An Inside Look at the 2014 Social Good Summit in NYC

by Rahim Kanani | rahimkanani | Rahim Kanani Media Group, Inc
Friday, 19 September 2014 22:40 GMT

Credit: INSIDER IMAGES/Gary He for United Nations Foundation

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In advance of the 2014 Social Good Summit, I interviewed Kathy Calvin, President of the United Nations Foundation on this year’s theme, the power of technology to create change, the role of philanthropy in meeting the next set of UN development goals, and much more.

Kathy Calvin is President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Nations Foundation. Her career has spanned work in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.  She is a passionate advocate for multi-sector problem-solving, U.S.  leadership on global issues, and the inclusion of women at all levels and in all sectors.

The Social Good Summit is a two-day conference examining the impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives around the world. Held during UN Week from September 21-22, the Social Good Summit unites a dynamic community of global leaders and grassroots activists to discuss solutions for the greatest challenges of our time. Our theme, #2030NOW, asks the question, “What type of world do I want to live in by the year 2030?” During the Social Good Summit, global citizens around the world unite to unlock the potential of technology to make the world a better place.

What are the key themes of this year's Social Good Summit (SGS) and how did they come about?

The 2014 Social Good Summit’s theme is “2030NOW: Connecting for Good, Connecting for All,” which means that we are exploring how we can leverage technology and new media to benefit people everywhere and create a better world by the year 2030. 

Right now, the global community is working through the United Nations to create the next set of global goals that will follow the Millennium Development Goals and take us through 2030. From our collective work to alleviate poverty and create a healthier, more prosperous world, one thing has become clear: We must address inequality and make sure opportunity is available to all and human rights are recognized for all.

We also know that we have to address climate change, which threatens to undermine the development gains we have made. Climate change will be an important topic at the Social Good Summit – and the conversation on this issue will continue on September 23 when the UN Secretary-General brings together leaders for an important climate summit.

In the months and years ahead, the ideas and actions from the Social Good Summit community can and will play an important role in driving global progress.

With the power of technology being one of the core dimensions of the SGS, what excites you the most about how tech innovation is playing a role in many critical development challenges? 

Technology empowers people by giving them voice, choice, and control. As we look at the next set of global development goals, technology can give people critical information and resources to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. 

Technology can be a game-changer, from connecting farmers to markets to providing women entrepreneurs with ways to save money and build their businesses. Mobile health is another great example. MAMA – the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action – uses mobile phones to deliver health information to new and expectant mothers so they can better care for themselves and their children, improving child and maternal health. Simply put: The potential for technology is enormous. 

What role should the philanthropic community play in this next iteration of the global development goals, known as the SDGs?

Every sector has a role to play in the next global agenda – both as it is developed and implemented. The United Nations has reached out to communities and people around the world, including civil society, for input and buy-in as the goals are developed. 

To achieve the goals, we will need the philanthropic community to be active from day one – including mobilizing resources and galvanizing political will. We’re in an era where we are moving from charity to change. People want to be change-makers, not just check-writers. They understand that financial resources are important, but they also want to be deeply engaged, learning about the issues and donating their time, ideas, and voices. All of these resources will be needed as we build the future we want.

At the same time, how do we better include -- and listen to -- the voice of the citizens and those we're ultimately trying to help, support and empower?

The Social Good Summit started out as a way of extending the conversations at the UN General Assembly beyond the chambers of the UN to include people everywhere. What we’ve seen over the past few years is that people are hungry to join the conversation. 

To achieve our development goals, we must listen to and engage people around the world, and social media and technology give us important ways to do that. They also give us ways to ensure mutual accountability and to make monitoring and evaluation as transparent and robust as possible.

As the global community, working through the UN, puts together the next set of goals, it should be – and it is – a time of radical inclusion and radical consultation. The UN has launch the MY World survey to ask people from around the world about their priorities. Over 4.8 million people have already given their thoughts. This will be an ongoing way to involve people and listen to what they want for their future world.

Our opportunity and our obligation moving forward is to make sure we continue to use technology to engage global citizens.

What are some of the key sessions and who are some of the key speakers we should pay special attention to this year at the Summit?

There is such variety that every session is one to watch. We’re talking to some of the world’s  biggest names about some of the world’s biggest issues, from climate change to poverty eradication to fulfilling human rights for all. 

The program will include the heads of several UN agencies, including a kickoff with the Social Good Summit partners. It will also include leading entrepreneurs, innovators, humanitarians, and heads of non-governmental groups.