There’s something exciting about bringing a whole lot of wonderful people together under one roof.
People who are bright and passionate. People who dream of a introducing the world to new ideas that make our communities a better place for their members. As you may have seen Social Startup 48 is one way in which this can happen. Another way this can happen is by bringing CEOs, founders, social entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, political leaders and celebrities in the same room.
An amazing group of people recently gathered at the Social Innovation Summit (SIS) held at the United Nations headquarters in New York, and SS48 was lucky enough to be a part of this special event.
SIS 2012 saw the likes of Alicia Keys (Co-founder for Keep a Child Alive), Jonathan Greenblatt (Director at the Office of Social Innovation, White House), Jeff Swartz (former CEO and President of Timberland) and Craig Venter (J. Craig Venter Institute) candidly discuss the directions in which we — as societies, governments, private institutions and as social entrepreneurs — need to head in order to drive the future of social innovation.
Everybody had something great to discuss, whether it was about their existing projects or a new social initiative. For example, UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon kicked off the event with a discussion about how information and communication technologies will be a — if not, the – critical change agent for driving social innovation. However, it was not the discussions, big names and fancy titles that made SIS such an incredible event. It was the stories of inspiration that reached into the core of our passions and pulled out a sign that read “this is why we do what we do”.
Bill Gross, Chairman and CEO of Idealab told us about his latest project, WorldHaus, where Bill and his team embarked on an incredible journey to provide housing to the poorest communities in the world for an affordable cost. Bill and his team tested 20 different prototypes, and with a great deal of engineering brilliance they have been successful in conceiving an eco-friendly design that provides a remarkably high standard of living — all for $2000.
Worldhaus now have a great product, and with the creativity and simplicity in their modular homes, they have set themselves the goal of providing housing to one million families by the end of the decade. If you are looking for inspiration to overcome your design challenges, then be sure to check out Bill’s presentation.
Bill reminded us that we were all capable of pushing the boundaries, but for those looking for something a little more heart wrenching, there is no doubt that the greatest inspiration of the day came from former NFL star Steve Gleason. In early 2011, Steve was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also referred to as motor neurone disease (MND), a degenerative disease well known for its effects on physicist Stephen Hawking.
At SIS, the audience was drawn to Steve’s powerful story and presence. Despite the disease, Steve has embarked on a relentless journey by founding Team Gleason, a social enterprise which raises awareness of ALS/MND and pushes for the technological changes that will improve the lives of those affected. It was clear that he struggled to be on stage, but that did not stop him from sharing his passion. And as he continued, not a single person in the audience could help but shed a tear as his best mate, Scott Fujita, wiped the sweat from his forehead and fed him a straw to keep him hydrated.
Bill and Steve both provided inspiring tales of the innovation, passion and hardship. It is the stories like theirs that we should turn to when we face challenges in trying to create our own piece of social change, and when we need to remind ourselves of why we do what we do.
A few people we met…
We were fortunate enough to interview and chat with a few of the speakers at SIS, including Steve Gleason, Dr Maura O’Neill, Chief Innovation Officer at the US Agency for International Development, and Robert Torres, Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the coming weeks, we’ll delve into each one of those individuals in more detail, looking into the work they’re doing in social innovation, and hear a few key pieces of advice that they have for budding social entrepreneurs.
Wrap up of Social Innovation Summit 2012
You may have noticed that we decided not to do ‘wrap up’ post, summarising the conference and exactly who said what. We felt that this had been done enough, and we could simply share a few of those articles with you. Check out:
- Next Billion: A Formula for Social Innovation?: Reflections from the UN Social Innovation Summit, 2012