Improving communities through innovative grassroots projects in Chicago, North Holland, and Phoenix
Microsoft Datacenter Community Development grassroots programs are designed to mobilize local activities led by residents and employees in these communities. In two years, almost 200 citizen-driven projects have been funded based on community priorities, benefiting thousands of people.
This grassroots approach ensures that funds are widely accessible in communities and that diverse and hard-to-reach groups are engaged, particularly racial and ethnic minorities and those with lower incomes. It also allows Microsoft to deliver measurable impact quickly on sustainability and skilling priorities, which are driven by local community innovators.
Mobilizing community innovators with ChangeX
Microsoft started funding grassroots programs two years ago to deepen impact and engagement in its datacenter communities. Thanks to a partnership with ChangeX, pilot engagements in Chicago and the Phoenix area resulted in the completion of 51 sustainability projects; this approach has quickly been scaled to 10 communities across the US and Europe. Moving forward, the hope is to scale this program to even more datacenter communities globally. ChangeX acts as a force multiplier, providing a list of low-barrier, proven projects that can be easily launched for maximum impact.
ChangeX projects include planting events, food waste reduction, and water cleanup efforts. The easy process and quickly measurable benefits are appealing to many community activists. “We don’t have the money or time to set up a non-profit entity, so a lot of funding is not accessible to us. When I saw the Microsoft Sustainability Challenge in Chicago, I thought, ‘this can’t be true.’ The process was so easy and the platform was so user-friendly. It’s made for pragmatic people who just want to do something. It allowed us to use what we had in our hands to get the funding and to put so much more energy into the garden,” explains Pearl Ramsey, who started a Grow It Yourself community garden project in Chicago.
Launching a community solar program in Chicago
Common Energy Community Solar is a free program to help Chicago residents build and connect new clean energy projects to the Illinois electrical grid. Participation by Microsoft employees who live in the community will prevent carbon emissions and guarantee savings on electricity bills. Upon signup, clean energy from a solar farm is connected to the local utility, replacing fossil fuels while electricity flows as normal to participants’ homes. To increase social impact, Microsoft and Common Energy have expanded the partnership. For every person enrolled, Common Energy will contribute $25 to Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation (GECDC), one of Microsoft’s local non-profit partners. Common Energy will continue working with GECDC to reduce energy burdens by offering lower-cost clean energy; prepare local residents for green careers by delivering training, professional experience, and income in clean energy outreach roles; and enable social entrepreneurship through strategic funding, supporting clean energy in the state. To date, 74 Microsoft employees in Chicago have enrolled in the program, with 77 pending enrollments. Learn how you can participate by checking out the Community Solar page on Common Energy’s website.
Protecting marshlands in North Holland
Twenty-six Microsoft datacenter employees in North Holland worked with Staatsbosbeheer, the Dutch government forestry department, to hold a volunteer day to clean the mudflats of the Waddenzee, removing debris from the mudflats and making the surrounding ecosystem cleaner and healthier.
Volunteers filled 22 bags of garbage, a total of approximately 660 pounds of waste. The debris included a huge amount of interior foam, a 50-pound plastic pipe, and 2.5 gallon of chemical waste. The goal is to produce a positive change in people’s daily waste management by creating awareness and educating people about waste disposal and the importance of nature habitats.
Grassroots efforts in your community
ChangeX grassroots projects and community funds exist in many Microsoft datacenter communities in the US including Cheyenne, Des Moines, Northern Virginia, Phoenix, Quincy, San Antonio, and Southern Virginia as well as selected communities in Ireland, North Holland and Sweden. Visit the ChangeX site to learn more about funding and projects available in your area.
“The process was so easy and the platform was so user-friendly. It’s made for pragmatic people who just want to do something.”Pearl Ramsey, Project Leader