Can the Power of Social Media Inspire Effective Change?

Day 2 As U.S. Youth Observer

September 23, 2012|By Brooke Loughrin, U.S. Youth Observer

brooke_panelOn a panel with Jeff Martin, Co-Founder and CEO of Tribal Brands and mPowering, Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA and Sharon Feder from Mashable at the Social Good Summit. (Photo Credit: Keith Bedford/Insider Images for United Nations Foundation)

In this past year, we have seen movements led by young people that have removed dictators and challenged financial systems, but can social media and new technology inspire movements to eliminate gender inequality, ensure access to health care, and provide education that prepares young people for decent work?

How can the UN and governments engage young people in efforts to advance social and economic development? What tools do young people need to become more effective agents of positive change?

These are just some of the exciting questions addressed today at the Social Good Summit. Let’s check out some of the highlights: 

  • brooke_riceMe with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice after her panel on digital diplomacy. (Photo Credit: Keith Bedford/Insider Images for United Nations Foundation)How is social media changing diplomacy? U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice admits that when she was first exposed to social media she was a skeptic, “I thought how can I responsibly speak about or conduct foreign policy in what seemed to me like haiku?” Now an avid Twitter user (@AmbassadorRice), Rice uses social media to help make U.S. youth more aware of global issues and to reach out to young people in others countries that are often overlooked. For example, Rice has recently used social media to encourage women and young people in Libya to register to vote and to have their voices heard in the election. U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford has also used social media to protect Syrian citizens by posting information about the location of Syrian tanks using overhead imagery. Rice says this type of real-time updating and interaction with youth would be impossible without social media. Watch the whole conversation with Ambassador Rice.
MuhammadYunus2Muhammad Yunus discussing social entrepreneurship.
  • Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Founder of Grameen Bank Muhammad Yunus spoke about mobilizing youth in the area of social media and entrepreneurship. “The next generation is a very powerful force, so we have to prepare them to use the capacity and the power that they have to change the world.” Yunus believes that each human being has the potential of unlimited capacity, and Grameen Bank has helped bring energy and ingenuity from young people in the developing world into the marketplace. “We need to use the power of technology and the creative power of young people. By combining these together, you can solve these problems.” Watch Muhammad Yunus discuss the power of youth and social business.
  • After meeting Ambassador Rice and Muhammad Yunus, I had the extraordinary opportunity to speak on a panel at the Social Good Summit, “Mobilizing Young People for the Next Generation of Social Good”, with Jeff Martin and Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. Dr. Osotimehin is the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a UN agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA focuses on improving the lives of youths and women by advocating for human rights and gender equality and by promoting the understanding of population dynamics. Population dynamics, including growth rates, age structure, fertility and mortality and migration have an effect on every aspect of human, social and economic progress, and sexual and reproductive health and women's empowerment all powerfully affect and are influenced by population trends. On the panel, Dr. Osotimehin spoke eloquently about the importance of gender equality and women's empowerment to development goals, insisting that “the potential of every young girl has to be realized”.

    Watch Jeff, Dr. Osotimehin and I talk about how young people are using social media to take on issues of gender equality and global health below.

Other memorable quotes from the Social Good Summit, Day 2:

  •  “The U.S. spends $700 billion on the military versus $30 billion on development. We have to focus our attention on cutting-edge technology that can help bring peace.”
    - Jeffrey Sachs, special advisor to the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
  • “We have to not just open our eyes to what’s going on in other places; we need to open our eyes to what’s going on right in front of us.”
    - Forest Whitaker, artist and UNESCO goodwill ambassador
  • “You have to create your own job, and create your job not only to make money but to address social issues.”
    - Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum
  • “Now every company has to stand for something because this generation demands it.”
    - Deborah Dugan, CEO of (RED)
  •  “More is spent in a single month [in the U.S.] fighting the war on drugs than all monies ever expended domestically or internationally fighting slavery from its inception. Per month, we spend more on the drug war than we ever have trying to free slaves.”
    - Mira Sorvino, actress and UN goodwill ambassador
  • “To be socially good, we need to be good socially. We need to use fully the capacity we have, the powerful capacity of social media.”
    - Under Secretary-General Yury V. Fedotov, executive director of the UNODC





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