Social Good Summit Review: Catalysts for the Future

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Written by Jacqueline Christ

Among the millennial generation, there is a notion that the majority of problems can be solved with the touch of a button. The era of the internet is defined by the ease of information flow: the magic of an app that transforms a task that would take hours into seconds and the idea of power held in a single post on the internet. Technology has allowed the world to progress in ways that were unfathomable before. With the outreach of social media and cutting-edge applications, barriers to access seem shattered. However, there are still hurdles to tackle. Looking toward the future, it is now this generation’s responsibility to use new advancements to build a better world. That was the focus of the 2017 Social Good Summit, where leaders and influencers cultivated ways in which global progress can be achieved by 2030 through new media and tech-based solutions.

Technology and social media have revolutionized activism

Social media has ushered a new era of activism. Why? Panelist and civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson said that “Something wakes us up, and for so many people that was a tweet or Facebook post or Instagram post that got them to understand that world wasn’t the place they thought it could be.” Indeed, social media has made it possible for people to hold governments and organizations accountable for injustices. With new waves of interconnectivity, activists have more outreach than ever with online platforms. Not only does the message spread, new technology has adapted the way people become involved. Now, people can learn about emerging petitions and get involved using their voice. Panelist Randy Paynter from the charity organization Care2 announced a collaboration with Amazon Echo to bring about easy ways to become involved with advocacy. The emerging voice technology will allow people to sign petitions and donate money by simply asking their Amazon Echo to do so. With tools in place to promote messages and act on them, activism could grow on a massive scale. 

Developing countries can benefit from tech-based collaborations with local governments and companies

For countries throughout Africa, humanitarian crises and outbreaks of disease can be prevented when governments and companies work together. Africa is already in the midst of a mobile revolution and new technology is expected to increase African countries’ GDP. Now, technology may save Africa. Juliana Rotich, panelist and information technology professional said “it’s the frontier for extending the technology renaissance when we have public and private partnerships.” The emergence of such partnerships is set to create transparency and flow of information. Companies such as Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) and Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) have worked with African governments to not only crowdsource funds but cultivate data that allows them to forecast potential emergencies. In light of the Ebola outbreak, programs have already collected research to track migration patterns and the spread of disease so the impact of the next epidemic can be minimized.

Innovative solutions need to be outsourced between multiple sectors

The sharing of information may boost the extent to which the UN’s sustainable development goals are solved. Even though there are dozens of agencies that have cultivated forms of aid, the solutions are not often shared and standardized to fit different contexts. Panelist and president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer said that “a global humanitarian lap, a virtual space where startups, companies, NGOs, the Red Cross and UN agencies to find innovative solutions is one of the big challenges we are confronted with today.” The lack of communication prevents the commission of shift and sizable missions to aid a multitude of SDGs—from climate change, education and hunger to global health. Within the private sector, interactions between organizations could also lead to not only more groundbreaking solutions but investments that are crucial to funding SDGs. The future of impact investing has been focused on bringing philanthropies and companies together to reach funding goals. By linking all forms of aid, the outreach can be expansive rather than narrowed toward one area of need.

Online platforms can be utilized to stop the spread of terrorism

Although several countries have proposed internet regulations to stop terrorism, the answer may lie on the use of online search engines and platforms. Panelist Yasmin Green, head of research and development at Google’s company Jigsaw, proposed that more information can help combat online terrorist recruitment. In her research with terrorist groups in Iraq, Green found that terrorist groups can be hindered by informing potential recruits on the risks and implications of joining such organizations from the start. By adapting searches on Google, Jigsaw has made improvements by using technology to make the masses of extremist websites less available and bring people to sources of accurate information. In addition to adaptation in searches, social media has also created a platform for people to speak out against terrorism and inform at-risk groups of the dangers involved in joining terrorist organizations. Panelist and YouTube personality Humza Arsha spoke on how he used his YouTube channel to speak against ISIS recruitment by notifying his viewers of the risks involved in fighting for ISIS and speaking against Islamic extremism. Despite the circulation of hate on the internet, social media and new technologies can block the magnitude to which terrorism can spread.

Young people are at the forefront of change

The success of the UN’s SDGs relies on youth. Panelist and UN Special Envoy Jayantha Wickramanayak said that “it’s no longer a question if we should let young people take the leadership, I think they are already taking the leadership. The question is whether the rest of the world can keep up with them.” Organizations should not only the involve the millennial population, but promote younger generations to spearhead change. From efforts to reduce the extent of climate change and solving world hunger to creating a better world in 2030, young people are responsible for answering global problems.

Photo by UNDP.