Focus: Corporate Responsibility - Side by side

For eight years, Leonard Cheshire and Microsoft have forged a partnership that offers computer training to disabled people.

MARK BISHOP, HEAD OF CORPORATE FUNDRAISING, LEONARD CHESHIRE

Leonard Cheshire has been working with Microsoft on digital inclusion since 1997.

We benefit from Microsoft through grants from its Unlimited Potential programme and in-kind gifts, such as the free licences for use of its software on our computer training programmes.

Two high-profile projects are supported by Microsoft.

With Workability, designed to help disabled clients find employment, we give people a refurbished computer for home use, an internet connection and access to training materials. Over the past eight years, more than half of the 4,000 participants have found employment or gone into further education. The second programme, Discover IT, trains people in how to communicate via email and browse the web.

The biggest challenge we face is that we are very ambitious, but the ideas we have need additional funding to make them a reality. It takes time to show potential funders that investing in an existing programme is better than concentrating efforts on something new. That's a shame that I hope can be addressed.

CHARLOTTE DRAIN, COMMUNITY INVESTMENT MANAGER, MICROSOFT UK

When Microsoft began its partnership with Leonard Cheshire in 1997, CSR was getting into the media. As a leading company, Microsoft believed it should get involved.

More recently, Microsoft and Leonard Cheshire established five Discover IT centres in the UK. Discover IT is a training programme that allows disabled people to access communications technology on their own terms.

The centres have been a great success and the project will roll out further in the coming months.

Microsoft funded the Discover IT project, providing special adaptations and training for supervisors at the centres.

Leonard Cheshire was one of the first charities in the UK chosen by Microsoft to receive an Unlimited Potential grant. We have spent £150,000 in cash so far, as well as donating the software and funding the training curriculum.

The charity was an ideal partner for Microsoft because of its leadership in working with disabled people to ensure they achieve their full potential - it seemed the right charity because of the passion its people showed.

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