As Director of Program for the Clinton Global Initiative, I can't wait for the start of CGI's 2015 Annual Meeting, to be held Sept. 26-29 in New York City. This year marks CGI's 10th anniversary, and it coincides with the UN's discussion on the Sustainable Development Goals, so it's a great year for our members to look at the next decade. CGI members are exploring questions such as: What are the challenges, technologies and solutions that will shape the future? How can our members working in partnerships across sectors to impact it? How can they use the great work done in the last decade and scale it reaching new markets, geographies and populations?
The CGI staff has been working long hours and weekends to make it happen - on my team notably, Pauline, Maria, Rose, and Marissa are finalizing the last briefing documents for the 200+ speakers that will be on our stage starting this Saturday through to Tuesday, Matthew and Carrie are confirming last-minute logistics, Lauren and Caroline are scheduling walk-throughs with the many Heads of State in attendance, and Megan and Michele are arranging rehearsals for some of our special events such as the Clinton Global Citizen Awards and the performance of the Polyphony Orchestra.
All this hard work is going to pay off and I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite highlights. You can see all our plenary and breakout sessions through the livestream here and there are other ways of being part of the conversation through Twitter and futureofimpact.org.
1. Social impact titans discussing the Future of Impact
As per previous years, this year's program is filled with the foremost social enterprise and social impact leaders from the private, public and civil society sectors. Among many others, President Bill Clinton will welcome on stage during the Closing Plenary Jack Ma, the Founder of Alibaba, who is creating a charitable trust which will be funded by share options representing approximately 2% of Alibaba's equity - or approximately $3 billion Elizabeth Holmes, Founder of Theranos, who has invented and developed a laboratory diagnostic testing system that makes lab tests more efficient, affordable, convenient, accessible, and less painful. We also have Bill Gates, Paul Polman, and Charlize Theron discussing Investing in Prevention and Resilient Health Systems, Prime Minister Renzi of Italy and George Soros in the Advancing Growth in Europe session, and Jim Kim and President Santos of Colombia in the Climate Change and Resiliency Session.
The CGI Annual Meeting is also much more than these high-level speakers -members work in partnership to make Commitments to Action, and dozens of new commitments from leading organizations will be announced throughout the course of the program.
CGI also brings to light hard-working social entrepreneurs that may not yet be world-recognized but whose work is world-class and has the potential to have great impact when scaled - whether that's Sangeeta Bhatia from MIT or Pelenise Alofa from the Kiribati Climate Action Network.
2. How do you envision the future?
In addition to watching the livestream, you can also participate in the conversation via Twitter and ask your questions to the panelists on stage - you never know, the moderator may choose your question! Further, CGI and our partner GOOD are asking our speakers, members and the general public to share with us their visions of the future via futureofimpact.org - we hope to spark a global conversation, identify trends and the best visions will be shared at our Annual Meeting.
3. The power of youth
This year, we have several great young voices and youth-focused sessions throughout our program. After all, they are the future. In the Opening, Chelsea Clinton will have a conversation with Tin Ma Ma Thet, a 21-year old teacher-trainer from Myanmar, and Kailash Satyarthi, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of GoodWeave, who has devoted his career to stopping child labor. For example, the Youth Speak session on Sunday September 27, from 12:30-2PM EST will bring together youth voices from around the world, while the Emerging Pioneers: Millennials Transforming the Future Through Social Innovation session in partnership with GOOD will build off futureofimpact.org submissions in a session focused on the Sustainable Development Goals and how millennials can play a role in shaping the future. In our Closing Plenary session, Chelsea will speak with several commitment-maker classrooms - from the US, El Salvador, Ghana and Kenya and hear students' visions of their future.
4. Looking to the Next Frontier: how new technologies could impact our future
Technology and innovation are by definition key components to discuss when imagining the coming decade. We've seen how mobile phones which are now in the hands of billions of people are bringing forth access to information, finance, education and health in ways one could never have foreseen. Broadband internet penetration will only further this tremendously, and there are many exciting new technologies emerging today whose applications to the social and environmental impact field we can only just start to foresee. For example, new advances in robotics will help those who have lost limbs or cannot walk, and will allow transportation through rough terrains. Pepper, the social humanoid Robot from Aldebaran and Softbank, is a human companion, designed notably to support the elderly, and will be featured during the Looking to the Next Frontier session, which will also have Neil deGrasse Tyson from the American Museum of Natural History, and Richard Branson in conversation on oceans, space and innovation.
At the Meeting, CGI is also premiering a unique short virtual reality video "Inside Impact: East Africa" filmed at several of CGI commitment sites in Kenya and Tanzania - this provides a unique view of our commitments in the field, and is available via the Oculus Store for anyone with an Oculus-enabled virtual reality headset.
5. Recognizing the great progress made, and the remaining challenges ahead.
The Future is not just about youth and technology - it's also about recognizing the past, and the great progress made in certain areas such as primary education or infant mortality rate, and seeing where the gaps and remaining challenges lay. Income inequality remains a key issue across geographies, and holds back individuals and societies from reaching their full potential - how can we ensure equality of opportunity for all? Joe Stiglitz, 2001 Nobel Prize Winner in Economics, Bob Collymore of Safaricom, President Pena Nieto of Mexico, and Jessica Biel will be discussing this in the Escalators of Opportunity session, while some of our breakout sessions will touch upon more precise but still most pressing issues such as mental health or water scarcity. In all these conversations however, we remain optimistic, based on the great work our members have achieved over the past decade through over 3,200 Commitments to Action. We know that by working together in partnership across sectors and geographies, we can break down seemingly intractable challenges and bring forth solutions that last to bring people out of poverty, help mitigate the effects of climate change and achieve global prosperity.
For further details on the CGI Annual Meeting program, please click here.