This year’s Social Good Summit was full of examples of people fusing their passion for a cause with their expertise in technology. Thankfully all of the sessions are available online if you need a healthy dose energy and motivation. Here are my favorite highlights from yesterday’s events:
Making It Real
Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and co-author with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, of the book Half the Sky, delivered one of the most-anticipated and talked-about conversations about their partnership with Games for Change. Kristof and WuDunn have dedicated their lives and careers to covering social cause issues in the most ravaged parts of the world. To raise societal consciousness, they have co-developed a set of Facebook games to help others understand the impossible choices and desperate circumstances of marginalized populations. Their book has also been expanded into a mini-series that will air on October 1st and 2nd on PBS. Details here: http://www.halftheskymovement.org/
Empowerment Through Low-Tech Solutions
Anthony Lake and Clay Shirky made the case for low-tech two-way communication over high-tech one-way communication. They highlighted u-report, an initiative in Uganda, that is empowering local communities to take responsibility for their health by disseminating information and results of programs through mobile SMS service. To date, u-report has 147,000+ users that are spreading information and local data about health topics such as vaccinations, sex education, and breast-feeding. This program fits the principle that, “Ideas must be aggregated for impact,” said Shirky. “Go where the people are. Tech in the field needs to be low-tech to be widely accessible.” Follow the conversation on this topic on Twitter, hashtag #Promise4Children, and come together for child survival by visiting APromiseRenewed.org.
It Took a Village to Get the Lady to the Harbor
The crowdfunding discussions rehashed a lot of the facts and figures on their impressive impact that have been surfaced over the last few years. There’s no doubt that tech has vastly improved the efficiency and speed of crowdfunding. In all of our tech crazed eyes, we forget that crowdfunding is an ancient concept. For centuries, people have been banding together to do good work in their communities. My favorite example comes from New York Harbor. When France gave the Statue of Liberty to America, they forgot to create a pedestal. The people of New York, rallied together by Pulitzer, the publisher who ran a small print publication that would become the New York Times, pooled their funding to construct the pedestal. Over 100,000 people gave an average of $0.89 each to make it happen. Thanks to Danae Ringelmann, Co-Founder, Indiegogo, for reminding us of this historic act of generosity that demonstrates the power of community.
Of Food and Music
Angelique Kidjo is a world-renowned singer and songwriter. Originally from Benin, she is a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, and never one to back down in the face of adversity, she spends a lot of her time advocating for women and girls around the globe. Anthony Lake shared the stage with her and explained that simple basic nutrition information is a tool that is incredibly effective and drastically underutilized in development work. He went on to detail the condition of Stunting that affects 160 million children worldwide. If children do not receive proper nutrition (not quantity but quality and variety of food) by age 2, they will suffer from permanent cognitive impairments. Getting help to these children in the earliest days of their lives is critical to building a peaceful, productive world.
In honor of the work of UNICEF, Angelique sang a gorgeous impromptu spiritual for all of us. I have no idea what she was saying, but I felt her emotion in every syllable and she brought tears to my eyes. For the first time in 3 days, the auditorium went completely silent except for her voice.
Everyone’s an Idea Person
So, you’re an idea person who wants to stretch the boundaries of human impact? The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has thrown down the gauntlet. Get your idea down, send it in, and they’ll evaluate it for funding – $100K for a pilot with the potential of $1M to gain leverage and grow it. Visit grandchallenges.org for more information.
Audacious Ideas Get Support
The Global Fund and Wikipedia called on all of us to get creative with our mission statements. If Wikipedia had called people together to write a series of articles on any given topic, the reaction would have been mild at best. Instead, Founder Jimmy Wales put together a far grander vision – “to create a free encyclopedia for every person in every language.” It’s an enormous, unfathomable goal, and impossibility excites people to get involved. Who doesn’t love to be the underdog and triumph?
Transfer this kind of thinking to the issue of HIV / AIDS and you understand why The Global Fund has the audacity to dream of a world free of HIV in our lifetime. As they pointed out, we have eradicated diseases before. Small Pox is an excellent example. So why couldn’t we do the same thing with HIV / AIDS?
Reuniting Families Torn Apart
The Danish NGO Refugees United has partnered with Ericsson to reunite refugees separated by war. They have developed an online and mobile platform that creates profiles of refugees and then runs these profiles through a series of algorithms to match people to family members. They’ve engaged with 200,000 people to-date, mostly in Sub-saharan Africa. In 3 years, they want to grow the platform to 1 million people. Find out how to be a part of the solution at RefugeesUnited.org.
Conferences like the Social Good Summit fire people up in the moment, but what happens when they get back to their everyday lives. How do we keep this goodness going? Here’s my advice: go through the agenda from this year’s Social Good Summit, identify the cause you care about, and then connect with the people from the Summit who are involved with that cause.
Email them, follow their blogs and social media channels, send a card, or heck, send a carrier pigeon. Do what you can to reach out and build a bridge to someone who cares about the issues you care about. Build something together for the good of the world. In the words of Timothy Leary, “Find the others.”