Multiplying the Impact of Social Innovation

Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the second annual Clinton Global Initiative America, Thursday, June 7, 2012, in Chica
Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the second annual Clinton Global Initiative America, Thursday, June 7, 2012, in Chicago. Clinton urged those attending the two-day event to invest in projects that will create jobs. Among the goals, he said, were to share ideas in the areas of housing recovery, education, clean energy and helping returning war veterans find employment. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

When private sector, government, social and philanthropic leaders apply innovative partnerships and technologies to address social challenges and build sustainable communities, the impact is multiplied.

I'm reminded of this phenomenon when I attend events like this week's Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting. Over the course of the conference, I am always impressed by the number of individuals, companies and organizations that are prepared to turn their ideas into action - to find ways to make a difference from poverty alleviation to education and improving healthcare.

The spirit of this model of collaboration is to gather many voices - experts in multiple fields and leaders in the communities which we serve -- and it is reflected in the Huffington Post section Impact X, which we are proud to announce today during this year's CGI. The Impact X section of the Huffington Post website aims to amplify real-world stories of sustainable success through the power of human and technology networks.

One initiative that we believe demonstrates how to apply collective passion and technology to address social and economic needs is the Cisco Networking Academy® program. Established 15 years ago to help meet the growing global demand for workers with information and communications technology (ICT) skills, the Networking Academy program has evolved from one school in East Palo Alto, California to 10,000 Academies serving one million concurrent students in 165 countries today.

Networking Academy has become the "world's largest classroom" thanks to the innovative use of technology and public-private partnerships. Cisco works with educational institutions, non-governmental organizations, governments, and community centers that provide classroom space, computer lab equipment, and qualified instructors. Cisco provides online, up-to-date curricula - delivered via the cloud - to students from all socio-economic backgrounds - as well as professional development for instructors. This collaborative partnership helps students prepare for entry-level ICT jobs, pursue additional training or education, and earn globally-recognized certification so they can design, build, maintain and secure networks that form the backbone of today's -- and tomorrow's -- global economy.

The Networking Academy program has trained more than 4 million students to date. Many graduates - from San Diego to Nigeria to Japan - have gone on to successful careers in ICT while others have harnessed the entrepreneurial spirit and knowledge they acquired in the program to start their own businesses and create new jobs.

Take Rebecca Baca. At the age of 27, Rebecca was a single, working mother struggling to make ends meet. In an effort to secure a better future, she moved back home to attend the Cisco Networking Academy program at Central New Mexico Community College. Rebecca completed various levels of certification, obtained a job with a local IT company, and is now the technical lead for a large management solution project, which will be utilized at 19 sites across the United States.

Across the Atlantic, a young woman named Ntombozuko Luningo, called Soso, grew up in a small village in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Soso comes from a poor upbringing and is the oldest of four siblings. Her parents were both unemployed with her father's pension providing their sole means of financial support. Now, as Soso puts it: "I have a lot of titles." After attending the Cisco Networking Academy at CIDA City Campus (CIDA) in Johannesburg, Soso went on to become a Network Administrator, and eventually became a Networking Academy instructor at her alma mater, CIDA. Ultimately, she dreams of one day running her own Networking Academy so that she can help more students succeed.

This brings us back to where we started -- and our goal for the future - to multiply our impact through the power of the network. Initiatives that are scalable, replicable, and sustainable... that is what we can achieve if we work together. We hope the people and communities you encounter when you visit Impact X on the Huffington Post will inspire new ideas about how you can leverage your own networking to multiply your impact. Please share your stories of impact by emailing us at Impactx@huffingtonpost.com, participate in the conversations at #ImpactX or follow us at @CiscoCSR.

Check http://csr.cisco.com/ for more information about Impact X.