The Countdown is On

The Millennnium Development Goals (MDGs) were on display recently in New York and simulcast around the world during UN Week, the Social Good Summit, and the Clinton GlobalInitiative (#cgi2010) in addition to countless other events, meetups and city-wide opportunities.

One of the only events open to the public was the Social Good Summit (#socialgood), hosted by Mashable, the 92nd Street Y and the UN Foundation (another was TEDxChange). The Summit included over 20 leaders who spoke to a few hundred attendees including some of the best and the brightest in the social good space. This innovative Summit focused on discussions around real solutions addressing one of the Millennium Development Goals.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development targets set forth by the United Nations. Adopted by world leaders in the year 2000 and set to be achieved by all 192 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations by the year 2015, the MDGs seek to spur development by improving social and economic conditions in the world’s poorest countries. The MDGs are as follows:

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty.
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education.
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women.
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality.
Goal 5: Improve maternal health.
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability.
Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development.

Speakers from the Social Good Summit sparked and drove conversation around new and innovative ways to address the MDGs and included the likes of actors and activists Edward Norton (Crowdrise) and Geena Davis (See Jane) to the CEO of the Campaign, Susan Smith Ellis, and the CEO of MTV Networks, Judy McGrath. Co-Founder of Facebook Chris Hughes talked about his new, soon-to-be launched social network for change Jumo as did Jessica Jackley (Founder and former CMO of Kiva), who talked about her new platform, ProFounder. Ted Turner himself closed out the day in an interview by Pete Cashmore (Founder/CEO of Mashable).

Social media for social good was a prevalent theme throughout the day. Many organizations like (RED) and MTV talked about having to engage millennial with the Millennium Development Goals in order to continue to spread their message. With over five hours of media being consumed every day by the average millennial, it’s not enough to have a compelling message, it has to be in the type of content people want to see. At the same time, does having a mobile phone in your pocket indicate that you’ll make a difference in the world?

Howard W. Buffett from the U.S. Department of Defense spoke of the increased need for humanity in an age of technology. “What moves the human spirit is the need and will to act, not technology tools,” Buffett said. If that is indeed true, then how do we continue to reconcile the two? The rest of the day seemed to answer questions on both sides of that argument with some speakers emphasizing heavily the future of technology with others talking about the education, passion and necessary barriers to overcome that must be accomplished first.

Ted Turner’s interview crossed between old media and new. In talking about globalization and the worldwide economy, Turner said, “War is obsolete. You end up bombing your customers.” If customers can also be people we support through humanitarian missions and through non-profits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that connect us to people all over the world, it’s no wonder that where the state of the world goes next will play a huge role in how we all interact with each other.

On the other side of the spectrum was the Clinton Global Initiative. Established by President Bill Clinton in 2005 to convene global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Since 2005, CGI annual meetings have brought together more than 125 of the world’s current and former heads of state, 15 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, hundreds of CEOs, leaders of NGOs, activists and philanthropists and members of the media.

Attendees make what is called “commitments” which start at $1 million and are focused and geared to world changing and innovative campaigns to impact various sectors and people around the world. In the last five years, CGI members have made more than 1,700 commitments valued at $57 billion, which has already improved the lives of 220 million people worldwide in more than 170 countries. This year’s event was no different, with more than 1,000 attendees making over 300 commitments.

This year’s annual meeting was split into four action areas:

  • Empowering Girls & Women
  • Strengthening Market-Based Solutions
  • Harnessing Human Potential
  • Engaging Access to Modern Technology

Each of these action areas had specific commitments being made, keynotes and plenary sessions, press conferences and smaller roundtables. There has been a lot of talk answering the question, “How?” President Clinton (@clintontweet) asked almost rhetorically, “How can each person and each organization leverage their core strengths in the most effective way, turning good intentions into real changes?”

As leaders sometimes struggled and sometimes triumphed in answering those questions, the real draw was the verbal and public announcement of what companies plan to do to make an impact on the world. Many world leaders remarked that at many summits all one can find is “talk” but CGI was meant to illicit conversation and by making those commitments public, everyone is held responsible to their initiatives.

More conferences, like the upcoming PopTech event, are also forums for action-driven conversation and as an individual who lives and works in this space it’s been truly remarkable to see the shift and the change towards social innovation in the last ten years. Only time will tell what will come ten years from now, but it’s my hope conversations like the one’s last week will drive – yes – success, but failure too. As we celebrate our success and learn from our failures, it is then that true qualitative and quantitative results will begin to emerge, from which can all learn.

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