This was my first time at the Clinton Global Initiative, and it turned out to be a really unique time to be in New York, with the financial crisis, the twists and turns in the presidential campaign, and the UN General Assembly in session down the street. Needless to say, it made for some interesting conversations.
As a communications guy, I’ve been spending my time here talking to media and others about the social entrepreneurs we support (we ended up with 22 here in various capacities), as well as about the Skoll Foundation’s work in supporting social entrepreneurship. We’ve talked with writers and editors from BusinessWeek, the Economist, Fast Company, the Financial Times, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and others that I’m probably forgetting. This list is a pretty impressive indicator of the interest that social entrepreneurship is garnering these days. Many of these journalists are diving deeply into studying emerging philanthropy and development models. Matthew Bishop of the Economist launched his new book, Philanthrocapitalism, here this week. Steve Hamm of BusinessWeek has been blogging frequently on social enterprise, including a piece this week on measuring impact (the New York Times also covered this here). Rob Guth of the Wall Street Journal has published stories this week on a new African agriculture program supported by Gates-Buffett money, as well as a piece on the new Global Malaria Action Plan. These are top business writers – often technology writers – writing on development issues in major business publications. This is a good trend.
At CGI, itself, Skoll social enterpreneurs has good visibilty. Six had their commitments highlighted from the stage: Afghan Institute of Learning, Aflatoun, CIDA City Campus, Fundacion Paraguaya, IDE-India and Root Capital. Root Capital’s commitment gives a good idea of the impact these organizations are shooting for:
To provide financial services to 430 businesses and nearly one million producers; develop financial expertise among the leaders of 150 grassroots businesses; and, build the field of development finance for small- and growing-businesses so that grassroots businesses become a significant engine for economic and social development.
By 2012, we will provide financial services to 430 businesses annually representing nearly one million producers and helping to build sustainable livelihoods for approximately five million rural people, including one million women and three million children.
Other commitments are equally ambitious.
All in all, I found the week to be a great opportunity to hear, and tell, stories of progress in meeting important social challenges. Skoll Foundation CEO Sally Osberg will guest blog next week on some of her thoughts from CGI 2008.