Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Social Good Summit: Preparing Ahead for the Future!

Last September, I had the chance to attend “The Social Good Summit” held in New York, in conjunction with the United Nations Foundation, Mashable, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Ericsson. The 3 day summit brought together entrepreneurs, experts, and activists to discuss a global call to action about what kind of world we want in 2030 and how innovation can help make this world a reality. The panel topics ranged from using mobile phones to fighting malaria, ending hunger, combating climate change and empowering women. The summit was held during UN Week from September 22-24 and hosted more than 60 speakers who gathered to discuss the power of innovative thinking, new media and technology in solving our greatest challenges: promoting health and education in developing countries, conflict resolution, raising awareness on gender inequality. Other “meetups” were held in more than 20 locations around the world at the same time and we were able to interact live with panelists from the Social Good Summit in Port – au – Prince, Haiti.

The panels consisted of UN and government officials such as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, President of the World Bank Jim Yon Kim, and business magnates which included Hans Vestberg CEO of Ericsson and Richard Branson, Founder and CEO of Virgin. There were also philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates, artists such as JJ Abrams, W.I.LL.I.AM, Ian Somerhalder, and Linkin’ Park as well as scientists, astronauts, and NGO founders. However, the most inspiring speakers were Parker Liautaud, 19-year-old polar explorer (yes, he walked to the north pole at age 15), Jack Andraka, who at 15 invented a breakthrough test for pancreatic cancer, and Malala Yousafzai, a 16 year-old Education activist that escaped an assassination attempt by the Taliban and who has dedicated her life to promote childhood education (for girls in particular) in Pakistan.

The major points that I took away from the summit were:

- New media gives us all a voice, and we can all use that voice to drive a collective conversation and be heard on a global scale. We have to use it to fight for our causes.

- The next generation of activists and decision-makers have grown up on social media and global connectedness — they’ve witnessed the power that new media has for change, and they’re ready to activate and get involved when they’re passionate about something. It’s up to us to educate and engage them around our causes.

- For those of us in the disaster relief sector, it’s important to acknowledge the causes behind the storms and disasters that make our work so necessary. Climate change and its effect on all of us was another running (and eye-opening) theme of the conference.

These are only a few of the lessons learned at the 2013 Social Good Summit. The most important message: #2030NOW (the hashtag for following and tweeting about the event) means it’s time to turn our conversations into actions. Innovations in technology are opening new doors for us every day, and we all have the power to shift our thinking and develop innovative solutions for all kinds of problems. Everyone can do something that makes a lasting impact on the world.

Karima Benbih is a Moroccan Fulbrighter currently working on her PhD in Architecture at Virginia Tech University.

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