the core values of our organization, which we call Local Market Leadership. We are committed to integrating into the culture of each of our locations and caring for those communities,” said Mike Deitemeyer, president for Omni Hotels & Resorts. “Say Goodnight to Hunger is a unique way to serve and support these local communities in which our company operates.
Omni’s contribution to Feeding America is just one element of its commitment to feeding families and reducing hunger nationwide. Throughout the nation, Omni associates will generously give their talent, time, and compassion to volunteer at food banks in their local communities to amplify the impact of the Say Goodnight to Hunger mission. Currently, almost one-third of Omni properties actively support food banks in their local communities – from volunteering at facilities and fundraising to holding food drives and gathering donations for their local food banks. The Say Goodnight to Hunger program is a natural extension of what is already happening across the hotel brand.
Today, more than 48 million Americans live in food insecure households, including 15 million children. One in seven Americans is currently served by Feeding America food banks, often facing difficult choices between paying bills and buying food. Food banks often serve hard-working individuals who are facing economic hardship.
“It isn’t getting any easier for the families we serve – one in seven Americans is food insecure, including one in five children” said Nancy Curby, Vice President Corporate Partnerships at Feeding America. “This new partnership with Omni Hotels will help us in our mission to feed America’s hungry.”
To show support, guests are encouraged to use the hashtag #SayGoodnightToHunger. For more information, please visit omnihotels.com, call 1-800-The-Omni, or follow Omni at Facebook.com/OmniHotels, Twitter.com/OmniHotels, and Instagram.com/OmniHotels.
* $1 helps provide 11 meals on behalf of local food banks. For each direct booking on OmniHotels.com, Omni will donate the equivalent of 28 meals. For the purpose of this campaign, Omni defines a family as 4 individuals.
Connecting people, connecting place, co-creating a public space
Press Release – As a part of its broader economic development efforts, the City of Long Beach is transforming Harvey Milk Promenade Park and Equality Plaza (Harvey Milk Park) into an outdoor, public collaborative space that encourages creativity and interaction. From December 5 to December 16, 2016, the community is invited to test and vote on the types of furniture, charging stations, and technology solutions they would like to see at the 500-square-foot City park located at 185 East 3rd Street.
“Honoring the legacy of Harvey Milk and celebrating our LGBTQ heroes is critical to the success of this park,” said Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez. “This showcase is a great opportunity to not only reimagine the use of the park in a variety of ways but puts Harvey’s legacy into action by bringing people together.”
The Long Beach Innovation Team (i-team), funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, conducted an extensive, user-centered design process to deeply understand residents’ needs on this issue. The i-team learned how essential it is for Long Beach to activate business corridors by connecting people and institutions through more open, diverse, and inclusive public spaces for people to gather. Then they created a series of initiatives designed to address these issues and increase economic development in Long Beach. This outdoor collaborative public space is one of these initiatives.
“It’s exciting to see how Long Beach is using innovative techniques to generate new ideas that involve the public,” said Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce. “I’m looking forward to see the public feedback. What a great and creative way of purchasing outdoor furniture.”
One of the first steps the City took in moving this effort forward was challenging vendors to provide furnishing and technology solutions for Harvey Milk Park through a Furniture Showcase that will provide workspace essentials such as charging stations, shade, and comfortable seating. As the City develops and changes, public spaces also need to evolve to reflect and meet the community’s needs.
“Designers from around the world competed to demonstrate their cutting-edge furniture to the public,” said John Keisler, i-team Director. “This is an exciting opportunity for the community to co-create the future of our public spaces, right here in Harvey Milk Park.”
Long Beach is conducting this initiative in partnership with Citymart, a New York-based company that transforms the way cities solve challenges. Long Beach is also a Knight Cities Challenge winner, an initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which awarded the City $300,000 to help make this vision a reality at Harvey Milk Park. The City of Long Beach also received $10,000 from the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA) to test augmented reality in a public place. This Furniture Showcase is one example of how the City is finding innovative ways of using public space to bring people together and out of their office buildings during the day.
Through a Request for Solutions (RFS), seven finalists were selected and will be showcasing their items. The finalists include: Nerei, a company based in Spain, dedicated to activating urban space by bridging the gap between the physical and digital space; James de Wulf from Santa Monica, a manufacturer of a ping pong table that can easily be transformed into a conference or dining table; Knoll, a furnishing company that offers modern outdoor furniture for creating inviting spaces; Soofa, a Cambridge-based company that embeds electronics into everyday city objects, such as a bench, into smart urban furniture. Others finalists include Maglin, a North American manufacturer of public site furniture that uses outstanding design and innovative use of recycled materials; Miller Hull, who pride themselves in their ability to leverage the openness and flexibility of modernist form to celebrate connections inside and out; and NRG, a company that harnesses solar energy in innovative ways to provide guests with free, clean solar power to stay connected and charged.
The Furniture Showcase will be launched on Monday, December 5, from 3:00 to 5:30 pm, and will be officially marking an 18-month-long co-creation process filled with activities that also include:
A Bike Share station is located across the street from Harvey Milk Park, and free two-hour parking is available nearby at 50 E. 3rd Street. Learn more about the Harvey Milk Park Project and the various ways to participate at www.innovatelb.com/showcase.
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Long Beach Community Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Long Beach Community Foundation provided a $50,000 matching grant to make the City’s partnership with Citymart possible. The Long Beach Community Foundation is a nonprofit, public organization with over $25 million in assets and 96 charitable funds, whose mission is to initiate positive change for Long Beach. The Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.
About the Innovation Team
Bloomberg Philanthropies believes city leaders need a dedicated focus on innovation – and began investing in city hall innovation teams (i-teams) in 2012. The City of Long Beach is one of nearly 20 cities around the world that is participating in the program. Launched in 2015 by Mayor Robert Garcia, Long Beach’s i-team works closely, and supportively, with their colleagues across city government — offering them a different set of tools and techniques to innovate more effectively. In partnership with these colleagues, the i-team aims to deeply understand the problem they are trying to solve by building empathy for the people impacted by it and then work quickly and creatively to co-create and test solutions that deliver meaningful results for residents. For more information on the City of Long Beach Innovation Team, please visit www.longbeach.gov/iteam or follow them on Twitter @iteam_longBeach and Facebook.
Special Edition of Amida Care View Magazine Highlights Ending the Epidemic Initiative
Press Release – In advance of World AIDS Day on December 1, 2016, Amida Care is publishing “Together We Can End AIDS in NYS by 2020,” a special edition of The Amida Care View magazine produced in collaboration with members of the End AIDS 2020 Community Coalition. The magazine explores the history and key social drivers of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York and provides updates on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Blueprint to End the AIDS Epidemic (EtE) in New York State by the year 2020.
EtE is a groundbreaking initiative that positions New York as the first state to end HIV/AIDS as an epidemic by reducing the number of new HIV infections from 3,000 per year to fewer than 750 by 2020. If successfully implemented, New York’s EtE Blueprint can serve as a model for the nation. Amida Care is New York’s largest Medicaid special needs health plan (SNP) for people living with chronic conditions including HIV/AIDS. Amida Care President and CEO Doug Wirth served on the EtE Task Force that developed the Blueprint.
The EtE magazine features the voices and perspectives of a variety of community members, long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS, leaders of not-for-profit organizations, and health care providers who advocate for funding and resources to expand HIV/AIDS services that will help to meet EtE goals. Contributors to the magazine include representatives from Amida Care, ASCNYC, Brightpoint Health, CAI, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, GMHC, Harlem United, Housing Works, Latino Commission on AIDS, National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, New York Transgender Advocacy Group, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Stonewall Community Foundation, Treatment Action Group, Trillium Health, and VSNY CHOICE.
By bringing these advocates together, the EtE magazine provides a comprehensive overview of advancements around HIV testing, treatment, and prevention to end AIDS in New York. Ending AIDS will not only save lives but also save millions of dollars in avoided health care costs. The magazine highlights the importance of addressing barriers to HIV treatment and prevention, such as food insecurity, unstable housing, and unemployment. The magazine also features populations that are most impacted by HIV – those who are homeless, people of color, young men having sex with men, and transgender individuals.
Read the EtE magazine.