Inspiration is the Purpose of Gatherings like the Social Good Summit?
Yesterday the Social Good Summit closed in New York . The 3 day summit is billed as an occasion where big ideas meet new media to create innovative solutions. You notice this intent even in the language around the Social Good Summit that encouraged attendees to see the world differently. Keynote listeners, rather than Keynote speakers, ran the agenda and raised big questions. This language suggested that no one person had all the answers and that the audience was a participant in creating solutions. So for me, inspiration is the purpose for attending gatherings such as this. You are pushed to think out of the box.
Think about these agenda questions: What happens beyond the university? How will we cope with the struggle for the future of attention? How will broadband change the world? How will the New Africa rising look? How will a digital revolution powered by women look? If you believe in sustainability, how will we end energy poverty? What will we use to power the world?
In no other space in my private life do I have the opportunity for this particular experience. Rock star celebrities, UN and country representatives, foundation VIPS, corporate sustainability officers; mothers like LaShaun Martin, connecting for a healthier world, and Pete Cashmore, Mashable CEO, Henry Timms, Interim Executive Director of the 92Y and others. It is hard not to be inspired when one sees the impact of instituting seemingly common practices like hand-washing somewhere else on the planet. Inspiration once again is the purpose for attending gatherings like this.
A particular highlight for me was the 12 minute segment with Malala Yousafazai (pictured above), the young Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for attending school. Her impact in the world is yet to be felt — I would wager. And it was inspiring to hear her speak about her dreams and to see that she is well.
I learned there is a program to save lives that has been developed around hand-washing in a campaign to help every child reach 5; Al Gore moderated a segment on the Climate Reality Project, and reminded the audience that 12 of the hottest years measured globally occurred during the last 15 years. Gore’s message was that dirty energy causes dirty weather. Simple and profound. Too bad he was not as passionate when he ran for office years back as he is today about the climate. He probably would have been president.
Just imagine the world with the 3 billion more people who are scheduled to come out of poverty by the year 2030 and join the middle class. There are 2 billion today. This thought should give you pause in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and recent floods in Colorado, even if you do not believe in climate change. It is time to begin thinking about the future now, the Summit theme urged. As will.i.am said, if you want to know what the world will be like in 2030, take a look at a 5 year old.
Act rather than criticize was my takeaway. Although I try not to focus on the racial imbalance between those who speak for the weak and the weak, the fact is the face of social good is invariably white and the weak tend to be people in a color range. This troubles me. Most high powered campaigns that you remember have ambassadors like Bono or the young man who lead the fight against Kony. But there are others like Kumi Naidoo who leads Greenpeace and Teddy Ruge of Project Diaspora, who do important work in the Social Good space. And there are community people doing important work. Their message is important to future generations.
Hasan Minaj, an American comedian of Indian descent, closed the conference speaking on the power of comedy as a tool for social change. He shared a conversation he had with Bill Cosby. In this conversation Cosby helped him understand it is the comedian’s responsibility to make their audience understand that everyone’s story is the same. To paraphrase Hasan, we all love, fear loss, and hope for a better future. It doesn’t matter where one lives.
This message and the very real solutions that individuals and organizations are implementing to solve problems like clean water, malaria, and more efficient energy is why I attend conferences such as the Social Good Summit. In a word, it is inspiring.
Tell me, are you working on a project in your neighborhood or community? Please share to help others understand that you don’t have to discover a cure for pancreatic cancer as 17 year old Jack Andraka did to make a difference in the world. Just use your voice . This may be enough to prompt another reader to action.