Social Good Summit sparks record-setting global conversation on the power of technology and social media to solve the world’s greatest challenges

Sep 25, 2012

Thousands help summit span the globe – from hubs in New York, Nairobi and Beijing with meet ups in nearly 300 cities from Madrid to Mogadishu.

New York, NY (September 25, 2012) – This year’s Social Good Summit sparked a record-setting global conversation on using social media and technology to advance human development.

Supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the summit united people participating online and in-person in nearly 300 cities, including New York, Beijing, and Nairobi, around one goal: unlocking the potential of social media and technology to make the world a better place. 

The gathering took place as world leaders gathered to kick-off the UN General Assembly, opening the dialogue about world issues and challenges to a global constituency. According to RecordSetter, on Monday, September 24th, 2012, the Social Good Summit set the record for the largest global conversation on one topic to take place in a single day.

Highlights of the summit’s reach are below.

  • Nearly 300 cities across the world gathered for meet ups (ranging in size from small groups to gatherings of hundreds) to discuss and share ways that new technology and social media can tackle problems in individual communities.   
  • The Twitter hashtag #SGSGlobal trended locally, nationally, and globally during the course of the summit and has been used over 60,000 times to date.
  • The livestream of the summit was translated in real-time in seven languages including all six official UN languages, making the proceedings available to people around the world, free of charge via the internet.
  • The Social Good Summit content has been viewed in more than 150 countries and accessed through nearly 300 different mobile devices
  • Conversations related to the summit took place in more than 50 different languages. 

The summit, hosted by Mashable, 92nd Street Y, the United Nations Foundation, Ericsson, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the United Nations Development Programme, is held annually during UN Week to open up the dialogue on global issues to anyone, anywhere. From using mobile phones for development to women leading the digital world and social movements, to organizing a new constituency of global advocates on international issues, a broad range of topics were covered at the summit.

This year’s event invited more people than ever before into the dialogue. Around the world, people shared ideas on how technology is helping solve problems in their communities.

On Monday, September 24th people gathered in Beijing and Nairobi for local Social Good Summits and in a three-day span people gathered in nearly 300 cities from countries including Bhutan, Albania, Egypt, Japan, Kosovo, Myanmar and Tunisia to join the global conversation.

Altogether 47 UNDP Country Offices participated in the summit, staging meet-ups in countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Syria, Somalia, South Sudan and Uzbekistan.

Using the unprecedented reach of the Internet, people in even the hardest to reach parts of the world could have their voices heard and had a seat at the table. Major takeaways and themes from around the world continue to unfold and are being curated through a website site:

The speakers at this year's Social Good Summit gathering in New York highlighted the diversity needed to tackle the world’s greatest challenges, from youth to artists to government leaders. Over 2,000 people were part of a non-stop line-up during three packed days of conversations, speeches, panels, and interactive sessions.

Speakers included U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, CEO and Founder of Mashable Pete Cashmore, Ambassador Susan Rice, Actress Maria Bello, Executive Director of the 92Y Sol Adler Former Prime Minister of Norway Gro Brundtland, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, CEO of Ericsson Hans Vestberg, Actress Mira Sorvino, President of the United Nations Foundation Senator Timothy E. Wirth, Olympian Allyson Felix, UNDP Assistant Administrator Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy Sigrid Kaag, Executive Director of UNICEF Tony Lake, and Singer-Songwriter Angelique Kidjo.

The summit also included special video messages from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Co-chair and Trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Melinda French Gates, and former U.S. Vice President and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Al Gore.

The full agenda and roster of speakers can be found here.  Below are some highlights of quotes and quotes from Twitter during the summit.

  • “We are living at a moment when anyone can be a diplomat.  All you have to do is hit send.” – Video message from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • “Human creativity has no limit.” – Professor Muhammad Yunus, Founder, Grameen Bank of Bangladesh and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
  • “Investing in girls and women isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.” – Jill Sheffield, President, Women Deliver
  • “We need to be active with our voices, not just reactionary.” – TMS “Teddy” Ruge, Co-Founder, Project Diaspora
  • “Social change is about connecting with networks and connecting them with on-the-ground change.” –  Beth Kanter, Author
  •  “You have to create your own job, and create your job not only to make money but to address social issues.” – Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum
  • “The Internet is allowing for us to really experience people in some of the most distant places in the world — as other people just like us. So get to know people, seek out bloggers from a country you’re kind of curious about. It’s about building empathy, and breaking through to the point of recognizing people as people.” – Jimmy Wales, Founder,

Highlights of meet ups arranged by UNDP country offices

Two planned attempts to stage a meet up were cancelled due to an ever-deteriorating security situation in Syria, yet people nevertheless were determined to host an event. Finally, against all odds, 15 people were able to plug in and join the Global Conversation by live streaming the event directly from the hub in New York City to Damascus.

A Social Good Summit event in Bhutan was broadcast on television throughout the entire country by the Bhutan Broadcasting Service. The viewing audience was treated to a discussion on the role of social media and development in the country, including impromptu interviews with young people commenting on technology and the role of youth in society.

Papua New Guinea
A Social Good Summit meet up was hosted in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea to discuss innovative projects taking place around the country on mobile money, health care, safer cities and markets. This event was broadcast live on national radio.

Lacking any infrastructure to provide the bandwidth required to stage an online event of substantial magnitude, and following a tragic suicide bombing in Mogadishu that killed 15 people, the UNDP team in Somalia mustered the will to help host a live-streamed Social Good Summit meet up, connecting to audiences around the world and including the hubs in New York, Nairobi, and Beijing.

More than 200 people came together initially to discuss technology, education and youth, however, people of all ages ended up engaged in the discussion. From young to old, all were interested and passionate about participating in the Global Conversation.

At least 6,000 people in Bangladesh participated in a Social Good Summit meet up together, linked by video from all over the country to an event in Dhaka. Jointly organized and hosted by UNDP and its A2i project, which works to deliver public services through new media and technology, the discussion topics included new media, social campaigns, and the impact of mobile tech and ICT on the country.

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