Tuesday, September 22, 2009


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:

[My mother] was an anthropologist who dedicated her life to understanding and improving the lives of the rural poor, from Indonesia to Pakistan. Whether working with USAID or the Asian Development Bank, the Ford Foundation, Bank Rakyat in Jakarta or Women’s World Banking here in New York, she championed the cause of women’s welfare and helped pioneer the micro loans that have helped lift millions from poverty. My mother understood that whether you live in the foothills of Java or the skyscrapers of Manhattan, we all share common principles: justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings. And we all share common aspirations, for ourselves and our children: to get an education, to work with dignity, and to live in peace and security.

(Photo: Mills/New York Times)

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Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Marcia. First of all, how exciting to be at your fourth CGI conference. I'm a college student and hope to be accepted to attend the CGI U conference in 2010. I was just curious if you'd thought about making a Commitment to Action? If so, what would your goal be? I'm also curious about the special programming on Investing in Women and Girls. Do you plan to attend these meetings? If so, can you share what is discussed and what attendees think is a good plan of action in regards to educating females. I hope the conference goes well and thanks.

September 23, 2009 at 9:04 PM  
Blogger Marcia Stepanek said...

Thanks for posting; I'm covering this meeting as press, so am not in a position to make a formal Commitment to Action. However, my personal interests in social action are many, and I feel very strongly about civic engagement, education, the environment, public health and free speech/civil rights issues. I will be posting later tonight on one of the CGI sessions I attended this afternoon on women and girls, so keep reading and thanks for reading!

September 23, 2009 at 10:00 PM  

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