Feature Story

Cisco brings the good with Global Citizen in South Africa

by Stephanie Chan

global citizen

The Global Citizen Festival brought Cisco leaders, celebrities, and concert-goers together in the fight against poverty.

Cisco Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins took the stage in front of 70,000 concert attendees in Johannesburg, South Africa to announce the commitment to ending extreme poverty by preparing 10 million people for jobs in the next five years. Robbins was joined on stage by Soso Luningo, a Cisco Networking Academy (NetAcad) student from Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Luningo was able to take networking and IT education courses through NetAcad, which dramatically transformed her life. Now a Chief Solutions Engineer, Luningo is just one of 300,000 women who enrolled in Networking Academy in the last year.

Cisco's new commitment aims to prepare individuals like Luningo with the tools and education necessary to change their careers and their lives. By preparing a workforce who is ready to thrive in the era of digital transformation, many will be able to lift themselves out of poverty.

The scene took place at the annual Global Citizen Festival—where headliners like Beyoncé and Jay-Z joined to perform and celebrate the 100-year anniversary of activist Nelson Mandela's birthday. The festival also brought communities together to promote non-profit Global Citizen's goal to end poverty by the year 2030. Many concert-goers took actions with the advocacy organization like signing petitions or making a phone call to be able to win tickets. Everybody was present with a goal to make the world better for everyone.  

Robbins stated, "There may be 70,000 of us here, but we all have one desire—to answer Nelson Mandela's call. Having already trained 9 million people through Networking Academy, today, we're doubling down on this."

With Cisco's own commitment to positively impact people, society, and the planet by 2025, a partnership with Global Citizen only made sense. The company has been connecting humans to each other since its inception more than 30 years ago. Robbins joined Cisco EVP and leader of the company's People Strategy and Human Resources Organization Fran Katsoudas to bring Cisco leadership presence to the event. Both Global Citizen and Cisco align to achieving the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals. The list of 17 goals aims for a better world by the year 2030, and the first on the list is to end poverty.

Today, Cisco is using its technology to help the people, society, environment and wildlife in South Africa and beyond. Beyond the commitment to global education and job preparation, here's what Cisco is doing to bring the good and elevate positivity with Global Citizen.

Global Citizen Prize for Youth Leadership

The Global Citizen Prize for Youth Leadership presented by Cisco is a partnership award between Global Citizen and Cisco that honors a young person who is advancing one or more of the U.N. Global Goals and who is positively impacting the world. The prize of US $250,000 towards the winners' organization of choice is based on the belief that the youth are leading the way to create solutions to reach and meet the Global Goals.

"Global Citizen shares our vision for connecting people to solve some of the world's most challenging problems," said Robbins, "At Cisco, we are focused on combining the power of technology with a generation of problem solvers who seek to the change the world, and with this award, we hope to inspire even more people to make a difference, and change lives."

Robbins announced the winner Wawira Njiru on stage at the festival, celebrating the work of her organization Food 4 Education. Founder and Executive Director Njiru is helping solve the Zero Hunger Global Goal by working with vulnerable children in Kenyan public schools to provide subsidized, nutritious school lunches.

Food for Education has so far provided 400,000 school meals that have improved school attendance and performance. The food is sourced fresh from farmers and use a central kitchen model to provide the meals to urban public primary schools. Njiru plans to scale the number of children served from the current 2000 a day, to 20,000 a day in the next year.

In the future, Cisco hopes to continue awarding more young leaders across areas of the Sustainable Development Goals like hunger, education, gender equality, water and sanitation, and the environment.

Walking for water

Cisco's booth at the Global Citizen festival was outfitted with two treadmills, water, and backdrops of desert terrain. Participants walked the treadmill facing images of hot backdrops to convey just a tiny version of the 200 million hours women and girls walk every day to collect water for their families. The footage of desert terrain was also overlaid with water facts, like how more than 2 billion people worldwide lack access to safe water, and 2.4 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation.

This empathy exercise encouraged concert-goers to walk just 60 seconds—with every 500 minutes reached, Cisco would contribute to water availability efforts. Achieving clean water is one of the UN's Global Goals, and part of Cisco's commitment to positively impact one billion people by 2025. Clean drinking water and sustainable management of sanitation needs to be provided for necessary hygiene and quality of life.

Be The Bridge

In much of the same way, Cisco employees had the chance to win a trip to Johannesburg and attend the Global Citizen Festival by submitting the ways that they positively impact the world.

This internal contest allowed employees to nominate themselves or others who they believe are doing good in their daily lives. These submissions were judged on how they have impacted a person, group, community, or country, and if they have aligned with the company's goal to positively impact ones billion people by 2025. 20 total winners were announced during Cisco's monthly all-hands meeting, Cisco Beat. Robbins said he was incredibly humbled to spend time with Cisco's Bridge Award winners before the festival, a group he said "inspires us all."


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