First Day of the Social Good Summit

Highlights from the 2013 Social Good Summit

At the start of this week I was fortunate to attend the 2013 Social Good Summit in New York City. Held at the 92nd Street Y in partnership with Mashable, the United Nations Foundation, Ericsson and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Social Good Summit is a three-day global conversation on how we are using social media and technology to change some of the world’s most pressing issues.

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This year’s theme was #2030now and basically asked the global community one thought-provoking question: In a global digital landscape that focuses on the now, where do we want to be by 2030 and how can digital tools help us reach our goals.

The highly intense three-day summit covered a broad range of today’s most urgent issues such as climate change, global health, poverty, energy and education, and pulls together some of the most prolific, influential thinkers and global change-makers in the world.  We got to hear from such amazing visionaries as Melinda Gates, Al Gore, US Ambassador Samantha Power, Malala Yousafzai, Sir Richard Branson and more. Furthermore, the global reach of the Social Good Summit was huge: It was livestreamed in 120 countries and translated into seven languages making it truly a global event.

For me, it was the second year in a row that I attended the Social Good Summit and it was amazing, inspiring and extremely overwhelming. I learned so incredibly much and was so inspired over the past few days that it is going to take me quite awhile to process all the information I learned.

I wanted to share a few highlights of the Summit below and look forward to sharing more in depth stories over the new couple of months on my blog.  Highlights of the Summit included my first visit to the United Nations Headquarters where I got to listen to a panel called “Africa Rising”, attending an intimate roundtable hosted by Save the Children, ONE and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on the crisis in Syria, and also catching up with my growing number of wonderful online social good bloggers and friends.

Some of my key take-aways from this year’s Social Good Summit include:

  • The power of our voice via social media to be heard and make change. It inspires and encourages me to keep doing what I’m doing by covering social good issues and stories.
  • The amazing power of technology to make change: There are 3.3 billion people in the world that currently have access to cell phones and this number is estimated to hit 95% of world population by 2014 which is an amazing opportunity for change.
  • The opportunity of future “millennials” in the world. We must get the youth empowered and inspired to make change as they will represent a large part of the world’s population.

The Social Good Summit made me realize that there is hope. Covering such tragic social good issues for the last year sometimes seems like it is a daunting, unachievable dream to end poverty, suffering and preventable deaths. Yet, after listening to these amazing people who are changing the world as we speak, I’ve realized that positive change is possible and there is a tremendous amount of opportunity to make the world a better place. Of course we can’t change some of the evils of mankind. There will always be fighting and bloodshed and war. Yet we do have the tools to end poverty and preventable deaths. I left feeling inspired that someday the world will be a better, more equitable place for all.


Favorite Quotes/Tweets from Social Good Summit that inspired me

“Youth are the next generation leaders. They are #2030NOW”. On stage right now @stacymartinet@CrownPrincessMM@HelenClarkUNDP

“The price of inaction has become higher than the cost of action. Enough is enough.” – Paul Polman #2030NOW

“There usually comes a moment in our lives when we all decide we need to believe in something” – Ben Keesey, Invisible Children #2030NOW

“Remind people that they are more powerful than they think, engage them to create change” @BenKeesey #2030NOW @plus_socialgood

“It doesn’t have to be money, it can be your voice. Just give back @HelenClarkUNDP #2030now #SocialGoodSummit

“Photographers tell the story of who we are today & can inspire who we become tomorrow” @marcusbleasdale #2030Now

“Theme this year of #2030now because today’s children will be tomorrow’s change makers”. #ActOnClimate

“Social media is changing the world, and we’re all here witnessing it.” -@iansomerhalder #2030NOW

There will be 1 billion mobile phones in #Africa. ‘#malaria will be the first disease to be defeated by mobile’ -@MNM_Martin at #2030now

“Citizens have the capacity to put an issue on the map.” -@AmbassadorPower #2030NOW

“Without peace there is no development, and without development there is no peace” Jan Eliasson #2030NOW

‘Water is peace’…2000 children under age of 5 die everyday due to problem of sanitation. Eliasson at#2030Now

3.3 billion ppl have access to mobiles – furthest reaching tech in the world #2030now

“20 million children under age of 5 were dying per yr in 1960. Today that figure is 6.6 million.”@melindagates #2030NOW

In 2014, 95% of the world will have access to cell phones. How do we use this technology to make the world better? @melindagates#2030now

“The course of civilization is going to be shaped by us. Make your voices heard.” @algore on the#climatecrisis #2030NOW#SocialGoodSummit

@algore at #SocialGoodSummit – the 18 year olds today are the ones who will change our future. Take action. #2030NOW

20 millions NY consume just as much energy comparable to the 850 on the continent of Africa.#2030NOW #EnergyResponsibility

We cannot succeed if half of us are held back. Women must speak, must raise their voices. – Malala #MalalaFund

In just one day, the amount of time wasted by women collecting water could build 28 Empire State #2030NOW

50 million girls are victims of sexual abuse & exploitation around the world – UNICEF’s Anthony Lake on #ENDviolence at#2030NOW

We must start conversations young to combat gender inequality, especially with boys. The responsibility must not only be on women. #2030NOW

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How technology has changed the art of travel

As I pack for my upcoming trip to China (countdown: 2 days until departure), there is something new that I’ll be bringing along with me on my trip.  It sits there discreetly and unaware.  It is small and shiny yet one of the most life-changing hand-sized objects I now possess:  My shiny new iPhone 4S.

I held off as long as I could on buying a smartphone.  I have a cellphone and only got the texting feature on it a year before.  I found that texting was an easier way to bug my busy husband with a quick question at work.  I didn’t get a smartphone for two reasons.  First, I am a stay-at-home mom who does not work.  Thus why on earth would I ever need one except for my new passion with blogging.  Second, I didn’t want to become one of those people (if you are one of those people, I do apologize!); those internet/text/cellphone obsessed people who are practically glued to their phone, constantly texting, checking emails, and surfing the net while talking to someone else face to face!  I have been in those situations before, as the ignored friend, while I’m trying to have a conversation and the person I’m with isn’t really listening.  How can you listen and read emails at the same time?  Quite frankly, my social life isn’t all that exciting, earth-shattering and time-consuming.  I know I’m old-fashioned but I’d rather just pick up the phone instead of use Facebook or texting.  Thus for these two main reasons, plus not to mention the added expense of having a fancy gadget, I held off for as long as I could without being tempted into getting a smartphone.

With the release of the new iPhone 4S, however, I changed my mind and finally gave in to temptation.  For this tiny handheld object will enable me to connect to the internet and call, text, or write home for free from anywhere in the world.  All I will need is a WiFi connection and I’m set.  No more phone cards or dirty old phone booths.  No more trying to call ten times a day in hope that they’ll be home an answer my call.  None.  Instead, this stay-at-home mom who needs to man the fort even from thousands of miles away can do so at the touch of my fingers.  I can call my home to check in on the kids.  I can be reachable in case of a question or a problem.  No more stressing.  No more waiting.  No more wasting time.  I’ll be able to call and be in touch!

It is hard to fathom what life was like before the internet.  How on earth did we survive?  As someone who grew up in the eighties, in an era or shall I say life before the internet, it continues to amaze me each and every day how much technology has changed the world and my life.  When I was a teenager, we had to call someone on the phone if we wanted to chat.  We had to go to the library and search through books and clumsy old microfiche for our research papers.  We had to read books.  It was all so different.

When I went to college in the early nineties, not much had changed.  The internet was still not in existence.  How terrible it was to type up my ten to twenty page papers on a word processor and have to white out each mistake or simply start all over again?  How depressing was it to spend hours on end in the dull, quiet library searching through book after book in order to research papers.  Every time you needed information, it took time to get it.  Information was not at the tip of your fingers like it is today.

In 1993, I spent nine months living abroad in France without the internet.  The Minitel was around (the French early version of the internet) yet the world-wide web did not exist.  I felt like that entire nine months was a vacuum, an abyss, and an absence of contact with my friends and family at home.  To talk on the phone, I would call and hope someone was home.  I could only call every two weeks and talk for a short time because it simply was way too expensive.  Thus, I reserved phone calls for only my immediate family and sent those cumbersome, blue-colored Aérogramme (handwritten letters, glued together letters) to my friends back home.  Of course it took weeks to arrive and weeks for a response.  I felt completely isolated from my life back home and that unfortunately added to my homesickness.

By 1994, at my first job out of college I finally got a company-only email system at work.  Email and the internet still was a mystery and I didn’t have a personal computer either (yes, not having a personal computer nowadays is unheard of but back then computers were more of a luxury than commonplace).  By 1995 at my next job in Chicago, just as the internet was commercialized for public use, I got a better email system and the rest is history.  The internet craze began.  The dot.coms, the lush stock options, you name it, it was happening…until the crash.  Yet, the internet still survived and thrived, and has continued to change the world and people’s lives each and every day.  I know that it has certainly changed mine.

Last April, I went to Morocco with my iPad, installed Skype and called home for free.  It was the first time ever that I was able to call home not using a phone card or being in a phone booth, while traveling abroad.  It felt like a dream.  It was wonderful.

Here is a picture of me inside one of those dirty, old phone booths somewhere in South America (thanks Dad for always taking these pictures of me calling home.  I always got mad but he made a point!)

As time went by, phone cards became easier than using the good old phone shops.  But they didn’t always work and the phone itself was always sticky:

Fast forward to just last November 2010, and here I am in the middle of the Himalayas at God knows what altitude or where, making a call directly to my home in Minnesota from our guide’s cellphone.  I talked for ten minutes and it only cost a couple of bucks.  Unbelievable!  In a country where people average less than $2 a day, they all have cellphones as it is the only means to keep in touch in the mountains.

I can’t believe how much technology has changed our lives and in particular traveling.  The world is getting smaller and smaller as we grow together and not apart.  It is a beautiful thing.  Yet something to also be prudent of.  I never want to let technology take over my life and be glued 24/7 to my phone.  Knowing myself, I won’t be.

But who would have thought twenty years ago that this would all be possible?