For nearly a decade, the Clinton Global Initiative has driven social currencies, corporate and nonprofit commitments, and world influencers toward a cohesive effort to scale impact. While I’ve been skeptical about the the value of panels as of late, the opening plenary session on September 24th did not disappoint. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton moderated a powerhouse session that featured Bono, Khalida Brohl, Founder and Executive Director of the Sughar Empowerment Society; Giving Women Wings in Pakistan, Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, and Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook.
Key takeaways of the morning included the importance of mobilizing women (a returning theme from last year’s annual meeting), connectivity, and eliminating corruption through transparency. It was not at all surprising that solutions for all of these goals revolve around the creation and strategic deployment of technology.
Sandberg made it clear that her mission is to mobilize women. “We’re going to invest in women and realize that women need to lead,” she shared. “Our stereotypes of men are that they are assertive and our stereotypes of women are that they are communal. In english, we call our daughters ‘bossy’. If you’re a man we teach ourselves very young that men should lead and women shouldn’t. I believe that when we change this, not if, we will have a world that is more peaceful.”
After each panelist shared their goals for “mobilizing impact,” which is this year’s CGI theme, no holds barred dialogue around what can be done to do away with corporate corruption -- the number one obstacle to achieving impact -- began to transpire.
When asked how technology companies like Google can best use their money in Africa Mo Ibrahim replied, “Pay their taxes. Africa actually doesn't want favors from anybody...please stop ripping off our oceans and our tax system, and let us have a better relationship.”
The audience roared with applause.
Adding to Ibrahim’s point Bono brought light to the importance of transparency.
“There's a vaccine called transparency -- open data sets -- seeing where money is going,” said Bono. “You can’t have your hands on helping the poor and also have your hands on their throats. I implore the people in this room from Exxon and other petroleum companies to use their influence and get on the right side of history.”
Once again, the audience cheered in agreement.
“When you talk about transparency, connectivity is a huge factor," added Sandberg. Costs needs to come down. People need not just phones, but access to data because its that data that allows transparency.”
Christine Lagarde rounded out the conversation connecting the issues at hand back to women. “Seventy to 80 percent of consumption in the world is decided by women,” she said. “So sorry to bring back the same point, but women can actually change the world.”Overall, the first session at CGI proved to be well-rounded and focus on challenging topics. I'm hoping the next one will involve more talk about solutions, strategy, tactics and execution.