While only diplomats can attend New York’s United Nations Week, the U.N. Foundation’s Social Good Summit, co-hosted with Mashable and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was open to all who wanted to discuss how social media and technology can help to tackle a range of issues, spanning from pediatric aids to female empowerment to human trafficking. The conference lasted three full days, from Sept. 22 to Sept. 24, and featured activists, celebrities and world leaders including Founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales, the White House’s Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, UNESCO Ambassador and actor Forest Whitaker and U.S. Permanent Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. Former College President and President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim even made a surprise appearance at the Monday session, during which he shared his belief that every country has the potential to develop, end poverty and create jobs for its citizens.
Since I am living and working in New York City this fall and am a self-admitted tech/journalism nerd, I went to check out some of the weekend sessions. While I had the privilege of seeing many cool people in person, including Mashable’s CEO and the White House’s Chief Technology Officer, the best presentation I saw was by someone who is not quite as facetimey — Tim Pool. Pool is an independent journalist who uses only his iPhone to cover events, particularly Occupy Wall Street. Pool began his journalism career after seeing the Occupy Wall Street protests on television. His dissatisfaction with the coverage he saw inspired him to hop on a bus to New York to get to the bottom of what was really going on. He immersed himself into the crowd, filmed the protestors and streamed the footage live for the world to see, he said during a presentation on Sunday. Many of the presenters, including Pool, emphasized the power of social media and technology to give anyone a voice in global conversations. Pool’s story is a particularly good example of this idea. His continued success, especially given that he operates alone without the backing of an editor or news organization, illustrates the power of passion and good ideas.
Overall, a key theme of the summit was that social media is an amazing tool, but it’s the people who use it that will make a difference. I’m still a little bummed that I don’t get to attend U.N. Week, but this notion, shared by so many influential people, provides some comfort.
Tags: conference, felicia schwartz, jim yong kim, social media, united nations