With the UN’s announcement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a conversation has begun in both public and private sectors about what the world has decided are the world’s biggest problems—issues ranging from poverty and hunger to gender equality and environmental sustainability. At the opening of the United Nations’ Summit on the MDG’s in New York City this week, Mashable and 92Y hosted the Social Good Summit— an intensive six-hour event where attendees heard from recognized experts from across the world about the role social media plays in the magnanimous task of reaching the MDGs by 2015.
The first guest to take the stage was Susan Smith Ellis, CEO of (RED), an acutely recognizable organization that seeks to humanize the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa and organize consumers to care. (RED)’s latest project is a short film called The Lazarus Effect, made with the support of HBO and the film director Spike Jonze. Recognizing that social media has emerged as a tremendous source for social good, (RED) has teamed up with Mashable to host Social Good Day on Thursday, September 23 of this year, a day for social media users around the world to organize meetups for celebrating and sharing ideas for using social media to fight AIDS in Africa—all with the hashtag #SocialGood.
Two guests from the entertainment industry addressed the Summit in its first half: Academy Award winning actor Geena Davis and Judy McGrath, CEO of MTV Networks. In an interview with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, Davis raised awareness for her Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, a resource for gender media research that encourages families to demonstrate gender equality. “80% of the media around the world is produced in America,” said Davis. “We are projecting our image about what being a woman is like all across the world.” Judy McGrath followed later in the Summit to speak about how MTV seeks to get their audience demographics involved in social issues. Her big announcement? Snookivolunteers.
Addressing the issue of social media in detail were Adam Connor, Associate Manager of Public Policy for Facebook, and Carrie James of Project Zero. Connor emphasized the scope of Facebook, a social network whose number of users would place it as the third largest country in the world were it a country. He made mention of how Facebook users raise interest in causes important to them and their friends in their daily use of Facebook, a point of interest that was also addressed my Carrie James who noted the ongoing challenge to encourage people (young people, in particular) to see themselves as citizens of online communities and use social media for something greater than themselves. Said James, “We have to move beyond mere ‘clicks’ into deep, sustained commitments.”
Detailing how social media users can do this was Howard Buffett. The grandson of noted philanthropist and billionaire Warren Buffett, he delivered a stirring, challenging address which set forth a challenge to redefine innovation. One of Buffett’s most potent observations was that progress is not measured by the capacity to act, but by how much one has acted. “We must reconcile innovation with the human elements that drive it,” Buffett said. “While technology has made it easier to give money, it has created barriers to personal involvement. We have never needed humanitarian participation as much as we do now.”
In reference to social media, he leveled perhaps the deepest charge and piece of criticism of the whole Social Good Summit: “Many believe that technological revolutions will be our biggest contribution to society. We can and must do better and bring people to the front lines.” Howard Buffett’s full address is available to watch below:
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