LAS VEGAS — It’s no surprise to anyone who follows Cisco that the company has put increasing importance and spotlight on its corporate social responsibility efforts over the last couple of years.
The networking giant has made big bets, including high profile efforts like tackling homelessness in Silicon Valley and closer to home, the Connected North program that helps northern schools get teleconferencing access to educators and researchers through Canada and around the world.
Cisco talked to its partners about the importance of being a positive presence in their communities. And kicking off the company’s Partner Summit 2019 here, CEO Chuck Robbins invited the company’s partners to get involved.
Robbins previewed an extension of its existing Global Problem Solver to include the company’s partner ecosystems. Since 2016, Cisco has run annual Global Problem Solver contests, which seeks to find college students and recent grads with big ideas around using technology for social good. Winners are awarded cash to help them start their business.
Starting in May of next year and culminating at next year’s Partner Summit, Robbins said Cisco would launch a “Global Problem Solver, Partner Edition” program, inviting its partners to participate on many levels. Robbins said partners could get involved as judges, helping to find and mentor contest participants, or providing funding for winners.
He even extended the offer for partners to offer their own Global Problem Solver competition alongside Cisco’s program, providing their own funding and using Cisco’s resources and collateral to promote their efforts. Any partner that runs their own competition, Robbins said, will be invited (along with the winners of their competition) on-stage at next year’s Partner Summit.
“With all the societal issues that exist today, we have to take a more active role than we ever have before as businesses around the world,” Robbins told partners, adding that he challenged his team to do a program with partners like this just six weeks ago. “We’re going to bring this group together over the next 12 months, and we’re going to have some fun doing it.”
In a blog post announcing the program, Tae Yoo, senior vice president of corporate affairs, says the program will start on May 27 of next year, with winners announced at Partner Summit in November 2020.
Back in 2016, we launched the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge, which recognizes post-secondary students and recent graduates who are creating breakthrough technologies, products, and services that drive economic development and solve social and environmental problems.
Since then, we have awarded nearly $1 million to change agents around the world. These innovators have developed solutions to bring fetal heart monitoring to the homes of rural mothers-to-be in India; to rapidly detect cholera; to provide affordable, solar-powered irrigation to smallholder farmers; and more.
Starting in May 2020, Cisco partners will be able to support this program – enabling us to expand the number of entrepreneurs we can benefit.
Yoo invited partners interested in learning more or thinking about offering their own sponsored prize, to get in touch with the Cisco team by email at email@example.com.
In a briefing with press Tuesday afternoon, Robbins said he looked at the program as “the first in a whole series of things” the company will be looking to do with partners, and that he sees great opportunity around partners as a force multiplier around the Cisco’s corporate social responsibility efforts.
”The way I see it, we’ve got about half a million people around the world we could activate around these things,” he said, noting that the Global Problem Solver Partner Edition program largely came about as a way for Cisco to “respond to a request from partners to help them mobilize their teams with us.”