Growing up in the U.S. with foreign parents was like getting a glimpse into other universes. Each summer, when we would visit Israel, I would marvel at the artists on MTV Europe -- who was Robbie Williams? And why wasn't TLC on? Every four years, my Chilean father would hole up in the basement watching the Mundial on Univision. These cultural phenomenon, which were huge in other parts of the world, were completely disconnected from Fair Lawn, New Jersey.
Nowadays, music, sport and culture spread easily across the globe. Everyone knows Shakira. The biggest hit of 2012 was Gangam Style, which was sung by a Korean artist in Korean. Memes such as the Harlem shake were recreated by YouTube enthusiasts everywhere. And the American team in the World Cup is followed closely by fans from home.
Do these universal elements of culture make us more tolerant? Can we really look at cat videos and feel like we have more in common than ever before? What about increasing protectionism, nationalism, and rising Islamophobia?
I'd like to suggest that these are two sides of the same coin. As our world becomes more closely intertwined, we want to hold on to the elements of our identity that define who we are. That is what makes today's globalised success stories so wonderful- they are uniquely and identifiably local.
As I head to Washington DC now for the Plus Social Good Gathering at the UN Foundation, I am excited to meet change makers from around the world, all working to make their communities a bit better. I want to learn more about them -- who they are, how they work -- and to adapt these best practices in a way that works for my own environment. Because in this globalised world, the local element matters more than ever.
Yesterday, I moderated a panel on the role technology plays in creating social impact. The Tech+SocialGood panel was held at Google Campus and organised as part of London Technology Week and Plus Social Good, a joint initiative of the UN Foundation, Mashable, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other notable partners.
The four panelists represented academia, social enterprise, non-for-profit organizations, and corporations. The panel featured Christian Busch, Associate Director of the Innovation Lab at the London School of Economics; Diana Verde Nieto, Founder of Positive Luxury; John Perkins, Better Future Programme Manager at British Telecoms; and Matt Kepple, the CEO of Makerble.
A key theme that emerged from the panel was that social impact initiatives that use technology were most successful when they enabled existing human behaviour. Busch discussed the need for an "anthropological" approach to tech for good initiatives -- understanding a group's needs before implementing a solution. Perkins mentioned the importance of the local context and how, even though we are more global than ever before, the role of the community is still paramount. He also discussed the stark realisation that 4.4 billion people do not have access to the Internet, and that we will not become truly global until that statistic changes.
The panellists also highlighted the opportunities and challenges associated with technology. Kepple spoke of his experiences using tech trends from the private sector, such as personalization and gamification, to inspire individuals and encourage them to donate. Nieto discussed the importance of trust and the ways that technology can enable or hinder it. On the one hand, technology provides greater transparency yet, on the other, issues like the plethora of fake profiles reduce trust.
Below is a Twitter Summary from the event. Please continue the conversation through the hashtags #techgood #socialgood
Tech+Social Good, cant wait to find out more! #techgood @ChrisSandbox @DianaVerdeNieto @JohnP_Connected @mattkepple @queenbee101
Consumer choice is power - we have the power to change the world with our purchases. @dianaverdenieto
@DianaVerdeNieto "It's key to capitalize on millennial peer to peer communication for scaling a business"
It for the first time allows us to really hold people accountable - social media gives us greater transparency in businesses
"Technology is a platform which lets people become what they can become. We can empower locally and scale quickly" @ChrisSandbox
"Democratizing processes and increasing #transparency + peer-to-peer accountability is happening more and more" @ChrisSandbox
If you don't like something change it, holstee manifesto still valid? #techgood @ChrisSandbox http://ln.is/www.holstee.com/page/mQ4Js ...
"Old linear approach of do well ($$$) then do good (#philanthropy) is increasingly becoming a parallel approach" @ChrisSandbox
'Make the impact visible and understand what drives human behavior.' @mattkepple #techgood @plus_socialgood
@DianaVerdeNieto "growing a bottom line and being sustainable should not be decoupled." @plus_socialgood #techgood #socialgood
Everyone has the ability to change the lives of the developing world. Make better choices." @DianaVerdenieto on sustainability @ #techgood
@mattkepple on gamification approach to charity donations inspires desire to give in a whole new way @plus_socialgood #techgood #socialgood
Sustainability is not incompatible with profit. It is all about growth in the long term.' @dianaverdenieto #techgood @plus_socialgood
Key is solving behavioural problems through technology
It's the first time in history that the social structures in place that promotes accountability in leadership @ChrisSandbox
4.4 billion people still lack access to the internet, @BTBetterFuture is trying to change that. @JohnP_Connected
#Technology should be a fit for purpose platform for social solutions rather than be fancy for fancy's sake