Key Takeaways From The Clinton Global Initiative 2014


Image: Paul Morse/Clinton Global Initiative

Last week, The Toolbox editorial team attended the Social Good Summit and The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), two of my favorite events of the year. Some critics say CGI has become a platform primarily to serve and promote the Clinton clan now that Hillary and Chelsea are major participants in the conference, but I beg to differ. Since it began 10 years ago, CGI has developed 3,100 Commitment to Action with NGOs, businesses, political leaders and activists, making international development a collaborative effort across sectors. This time, the annual meeting's discussions focused on empowering women, ISIS, climate change, and alleviating poverty. 

I've attended CGI three years in a row. The gathering is largely the reason I relocated from Los Angeles to live in New York City again. My first year, I was star struck, which was ironic because after working as an entertainment journalist for CNN and AP in another life, I thought I was impervious to celebrity. But CGI promotes a different kind of celebrity—one that embodies idealism, collaboration, and a mind and heart for social justice. 

Day 1

  • Commitment equals power. 
  • Digital and financial inclusion for women around the world is slowly happening, thanks to communities such as World Pulse
  • Climate Change is hot. Now I'm ready to see a rundown of new bills and policies. 
  • The opposite of poverty is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is justice. 

Day 2

  • Science Rocks! The second night of the conference, I attended the Hult Prize finalists dinner. The Hult Prize is a start-up accelerator for young social entrepreneurs coming into their own while attending universities around the world. What I learned at the event was there are radically disruptive companies finding ways to unlock the secrets of biodiversity so they can be used for humans. Case in point: Hult Prize finalist, Bee Healthy, is harnessing the olfactory system of bees to detect diseases in people around the world. My favorite quote of the night was from last year's Hult Prize winner, Mohammed Ashour. "What they want is not pity. What they want is not donations. What they want is the opportunity to make their own lives better." He made this declaration when speaking about the work of Aspire Food Group, a social business establishing food security through insect farming in urban slums and empowering small hold farmers to breed their own insects. 
  • CSR is alive. Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group are joining forces to reduce beverage calories in the American diet. 
  • The Rockefellers, famous heirs to an oil fortune, are abandoning fossil fuels. This will likely trigger international debate, while investment funds are shifted to energy alternatives. 
  • I get a lot more likes and retweets when I host Super Bowl livestreams or interview celebrities. But the social justice thing is what moves me. I won't ever stop fighting for the underdog. It's why I was put on this planet.

Day 3

  • To date, CGI has improved the lives of over 430 million people in 180 countries through Commitments to Action. 
  • I support micro-finance in the developing world, but am ecstatic to learn about Grameen America opening a micro-lending branch for women entrepreneurs Harlem. 
  • Bill Clinton still knows how to captivate and move an audience with his eyes closed.
  • There are beautiful people, who have gone through hell and back, and still make a choice every day to benefit humanity. Not all of us need to be activists or philanthropists or global business leaders to do this. We can contribute in small, yet elegant ways. We can simply share a story, do our research, and spread the word. We can say thank you, a thousand times thank you. It can make a difference in someone's life when you're least expecting it, including your own.
  • Having a team with whom to share such a special experience makes what I do for a living even more worthwhile. 

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