Social Good Summit: Changing the World Through New Technology

Bloggers, media, NGOs, celebrities, and global thought leaders from a variety of public health and human rights spectrums converged this week on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for the Social Good Summit-- presented by Mashable, 92nd Street Y, and the United Nations Foundation--to discuss the power of innovative thinking and technology to solve the world’s greatest challenges. Meanwhile, about 40 blocks south in Midtown Manhattan, UN Week unfolded for high-level government agencies and officials in the 66th session of the General Assembly. Actually, there are so many big events happening this week that The Daily Beast announced the world has come to NYC.

What happens when you place United Nation members, health experts, social entrepreneurs, activists, athletes, and some of the most media-savvy professionals together? A social media extravaganza focused on how to change, help, and better our world from a global perspective. A dynamic dialogue of such range, depth, and inspiration that the outcomes could, in fact, be earth changing.

The Social Good Summit opened with Ted Turner’s thoughts on war and why the United Nations remains relevant. One of Turner’s biggest focuses, however, was also on how population size demands more focus on family planning. In a later session that day, Raj Shah, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) echoed similar thoughts when he took the stage to discuss “Developing Technology for the Developing World: the Big Challenges.” Shah's focus on the Horn of Africa tells how deep this crisis currently and how it could become even more so.

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Not surprisingly, such great interviews from some of our world’s greatest thinkers and innovators continuously roared across most organizations’ Facebook pages because the entire meeting is available on Livestream. While highly relevant, how to ensure audiences don’t get overwhelmed by these short, successive, and numerous talks?

Managing knowledge when the pace is at lightening speed is one of the great challenges of our time. Throughout the summit, myriad speakers shared, “It’s not that we don’t have enough information. It’s that we have too much.” Knowledge Management (KM) is a way to organize that wealth of data into well managed content. The Knowledge for Health Project recently released the Knowledge Management for Health and Development Toolkit to educate audiences about this quickly growing field.

Nowhere more apparent of how quickly technology has changed the landscape of thought dissemination as when Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel took the stage to discuss the future of ethics in a connected world. Every one of his thoughts was deep and profoundly insightful, from social media’s role in the Arab Spring to his human interaction and value. Wiesel shared, “If he or she would be I, the whole world would be boring. I believe in viewing the otherness of the other. My eagerness to be in contact with another human being is to learn what I am not.”

Imagine in 1986, when Wiesel won the Nobel Prize, envisioning a world where such prolific thinking would have to be compressed down to 160 characters and sent out via Twitter.

After Wiesel, Geena Davis, Serena Williams, and Lance Armstrong spoke about why empowering youth, women and girls, and focusing on elimination of cancer are highly relevant development goals. Yet, how do all of these dynamic discussions tie together? Do they need to? Is it enough that so many people can come together and share thoughts and takeaways on global need without competition over whose goal is more important? Rather, the goal is to share what has worked and why, in the hopes that something similar could benefit another organization or interest group, too. Thought exchange has incredible value.

Family Planning Takes the High-Level Stage

Simultaneously, all this week, the UN Summit’s focus on Non-Communicable Diseases took place, and now leads into the High-level Debate of the General Assembly. On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged the significant role of family planning and reproductive health during a special event on the implementation of the Every Woman Every Child effort in support of the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health. According to the Every Women Every Child website, last year, “the Every Woman Every Child event raised commitments in policy, service delivery, and resources equivalent to an estimated $40 billion.”

Yet, this year, even with some progress made, maternal health and child health is still the Millennium Development Goal lagging far behind the other seven. In 2000, the goal was set to reduce child mortality by two-thirds and maternal mortality by three quarters by 2015. According to the Washington Post, worldwide every year, an estimated 8 million children die before reaching their 5th birthday, and about 350,000 women still die during pregnancy or childbirth.

With the close of the Social Good Summit, hopefully the momentum continues toward the goal to unlock the potential of new media and technology to make the world a better place.

This post originally appeared on Knowledge for Health.