Bill Clinton's fifth annual, star-studded thinkfest on philanthropy, technology, social issues and cause advocacy—the Clinton Global Initiative—kicked off today in Manhattan with a call for renewed urgency amid the global financial slowdown to create ever-more innovative, cross-sector solutions to climate change, poverty, and other global social ills. Clinton urged the record 1,200 attendees from the worlds of business, government, social advocacy, celebrity, and academia to forge more cost-effective and collaborative problem-solving initiatives, and to view emerging economies around the world as critical proving grounds for new ideas that can scale globally.
This is the fourth consecutive CGI I've attended; Bill Clinton, bowing to last year's collapse of the financial markets, has put special emphasis this year on society's overlooked populations—namely, the so-called "bottom billion"—and has scheduled panels to explore how business CEOs might do a better job working alongside social sector leaders to help local communities. To that end, ABC's Diane Sawyer will moderate a panel Wednesday that looks at how various countries treat women, followed by several sessions on human trafficking. Organizers also are promising some conversations about how the emerging mobile Internet—cellphones—can be a force for grassroots change, economic empowerment and collaboration from Kigali to Queens.
This year also will be different in another way: a record number of bloggers will be included in the press room, and there will be quite a few "citizen journalists" among the conferees; the ubiquitous Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, philanthrocapitalist Jaqueline Novogratz, actors Matt Damon and Ben Stiller, and philanthropist Steve Case (@SteveCase) are among those already tweeting their takes on the proceedings. CGI, meanwhile, is livestreaming much of the event, and is providing an easy interface for members of the public to ask questions of Clinton and other participants.
Watch this space for highlights from the week; much of the program will be unfolding during simultaneous break-out sessions and town hall-style seminars taking place on Wednesday and Thursday. Some of the sessions will be live-streamed over the Web. Cause Global will be tweeting from the floor and during some of the breakout sessions. You can follow our CGI tweets @CauseGlobal through mid-day Friday.
For the opening plenary, which includes President Obama's speech to conferees, click HERE. In that speech, Obama referenced the social advocacy work of his late mother, Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro:
(Photo: Mills/New York Times)