Lessons from Social Good Brazil

The inaugural Social Good Brazil was an important event.  It didn’t take place in the capital, or in Sao Paulo, or in Rio.  It was in Florianapolis, a bustling city whose tech community is pushing the country to do great things.  This was significant from many perspectives, and was a reminder that innovation is often being driven from some of the most unexpected spots.  I will confess that I didn’t know a lot about the city before I received the invitation to speak at the conference, but I will be paying more attention to this city, and cities like it in countries across the globe, to be on the lookout for communities where social entrepreneurs, communicators, social media visionaries and young people are sitting around the same table.

I was proud to represent the UN Foundation with this group and talk about ways that the campaigns and initiatives we sponsor are helping drive change at a global scale and helping support the United Nations in its lifesaving mission around the world.

I was happy to hear the organizers of the event tell the story of how and why they were focusing on Social Good in their city and what it meant for them.  They drew connections and ideas from their experiences at the first Social Good Summits in New York City, and during Rio+Social, and from their participation in The Global Conversation.  Perhaps most significant for me was their belief that conversations around Social Good can and should be as local as they are global.  When improving education, or tackling poverty, or improving transparency of local governments, communities in a country as large and diverse as Brazil leverage social media in vastly different ways.  And while the world may be watching (and contributing) to the conversation, the organizers made it clear that Social Good is often most impressive with its impact in small communities.

The program was excellent, and I am including a link here.  I loved hearing the interaction between young Brazilian entrepreneurs and corporate leaders with some of my favorite social good mentors Beth Kanter, Simon Mainwaring, and of course the unstoppable Peter Sims.   I loved hearing from Mauro Segura of IBM about how CEOs are using Social Media to improve the ways their companies collaborate and was inspired by Isadora, a young Brazilian girl who was using social media to mobilize parents and students at her school to improve the ways that public funds are being used for education.  And, of course, my personal Brazilian Social Good idol, Rodrigo Cunha of LIVE, pointed to some of the most exciting ways that new ideas were helping Brazil drive progress on global issues.  He outlined how communities in Brazil like TEDx and savvy local and global brands are showing the world how the best social entrepreneurs might just be in your very own company or backyard…or are probably your customers.  It’s important to listen and watch for new ideas from all these groups.

My “follow-up” list of ideas is long, but I wanted to write a few down here as I explore them in future posts, with colleagues at the UN Foundation, and with friends in the Social Good space over the next few months.  These are some of the questions that the conference provoked for me:

  1. As everyone focuses on “Big Data” these days, are we making it accessible for everyone, or is it a commodity that is still only easy to access and understand to a select few?  It’s “Big,” yes, but is it really as available as we think?
  2.  As young people continue to lead the charge on how to innovate through Social Good, are we giving them the space and the resources to do all that they can and want to?   Is the current generation of social good innovators (the “young stars” we love to spotlight and support) reaching back 4 or 6 years to encourage and help those who are just a few steps behind….but can help hurl us a few yards ahead?  If not, how can we make this happen?
  3. How can we crowdsource more effectively across languages?  Are there ways we can help the Social Good communities around the world talk with each other without language being a barrier?  There are so many technologies available to facilitate collaboration.  Which are the best ones to overcome linguistic barriers to social good innovation?

Brazil is clearly a place where many of the best ideas of the future live.  The country is huge, the people are innovative, and the time is right for this country to help us all think big.   My Brazilian friends, new and old, have me thinking about these issues and I look forward to being part of the conversation they are taking to scale….both local and global.

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