What a week! This summit provided a great opportunity for networking with social change leaders, social media gurus and others interested in social issues. The connections made through social media and the opportunity to connect activities happening around New York at the United Nations and the Clinton Global Initiative provided a holistic view of global social change.
Many ways to reach the same goal
The final day of the summit provided a shorter agenda but centered a great deal of the agenda on social entrepreneurship and new ideas. One of the key highlights of the afternoon included the Start-ups Challenge, a pitch competition for social entrepreneurs for a $10,000 prize. The winner was a 19 year old who had developed a moving solar panel that follows the sun to maximize the exposure for energy called SunSalutor. Her pitch was strong, especially for her age, and her product was great. However, I do think that she will have no problem getting large scale future investment given her patent pending product, so I actually would have liked to see the resources go to another project that wasn’t so product focused, which usually struggles more to achieve this type of investment.
Several of the challenge companies were looking at similar issues, volunteering or energy for example, but they each had different strategies to address these problems. This is common in all aspects of business , where we each may have a different method we believe is better. The unfortunate thing in the social sector is there often are less resources and this increased competition does not always mean that the most effective strategy has access to the resources that it needs to address the social problem. This is why collaboration and partnership are so essential. For many of the start-ups participating in the challenge they were using a for-profit model rather than a nonprofit. The reality is that if you are trying to address a social problem, regardless of your profit model, you need to work with others trying to address that same issue. Rather than working in a silo, we can all learn how to eliminate many of the issues that impact our world by working together.
Sparked and Catch a Fire were start-ups that participated in the start-up challenge and their ideas for micro-volunteering and specialized pro-bono support planned to address the human resource gap that exists around social problems. Sparked takes advantage of the small increments of time we all waste throughout the day, by allowing someone to take a few minutes to create or assist a nonprofit or social project. From translating a document to creating a logo, people can provide a needed resource to an organization in the same time it takes them to update or add photos to the their Facebook profile. At first, I was skeptical that this would work when reading their brief profile, but when they explained that they were primarily targeting corporate volunteer projects it seemed brilliant. For large companies, especially in much needed skill areas for the nonprofit sector, allowing their staff to have access to very quick volunteer opportunities throughout the work day seems like a win-win. It will be interesting to see what happens from here.
Catch A Fire also taps into the skills and resources that professionals can bring through pro-bono opportunities. Finance, graphic design, human resource and other professionals can sign on to do projects that have already been sourced and filtered by the Catch a fire staff. Nonprofit members have access to talented specialized volunteers and volunteers have access to specific skills based projects. Again, a win-win. My only concern with their model, is their membership fee of $5,000 annually for nonprofits. For most nonprofits that do not have the financial resources to outsource this type of work currently, that is a significant cost for an already strapped nonprofit budget. For organizations where this would not be a problem, they probably can afford to contract this work to a company. Reducing the membership fee, to a more budget friendly amount for this type of service, might increase the usefulness in the sector for much needed additional professional support. However, I understand their desire to make it a worthwhile investment so we will have to see also what happens as they continue to grow.
What is most important is that they are looking at strategies that can address the critical service needs in the social sector and hopefully this will lead to increased impact and outcomes for social change.
Quote of the Day
Until you know the joy of being a social entrepreneur it is hard to understand…it can be addictive” – Yossi Vardi, Investor and Entrepreneur
As someone that loves innovation and looking at new ways to address social problems, I couldn’t agree more. Combining innovation with social change allows you to use that creative spirit to also change the world. There is little that is more rewarding than that.
I truly enjoyed the summit and look forward to participating again in the future. I do believe that the summit could use more local voices and increased diverse presenters. With a focus on international and global issues it is sad to see so few speakers who are using technology and social media to help themselves and their community, rather than outside actors coming in. I also think the format with the short presentations, less than 10 minutes, should have more focus. If someone is sharing a tool that they have used within their company/organization, it should be shared as a best practice that can be duplicated, not just a “look at what we did” moment. This would have a larger impact on social issues and learning. Otherwise, there should be more time for questions so that those in the audience and on social media can engage with the speaker/presenter on how to use these tools in other ways. However, the chance to hear from leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers over 4 days is not to be missed and is what makes this summit such a great program. They have also included the use of technology and social media within the format of the agenda, which allows people in New York to connect with people around the globe also watching via livestream. This is a great way to create and encourage global connection. If you missed any of the event, you can see the archived videos on Mashable.com or read my recaps of Day One, Two and Three.