A Change of Perspective on Social Good

Spending hours watching dozens of panelists at Mashable and the UN Foundation’s Social Good Summit gives a glimpse of what exciting and innovative programs are in the works to help change the world for the better. Bolstered by an overall atmosphere of positivity and optimism, the Social Good Summit provides an ideal platform for worldwide engagement on issues of global importance. The second day was kicked off by Stacy Martinet, Chief Marketing Officer of Mashable, who reminded the audience that in the last 24 hours there were nearly 1 billion (956 million, to be exact) impressions about the Social Good Summit on Twitter and Instagram – and that’s only two social media platforms. With live meet-ups in 109 countries happening simultaneously, and an impressive cast of panelists – ranging from economist Dambisa Moyo to Charlize Theron, Sienna Miller and Madeleine Albright – the Social Good Summit challenges its audience to change perspective, to ask questions and to take action.

One of the most interesting presentations of the day was by 11 year old Vivienne Harr, who was so moved by a photo of enslaved children when she was 8 years old, that she began selling lemonade to raise money to help end child slavery. She raised an impressive $100,000 in one year – and she’s not done, she’s just beginning, as the young activist said on the stage at the 92nd Street Y. She’s working with partners to create a technology platform to enable people to take action, because, as she says “compassion is only compassion with action.” Vivienne is challenging people around her to take a stand, and to act. With her contagious smile and bright personality, no doubt this young leader will help move people to action across the U.S., and the world.

Another amazing woman spoke about changing perspective. Madeleine Albright, during a panel on the future of humanitarian aid, challenged the audience to try and put themselves in the shoes of people who are fleeing their country, looking for freedom. As an immigrant herself, she brings a unique perspective on this critical issue of our time. Of the U.S. response on the Syrian refugee crisis, she believes the U.S. “can do even more than [accepting 100,000 refugees].” Albright also argued that it is important to understand what we mean when we talk about refugees or immigrants, that the distinctions need to be clear; again, changing our perspective to improve our understanding of the issues that affect our world.

As we prepare to tackle the Sustainable Development agenda, it is important to focus on meeting the specific objectives identified and agreed upon. But perhaps even more importantly, it will be essential to reignite global social, moral responsibility towards achieving these goals. As many speakers mentioned today, political will and political solutions are essential in solving many of the world’s toughest problems. As Rebecca Milner from the International Medical Corps pointed out during the “Women in Crisis” panel earlier in the day, “there are no humanitarian responses to humanitarian problems – we need political solutions.” And, in fact, this echoes what President Obama said yesterday at the United Nations, which is that we must not be afraid to tackle the “hard work of diplomacy” when confronting the great crises of our time. And where humanitarian assistance remains essential – there are 100 million people who depend on life-saving aid worldwide – panelists at the Social Good Summit had many ideas on how to improve it. Looking at context, leveraging data, making resiliency and independence priorities – these are all ways in which we are invited to change our perspective, to improve our social good interventions across industries, sectors and nations.

11-year old Vivienne Harr said that when she was confronted with the reality of child slavery and wanted to do something about it, she “didn’t think about all the reasons [she] couldn’t. [She] thought about all the reasons why [she] must.” This kind of thinking needs to be nurtured, not just in young people, but in all of us. Whether we are talking about boosting entrepreneurship, improving maternal health, leveraging data for decision-making, creating opportunities for youth or taking care of our growing elderly population, the Social Good Summit is the annual reminder that every individual has the responsibility and the moral obligation to challenge their own beliefs, to learn and to act.