Donate a Device! Help Microsoft Philanthropies Respond to COVID-19

For our most recent webinar, Voices for Innovation welcomed Andrea Russo and Aimee Rosato from the Microsoft Philanthropies team to highlight how Microsoft and the company’s Philanthropies arm are helping our nation respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

Devices Needed!

Andrea and Aimee discussed how the company is supporting healthcare organizations and non-profits with free software and support. The company is also assisting schools, teachers, and students as they transition to online learning. Microsoft is even helping schools hold virtual graduations using TEAMS Live Events.

We also heard about how schools still need to get laptops into the hands of students. To help in this effort, Voices for Innovation is supporting a device drive—and we need your donated devices. It is especially beneficial for larger companies to donate multiple devices at the same time.

We’re partnering with Seattle-based non-profit and certified Microsoft Refurbisher InterConnection, which will wipe hard drives, clean machines, and handle getting them out to schools.


Looking Ahead for Volunteers

We also learned about several ways that Microsoft is supporting education and skills development. LinkedIn Learning is offering free courses to help people develop new skills from home while sheltering in place.

Though high schools are closed, Microsoft Philanthropies’ TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) program is still in session, with volunteers connecting remotely with students. Andrea and Aimee are also seeking computer scientists and developers to volunteer for TEALS for the 2020-21 school year. Voices for Innovation will be holding a webinar focused on the TEALS program in the near future. Stay tuned. (And if you’re not already on our email list, sign up now.)

Replay Our Philanthropies Webinar

In case you missed it, you can watch the recording of our “Microsoft Philanthropies Responds to COVID-19” webinar below:

Download the Deck

To access the resources and information shared during the webinar, download the deck.


#Tech4TR – Join the Technology Community Supporting Team Rubicon’s Neighbors Helping Neighbors Initiative

Ready to make an impact to help vulnerable neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The most important thing we can all do in this unprecedented time is to help our most vulnerable neighbors (as well as ourselves) by staying home, staying safe, and practicing social distancing to “flatten the curve.” In an effort to inspire acts of assistance with even greater impact, members of the technology community have teamed up to form #Tech4TR—an alliance to help our most vulnerable neighbors through Team Rubicon’s Neighbors Helping Neighbors initiative.

Team Rubicon serves communities by mobilizing veterans to continue their service, leveraging their skills and experience to help people prepare, respond, and recover from disasters and humanitarian crises. Since its founding in 2010, Team Rubicon has deployed to over 500 events in regions hard hit by natural disasters, such as Hurricanes Harvey and Dorian.

Now Team Rubicon has leveraged that strength and pivoted to provide volunteers and resources in regions across the nation in response to COVID-19. While Team Rubicon’s volunteer ranks include tens of thousands of veterans, they also include emergency first responders and dedicated civilians.

How is Team Rubicon Helping?

In this very challenging time, our most vulnerable neighbors need us more than ever. People are isolated and scared. Americans in higher health risk groups are concerned about going to stores to shop for food. Single parents with small children struggle to get out to get prescriptions. Homeless men and women need safe, sanitary shelters. Team Rubicon certified volunteers—called “greyshirts”—are helping to address all of these needs and more.

Here are some examples of what Team Rubicon and their greyshirt volunteers are doing:

  • Working with hunger relief organization Feeding America to sort and distribute tons of food.
  • Building and staffing temporary hospital overflow facilities and shelters.
  • Operating COVID-19 testing stations.
  • Providing logistical and call center support for health agencies.

In order to inspire additional communities to assist in the pandemic, Team Rubicon established the #NeighborsHelpingNeighbors initiative to meet a wide range of community needs through safe individual acts of service.

Following protocols, you can stay safe and maintain social distance while helping vulnerable neighbors and community members remain in their homes through actions such as:

  • Delivering food, prescriptions, and supplies.
  • Mowing lawns and walking dogs.
  • Providing transportation assistance.

Many needs are right in your neighborhood—and people seeking assistance are currently using neighborhood hub app and online service Nextdoor and Facebook Communities to alert Team Rubicon. Some people just need some contact—a phone call, a knock on the door, or a distance check-in from behind a glass door 6 feet away. These are all safe acts of service that make a difference and provide welcome relief from feelings of isolation. In addition to volunteering, you can also help by making a donation to Team Rubicon.

What is Tech for TR?

I have the privilege of working with our teams at Wipfli to drive the digital transformation of Team Rubicon. The technology community sees immense value in supporting the Team Rubicon initiative. We have come together to challenge each other to be good neighbors, to volunteer, and to donate.

How can you get involved?

I encourage you and your organization to get involved with Neighbors Helping Neighbors right now by heading to the Tech4TR portal. To hear more about this program on how to get engaged, view this recording from our kickoff, “Volunteer to Help Your Neighbors: Team Rubicon’s COVID-19 Initiative.

CNN also broadcast a great piece about Team Rubicon and Neighbors Helping Neighbors. Check it out: “CNN Heroes: Team Rubicon’s COVID-19 Response.”


Ryan Risley is a Team Rubicon “greyshirt” volunteer as well as Partner and CTO of Wipfli LLP, where he leads the firm’s CIO Advisory Practice. He is the ATF Advocacy Advisor for Voices for Innovation and serves as the Americas advocacy chair of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP). He is the president emeritus of the IAMCP’s Washington D.C. chapter, an Eagle scout, and the doting husband of Elizabeth.

Spread Kindness, Extend Grace, and Give Back to Our Community

Editor’s Note: Voices for Innovation leader and AvePoint CMO Dux Raymond Sy shares how his company has stepped forward to support remote work collaboration during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo of DuxIn these trying times, it is heartwarming to witness people coming together to support each other to overcome challenges we are facing. It’s clear that all of us can help in many ways and make an impact in our respective communities.

Ever since Microsoft announced they would be offering Microsoft Teams for free, we’ve been thinking about how AvePoint can help those who support the digital workplace during these unusual times.

Microsoft Teams and Office 365 are seeing their usage surge as the digital workplace becomes, well, the workplace. However, we are seeing IT teams heroically firefighting issues as their organization’s collaboration environments and processes become overrun with well-meaning collaborators.

And let’s face it, having hundreds of users suddenly being directed to a new service while not having any direct, physical access to IT is a HUGE challenge.

The heroes that make remote work possible are AvePoint’s people. They have grown with us for more than 19 years and we’d like to give something back to help them scale during this time.

Our Microsoft Teams #WFHready Kit

What we have seen across organizations is that collaboration structures and processes are moving online, which mean a lot of new virtual workspaces like Microsoft Teams, SharePoint sites, and Office 365 Groups.

We are also seeing admins fielding a lot of restore requests as users store more data in Office 365 and find creative ways to lose it.

To that end we are offering:

  • GroupHub Free Through 2020: If your users are getting buried in the amount of Teams, SharePoint sites, or other Office 365 workspaces they have joined in the last few weeks, GroupHub is a powerful tool to help them organize their digital workspace. Users can find, search through, and access their virtual workspaces and public workspaces in just two clicks. You can even group workspaces by function (group your Office 365 groups!). Now all of your department or management workspaces can be accessed from a central hub whether it is a Team, site, or Group. Previously $6 per user per year, its now available for free with 24×7 support.
  • AVA: When Office 365 users accidentally delete—or can’t locate—files, documents, or emails, they won’t need to call IT. Instead, they can chat directly with our helpful bot in Microsoft Teams. She will automatically perform a search based on the user’s permissions in Exchange, Outlook, and OneDrive’s recycle bin to restore the requested item (even if it’s out of place). She’s even more powerful when connected to Cloud Backup.
  • WFH Kickstart Session: Office 365 and Microsoft Teams experts from AvePoint will be freely available for a consultation to recommend how you can best move to, configure or manage Office 365 to support remote work for your organization. We’ll assess your current collaboration landscape, sensitive information concerns, remote worker experience, growth planning, and more!

Check out our Microsoft Teams #WFHready Kit for additional details.

Why More Americans Can’t Work Remotely

For millions of Americans, our nation’s broadband infrastructure has made the switch to working from home possible. We hardly need to miss a beat.

Unfortunately, broadband in the U.S. doesn’t reach far enough. Millions of people, especially in rural communities, don’t have affordable, reliable access to broadband. They can’t work online, they can’t access online information, and they can’t access telehealth right now when it’s most needed.

Through my work at AvePoint, I’m thankful for the opportunity to support solutions that empower digital workers. And as an active member of Voices for Innovation, I’m grateful to be able to support public policies aimed at giving more people a chance to benefit from technology.

This past year, VFI has helped advance public policies that are closing the broadband gap. Our nation has pulled together to fight COVID-19. When we get past this crisis, we must continue to work together to finish closing the digital divide.

COVID-19 Work from Home Resources

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans—and many more worldwide—are now working from home. For many, this is a period of enormous stress and adjustment.

Fortunately, a wealth of online resources, services, and apps can help you set up your home office, work productively, and stay engaged and social. Today, we’ll share some links and ideas to help you get started.

We also want to hear from you. Let us know what’s working for you by tweeting and tagging us at @vfiorg or email us at outreach@voicesforinnovationaction.org.


Whether you’re setting up a new home office or settling into one you’ve already organized, it’s worth taking some time to check on the ergonomics of your equipment, furniture, and work area. The right ergonomic set-up can help you prevent repetitive stress and strain-related injuries. Check out these resources:




Remember, in addition to preventing repetitive injuries, keep in mind that slip-and-fall accidents account for a large share of office injuries. Fix loose carpet or flooring, move cords out of trafficked areas, and change those ceiling lights using a ladder, not a chair.

Apps and Services

There are a countless number of apps and online services that can help you work from home and collaborate with others. Many free or freemium tools are available, though some have recently experienced hiccups under the surge of new users. Here are two roundups of remote work tools:

Inc. has also put together a great list of resources that includes grants, relief funds, and services for small businesses.

As a Microsoft-supported organization, VFI wants to call attention to Microsoft’s fast-growing collaboration tool, Teams, which includes chat, collaboration, calling, and online meetings. If your company already uses Office 365, you may already have access to Teams—and there is a free version as well.

Two VFI partner leaders have recently posted videos with Teams information and tutorials:

Best Practices

If you’re new to working at home, the experience can be daunting and isolating. Here are two resources from Microsoft to help you stay productive, balanced, and socially engaged:

We’ll be sharing more resources and ideas on social media and in our weekly Executive Briefing. If you don’t receive the Executive Briefing and would like to, just let us know by emailing us at outreach@voicesforinnovationaction.org.

FCC Advances Rulemaking to Close Broadband Gap

Voices for Innovation, along with a wide range of organizations, recently urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to move forward with new rulemaking to foster the deployment of TV White Spaces (TVWS) technology. This technology can provide wireless broadband connectivity over several miles and is a critical tool for closing the broadband gap, especially in rural America.

As part of our effort, we submitted a letter to the FCC signed by more than 100 primarily small business leaders in support of new TVWS rules. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai cited our support shortly after placing his rulemaking proposal on the agenda for the FCC’s February 28 meeting.

At the February 28 meeting, FCC commissioners unanimously approved the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to update TVWS rules “to pave the way for improved broadband coverage for rural Americans.”

More Work Ahead

The FCC’s action represents an important milestone in closing the broadband divide, but it is just one step forward. Now the technical work on developing rules needs to move forward—ideally with completion by the end of the year.

It’s also critical that the FCC quickly and fully implement new policies to better collect data about the availability of broadband connectivity. We cannot fully address this challenge until we accurately measure it.

Submitting the letter to the FCC was just one part of our effort to advance TVWS policymaking. VFI members from across the country also shared their views on social media and have communicated with their members of Congress about this issue as well.

We’ll continue to remain engaged on this issue and will keep our members up to date about progress in Washington and around the country. Our end goal is to see all of America with broadband coverage.

Hire a Vet!

On February 11, Voices for Innovation was proud to host a great webinar with U.S. Marine Corps Major General Chris Cortez (Ret.), vice president of Microsoft Military Affairs, “Hire a Vet! How MSSA Can Help You Find Top IT Talent.”

General Cortez walked participants through the achievements of a great IT training program—Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA)—that benefits Microsoft partners, transitioning U.S. service members and veterans, and the broader tech sector.

Map showing MSSA locations.

MSSA operates on military bases across the nation, providing intensive training to vets and service members for careers in technology. MSSA also goes a step further: it connects Microsoft partners, recruiters, and other technology companies with MSSA graduates who are prepared to contribute to the IT sector.

Please consider signing up today as an MSSA hiring partner and hiring vets!

During the webinar, we also heard from Mike Powers of TEKsystems, who talked about the strength of new hires coming out of the MSSA program. Mike described MSSA grads as “driven” and “proactive.” He noted too that they have working knowledge, not just theoretical knowledge. Another plus, program participants’ “ability to work in diverse environments is exceptional.”

The webinar also included a demo of the Hiring Portal, where hiring managers can search for students and graduates of the MSSA program. Hiring companies can also visit MSSA sites to meet students and observe classes.

In addition to having many Microsoft partners participate in the webinar, we were joined by representatives of Hiring Our Heroes, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and staffing agency Robert Half.

You can watch the complete webinar below: