The Social Good Summit kicked off today with an exciting round of presentations a varied lineup of billionaires, entrepreneurs, nonprofit enthusiasts, and senior government officials. I’ve seldom been to a conference with a more content-dense four hours of presenters (which even managed to stay on time through around 3:30 pm!), and met some interesting and insightful individuals interested in development and gobal issues from a wide range of perspectives.
While it’s hard to distill so much conversation and information into short bullet points, there were a few themes that emerged throughout the day.
1. People care. There is a huge interest in finding ways to leverage technology and social networks for good, and individuals and organizations are finding interesting new ways to make progress. Idealist is launching a service to “connect dots and connect people,” piloting in NYC. One Laptop Per Child reached a milestone in Uruguay, where every child 5-15 years of age has a laptop, which has revolutionized both learning in the classroom and at home. And Charity : Water is taking their transparency to the next level by allowing donors to see exactly what project their dollars went to in honor of their fifth anniversary. No one dedicates their life and professional career to these ventures without caring.
2. Health is fundamental. Ted Turner said it right up front: “Health care is not controversial…Everybody’s for better health for children and everybody else.” Throughout the day, other presenters, including Raj Shah and Christy Turlington Burns, talked about why global health matters, everywhere from the Horn of Africa* to rural Bangladesh. And here too.
3. Embrace social media as a tool for good. Alec Ross closed out the day with a presentation on the role of networks in foreign policy, telling an interesting story about Hillary Clinton and a half hour online roundtable hosted by an Egyptian firm, where she took hard hitting questions from Egyptian youth critical of America and it’s role during their revolution. There was no mahogany-table photo op for Politico, but, as Ross said, “her answers earned her some serious street cred.” Social media provides those kind of opportunities to connect, crossing normal hierarchical boundaries and geographical lines. To quote Ross again:
“Established authorities are now having to contend with this disruption [of social media]. And they can fight it, litigate it, or find ways to work with it. By fighting it, they swim against the tide of history.”
4. Believe in your own abilities. And, if you follow Ted Turner’s advice, “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, but advertise.” Young people, particularly those in college and their twenties, are going to have to be the ones to advocate for improved policies on climate change, overfishing, health, and all sorts of other things (according to Ted), and we’re only more powerful as individuals when we come together around a common cause. Monique, the famous singer who served as an ambassador for the UN, said it well when asked how young people can make a difference. Part of her answer focused on connecting to others, but in summary she said:
“Every young person [should] pursue their greatest passion, and inside of themselves say what aspect can be applied toward social good…I don’t want young people to have to wait till they become successful to make a difference.”
If today was any indication, there are a number of us young people who have connected to causes we care about and speak to with great passion, which keeps me excited for what’s to come in the next few days of the summit.
*If you’re looking to take action around the health and humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, due to the ongoing drought and famine, check out my post about the new USAID FWD (Famine, War, and Drought Relief) campaign over on the MCHIP blog. FWD is a progressive and smart website launched today by the Agency to better connect Americans with what’s happening on the ground, both good and bad.