Never again should a country be called a “basket case.” Every country can develop, every country can end poverty, every country can boost prosperity, every country can create jobs for young people.
– Jim Yong Kim, President of The World Bank
Lisa writes: Mary Dell and I were fortunate to be able to attend Mashable’s Social Good Summit, held this week in New York, coinciding with the meeting of the UN General Assembly.
During this three-day event some of the world’s leading authorities on social media, social
change and the intersection of the two, took the stage in front of an audience engrossed with their laptops as they spread the message of social good.
In the front of the 92nd Y’s gorgeous art deco stage was Melinda Gates (by telecast) Nicholas Kristof, author and columnist at the New York Times, Jim Yong Kim, and a host of writers, scientists, educators and others with an abundance of good ideas. In the back was a hive of translators from the UN simulcasting in six different languages.
Let’s just say it wasn’t a typical day for these two gals from Westchester County.
Over the course of the day, dozens of glamorous and brilliant speakers delivered a single unifying message: humans can win the battles against poverty, disease and abuse and technology has given us the means. No one was more succinct in their message than Kim, the newly installed president of the World Bank. The Bank, he explained, is actively involved in social networking and through these unprecedented channels of communication, and with the release of all their data on economics, health, climate and population, they hope to find the very best ideas and thoughts about combatting poverty. Twitter, Facebook and all social media will allow the Bank to listen in on a global brainstorming session on the ways to improve the standard of living across the globe. Technology has radically altered the lives of those in the world’s wealthy countries; now, Kim told his audience, it will do the same for those in the poorest countries.
Others spoke of using Facebook video games to raise money and educate teens about pregnancy and disease. It is all new, it leaves you a little breathless and immensely hopeful. But there was one more ray of hope, I thought, one more wonderful thing that can come out of our global interconnectedness.
A couple of years ago I wrote a book about philanthropy, Be the Change. To research the book I interviewed twenty world-class philanthropists asking probing questions about their giving and how it evolved. Every single interviewee noted that their philanthropy had been a life force and how crucially important it was for them to share it with their children.
The internet, and its handmaiden, social media, seem to me to be the ideal means to teach our children from a very early age about their role in the world and their responsibility for helping others. My kids were born in the 1990s and when I wanted to teach them about AIDS in Africa, I took them there. They had actual pen and paper pen pals in Nepal and they raised money for causes by asking people they knew, because I would not let them go door to door. The only causes they were exposed to were the ones brought to them by the adults in their lives
We have moved on. All of our children can see the world through the window afforded by their laptops. They can communicate with peers around the world in a myriad of ways that are beyond listing. And they find their own causes. One of my sons in high school is part of a micro lending club. He and his classmates conduct financial transactions with people across the globe. Their knowledge of the economic life of those living in developing countries is born of real experiences in lending to farmers and small businesses.
Social networking has already begun to help parents and children in some of the poorest parts of the world. We should not overlook the benefits that may also come from teaching kids in affluent countries about their responsibility to the world beyond their front door. Kim asked the audience, “What will it take to bend the arc of history, to end poverty much faster than predicted?” The answer surely lies in our ability to touch other’s lives in very real ways with new ideas, new money and new access and to teach our children to do the same.