What If We Did It This Way…

September 23, 2011


Here's one way we are taking action. Join us.

This week Midori and I attended the Mashable Social Good Summit, in partnership with The UN Foundation. The conference, which was held at the 92nd Street Y, focused on how leveraging technology can change the world. The speaker line-up was impressive, with celebrities like Ted Turner, Geena Davis, Lance Armstrong, Serena Williams, Mandy Moore and Richard Gere, just to name a few.  In addition to those famous for their work in sports and entertainment, there were humanitarians such as Desmond Tutu and Elie Wiesel. A full list of speakers and leaders can be found at: http://mashable.com/sgs/speakers/.  No matter their background, all of the presenters were passionate about changing the world and focused on causes such as literacy, famine, child birth, and clean water.

As I sat in my front row chair of the Kaufmann Concert Hall, tethered to the power strip that Midori brought so that I could actively tweet from the program, I got anxious. I wanted to take action. I wanted to help these causes spread the word. I wanted to reflect on the ideas and challenges that were being presented and I wanted to create solutions. I didn’t want to go back to my office and simply write a check. I wanted to pair up with the other minds in the room and work. I wanted to talk about the text messaging campaign that Nancy Lubin used for Do Something could be leveraged by Nicholas Negroponte for One Laptop Per Child.  When Dr. Raj Shah flashed a campaign for USAID on the screen I wanted to help spread that message to as many people as possible.  I wanted to ask questions about the issues. I wanted to hear what other audience members were thinking and feeling throughout.

The event had a very active Twitter stream and we were able to follow the conversation there. However, since I was attending live in-person, I wanted an experience that I couldn’t get from watching the livestream. I wanted interactivity.

Midori and I were chatting about how to add a more robust interactive component to the event when we spotted Mashable’s CEO and Founder, Pete Cashmore.  I said to Midori that we should talk to Pete about making the event engaging.  Well wouldn’t you know it, the event organizer, Lisa Deutsch overheard our conversation and introduced herself. We quickly explained that we were greatly enjoying the conference, that it was very well-organized, but we wanted more. We explained that we dream of reimagining events and are as passionate about it as Christy Turlington is about helping women around the world survive child birth.   We hope to have a conversation with Lisa in the future about some of the ideas that we have. In the meantime, I thought that I would share some initial thoughts on how to increase engagement and create action.

Reimagining Mashable’s Social Good Summit

1. More Whitespace. Whitespace is that open time in the schedule where people have the opportunity to reflect on what they heard, talk about it with other people, grab a refreshment or just chill. Whitespace allows the mind time to absorb and process the information that it was exposed to.

2. Gamify. One of the speakers was Games for Change, the leading global advocate for supporting and making games for social impact. It would have been great to bring the audience together to actually solve some of the issues presented by the speakers. One of the biggest things for me was wanting to be able to take action while onsite. By generating incentive around solutions and combining it with a healthy dose of competition, this event could have taken on a life of its own.

3. A Solutions Room. A lot of charities and similar organizations were represented in the crowd. What if they could schedule time with other attendees to bounce ideas off of them to create new solutions or perhaps adapt one of the ideas heard from the presenters.

4. Continue the Conversation. Midori and I really wanted to take Dr. Elie Wiesel to dinner simply because we wanted to listen more to the thoughts produced by his brilliant mind. What if private sessions were sold as an add-on to the conference to get one-on-one time with the thought leaders.

5. Fundraising for the Cause. What if all of the celebrities autographed some memorabilia and auctioned it off on a socially-driven site. With so many award-winning personalities in one place, it would have been an easy way to raise just a few more dollars.

6. Pre-event Engagement. What if each attendee was given some ideas ahead of time on how they can help? For example, Midori placed the USAID badge on the Pulse Staging website. Simple tools and action suggestions like this could make a huge impact.

7. What If…

I am very inspired by the voices that I heard this week and by the effort that so many people are giving to make the world better. I wrote this post so that I can use my skills and offer suggestions that support the work of the UN Foundation and all of the wonderful organizations that were part of the Summit.  If you have ideas on how events like this can take advantage of the passion of the participants, please share it here.

P.S.  Lisa is great. If you are an event professional, make sure to follow her on Twitter. She is @LisaMashable.

P.P.S.  I asked Pete Cashmore if I could take my photo with him. He then asked Midori if he could take his picture with her. It was a good day.