Social media and technology don’t change the world. A phone doesn’t feed a hungry child. A tweet doesn’t save a mother from dying in childbirth. A Facebook page doesn’t overthrow dictators. And yet I’ve just spent three days immersed in the world’s biggest social good conversation at the Social Good Summit. I left reinforced in my belief of the connection between global solutions and social media.
I acknowledge the naysayers. “It’s just noise. You’re not doing anything. You’re not creating anything. You’re just throwing content out there without depth, without dialogue, without meaningful interaction.”
And I fundamentally disagree. Because the naysayers don’t understand that social media is driven by people. Individuals acting as agents in their own lives and communities. Sharing, connecting, inviting action. Of course it’s people who feed hungry children, people who save mothers from dying in childbirth and people who overthrow dictators. No one has suggested otherwise. But the opportunity for collaboration, for ideas to grow and perpetuate and cross pollinate that social media offers is becoming an essential part of solutions.
Individuals in my immediate networks have been introduced to new issues and been motivated to sign petitions, support legislation and donate money because they have directly responded to calls to action from their friends, families and key social influencers. In communities where I visit and write, I see new people having their eyes opened to the global conversation every day. And I see them begin to share updates about global vaccines just as often as they send cute kitty videos.
When I talk to my friends in far-flung places, I ask “what can we do?” I almost always hear a variation of this: tell them, tell them what we are experiencing. Be aware. And then share it so someone else will know. And if it speaks to their heart, donate some money or time or energy to support the cause. We know what to do, we just need the tools and support to do it. However, mostly we want the world to see us. We no longer want to feel unseen, unheard and unvoiced.
I want us all to get smarter about how to communicate and share these issues. They are tough subjects: human trafficking, unnecessary maternal and infant death, obstetric fistula, child marriage, water and food crises, children dying from vaccine preventable diseases, violence and despair. And yet, I know we will also hear stories of significant progress, inspiration and hope. More and more people are paying attention. More and more problems are being solved.
The gifts of the social technology revolution, mobile networks in the middle of forsaken places, and cheaper access to hardware throughout the world mean we are staring down the constraints of ignorance. Social media opens the door to transparency.
When women in Uganda learn that their government has been “sitting” on funds promised to train more midwives, provide clinics and medicines in remote areas to stop women and their babies from dying in childbirth–and those women gather and share the news and through traditional and modern communications methods, march on their leaders to demand the money be unlocked, and the number of midwives triple–something significant is happening.
Social media and the technology that supports it is no more than a tool. It has never claimed to be otherwise. It is also one of the most powerful delivery mechanisms for democratizing the world’s access to voice and communication that we’ve ever seen. And I’m all in.
TAKE ACTION: On Monday October 1st and Tuesday October 2nd, on PBS at 9pm ET / 8pm CT in the USA, a long awaited documentary will be aired. My call to action from the 60,000 tweets, the 300 global meet-ups, the 6 languages and the system of global issues and solutions I heard at the Social Good Summit is wrapped up in the stories you will see over these two nights. “Half the Sky” was a project that began with a book by New York Times journalists Nick Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn. It tells just a few of the journeys of the world’s women, anchored under the ancient Chinese saying, “Women hold up half the sky.” The book changed my life. I can only imagine what the film will do.
Launching in November, you can play the Half the Sky Facebook game, to earn points that in turn unlock donations to repair fistulas, de-worm a child and send a girl to school. Watch The Mission List founder Morra Aarons Mele interview Nick Kristof and Asi Burak on social gaming for good.
I’d love to see you again. Please subscribe via email or RSS. Or follow on Twitter or Facebook. What will you do today to wake up the world? Share your thoughts, your action and your heart right here.