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Social investment strategy

Our approach is to fund early-stage, technology-enabled solutions that have measurable outcomes for beneficiaries, can scale to reach more people, and be replicated to multiple geographies.

Learn more about our grantees:

These investments help enable our nonprofit partners to design and deliver technology-based solutions to improve how they operate and reach underserved communities. They also support conditions for the communities our partners work in to thrive.

Cisco invests in early-stage solutions within our four social investment focus areas:

Crisis response

We seek to help overcome the cycle of poverty and dependence and achieve a more sustainable future through strategic investments. We support organizations that successfully address critical needs of underserved communities, because those who have their basic needs met are better equipped to learn and thrive.

Access to education

Our strategy is to inclusively invest in technology-based solutions that increase equitable access to education while improving student performance, engagement, and career exploration. We support K-12 solutions that emphasize science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) as well as literacy. We also consider programs that teach environmental sustainability, eliminate barriers to accessing climate change education, and invite student engagement globally to positively affect the environment.

Economic empowerment

Our strategy is to invest in early stage, tech-enabled solutions that provide equitable access to the knowledge, skills, and resources that people need to support themselves and their families toward resilience, independence, and economic security. Our goal is to support solutions that benefit individuals and families, and that contribute to local community growth and economic development in a sustainable economy.

Climate impact and regeneration

In 2021, the Cisco Foundation committed to invest US$100 million over the next 10 years in innovative and/or imaginative climate solutions that drive forward net-zero or circular/regenerative economies, and community education and engagement around climate, eco-awareness, and working toward individual habit change and effective collaborative action. This could include supporting partners that reduce, capture, or sequester emissions; increase energy efficiency; create green jobs; and create community climate resilience.

Social investment approach

Early stages of new technology development tend to be where funding is most needed and where we can make the biggest difference. Being a technology company, we understand the power of technology to reach as many people as possible, and we strive to reach the most vulnerable to ensure everyone has equitable access to client-centric, effective solutions. Cash funding, donations of Cisco technology, and our staff time and expertise help our nonprofit partners apply technology to:

  • Create innovative solutions targeting individual and community needs
  • Implement proof-of-concept pilots to validate viability of solutions
  • Improve the delivery, quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of their products and services
  • Scale to reach more people
  • Replicate to multiple sectors and geographies globally
  • Validate social impact
  • Make progress toward financial sustainability
  • Use data for better decision-making

We also provide our nonprofit partners with ongoing consulting services, advisory support, and technical expertise in areas including:

  • Business planning and strategy development
  • Organizational leadership capacity
  • Financial sustainability planning
  • Impact evaluation and reporting
  • Governance and operational structure

It is important to confirm that the solutions we invest in make a difference. We work closely with the nonprofits we fund to measure their effectiveness and impact. This measurement also provides partners with insights on how to improve their services and assists them in raising funds from other sources. We measure both breadth (number of people reached) and depth (the impact their programs are making). Depth is measured with a standard set of metrics for each of our four investment focus areas, as well as custom metrics specific to our partners' social objectives.

We also strive to ensure that solutions we support serve communities that need them most. At the time of submitting grant requests, nonprofit grantees must confirm that at least 65 percent of their programs' beneficiaries are from economically underserved population groups, which could include low-income individuals, underrepresented minorities and/or vulnerable populations (such as women and girls, youth, racial/ethnic minorities, and refugees or internally displaced persons). Post grant award, they must then reconfirm this when they submit quarterly and annual impact reports.

Social investment strategy

Stage 1: Blueprint

(Solution design
experimentation)

Stage 2: Validate

(Initial deployment, test solution)

Stage 3: Scale

(Expand and enhance)

Stage 4: Transition

(Financial
sustainability, exit)

Investment criteria
  • Technology-based
  • Replicable to multiple geographies
  • Scalable to reach more people inclusively
  • Path to financial sustainability
  • Target audience must be >65 percent economically underserved
  • Measurable social outcomes
  • Investment portfolios: crisis response, access to education, economic empowerment, climate impact, and regeneration

Assurance

Cisco made a commitment to positively impact 1 billion people by 2025 through our social impact grants and signature programs. As of fiscal 2022, we are over halfway to our goal. Between fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2022, 848 million people have been positively impacted.1

Supporting social entrepreneurs

Beyond grants to nonprofits, Cisco has launched several entrepreneurship awards programs that have become an important part of our strategy. These competitions enable entrepreneurs and changemakers to share their ideas on a global scale and, through our funding, advance their ideas to deliver results and impact. Learn more about competition winners.

India Cash Grant Program

As the home of one of Cisco's largest office campuses and thousands of employees, our presence in India is an important part of our culture and social impact programs. While Cisco has long supported nonprofits in India through donations, employee contributions, and volunteering, we created a formal program in fiscal 2015 to collaborate more effectively with key stakeholders. The India Cash Grant Program provides funding to organizations working in our focus areas of critical human needs and crisis response, education, and economic empowerment. In addition to the funding support extended to organizations, several employee champions provide advisory services to, and mentor organizations to support, overall capacity building.

One of the flagship initiatives of the program is Krishi Mangal, an accelerator for AgriTech startups that successfully completed its first cohort. The impact report of the initiative captures the journey of the five startups and the key takeaways from the implementation on the ground. The next cohort of the accelerator will focus on climate impact.

1 Some of our social impact grantees also receive funding from other organizations. Data for fiscal 2022 is currently subject to independent limited assurance. For details on the previous year's reporting of the number of people positively impacted between fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2021, please see our Reporting Criteria and the independent limited assurance report. To access the fiscal 2016-fiscal 2021 assurance report, download the PDF, and open in Adobe Acrobat Reader to click-to-accept terms to access the full document.