I am writing this post following the inaugural session in Paris of Social Good Week 2013. The auditorium at the Gaite Lyrique in downtown Paris was filled to capacity with people who define themselves as leaders and innovators in the French Social Good movement. Catalyzed by pioneers including +SocialGood Advisor Ismael Le Mouel, this is a group of people that defines itself not by age or geography, but by their belief in the ability of new media and technology to find innovative solutions to global problems.
A few major themes emerged as the conference got underway. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, they jumped out at me as ideas that all of us should keep in mind as we work in our various sectors to build a better world. From my personal perspective and the mission of the UN Foundation to connect people, ideas, and resources to help the UN and UN causes, this is a community that has a lot to offer, is unafraid to ask tough questions, and is anxious to find solutions.
1) The Power of Words and Social Good
One of the most powerful moments during Social Good Week was Nathan Stern’s speech (@NathStern). Like all great speeches, it included a good story. And Nathan’s story reminded me, as he talked about working with senior citizen volunteers in a small neighborhood in France, vocabulary matters. He told us that we need to be careful not to label people in social good project as “sponsors” or “beneficiaries,” but that we need to consider everyone as a “volunteer” or as a part of the solution.
Casey Rotter of UNICEF (@casey_UNICEFUSA) also touched on this theme in her excellent presentation. As someone who embodies the spirit of innovation and the next generation of leadership advancing global causes, Casey invited everyone to think about how to best communicate the work that we do and how to invite new communities into our work to advance social good. The power of Casey’s words (new and fresh terms to describe the work of the UN and social entrepreneurs) reminded me that vocabulary matters in the social good space.
2) This is Just the Beginning
Tristan Nitot listed off some of the most exciting things taking place in the Social Good space in Europe. From his perspective, as an impact investor whose job it is to identify and support programs in this area, he says this is just the beginning. The big innovations that leverage technology to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems, are still yet to emerge. There was a lot of energy around this theme during the opening of Social Good Week. Experts agree that while we celebrate some of the biggest innovations of the last 5 years, the best is yet to come…and the finance and business communities are key if the world is to truly embrace the potential of this sector.
3) Social Good Is Not about Social Media vs. Other Media – It’s about Social Media AND Other Media
In the case of politics and social movements, the power of social media for social good isn’t found just within the limits of a Twitter feed or Facebook wall, the real power takes place when social media works in tandem with other media (broadcast, print, etc.). This was a theme that Benoit Thieulin, President of the official Consiel National du Numérique and Founder of La Netscouade, shared as part of his speech. Some of the most powerful examples of social media and technology driving positive social change have taken place when smart communicators, and passionate people, have decided to tell their stories across different media formats and offer different people ways to take action online, in-person, and as part of their daily lives.
I was inspired by the dynamic group of people that +SocialGood Advisor Ismael Le Mouel and his partners brought together for this convening. As part of the global movement of +SocialGood, this convening is part of something big that is happening that unites the conversation about global issues and technology solutions. The +SocialGood Community (bringing together partners like UNDP, 92Y, Mashable, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Case Foundation, Enactus, Ericsson, and Caterpillar) is unique in every community where it lives, but the opportunities taking shape in France are particularly promising. A community as diverse and dynamic as the one I met in Paris proves that this is a great time to be learning from the +SocialGood conversation and helping support it through action.