A World Better Connected Than Ever Before... But Is It Actually Better?
I spent Sunday at the Social Good Summit, a convening that leverages the world’s attention on New York City—thanks to the imminent UN General Assembly—to speak about the UN Global Goals. The Summit and the goals underscore our collective responsibility to address the challenges confronting us all, regardless of our racial, ethnic, or national identity: poverty, injustice, inequity, and climate change. These challenges disproportionately affect the world’s poor and vulnerable, but will no doubt shape all of our lives in the years to come.
“We will not achieve the Global Goals alone. It will take innovation from across sectors and across geographies and across cultures.”
After listening to Kailash Satyarthi, human rights activist extraordinaire, enabling access to quality education for those in greatest need; Amina Mohammad, a hero embedded as senior advisor to the UN Secretary-General, championing the power within us all to affect change; Bill McKibben, the climate change activist and founder of 350.org celebrating the unprecedented dialog and action inspired by last years’ climate march—including fossil fuel divestment by organizations like the Rockefeller Brothers Fund—the common theme underpinning all of their comments was clear: we will not achieve the Global Goals alone. It will take innovation from across sectors and across geographies and across cultures.
And this is why networks are so incredibly important—perhaps more so than ever before. At a time when we revere unparalleled global interconnectedness, celebrating the countless individuals logging on for the first time every day, connectedness alone is simply not enough; leveraging this interconnectedness is an imperative. Just because humanity is better and increasingly more connected, it doesn’t mean that humanity is any better off; it only means that we’re better equipped to make it so.
Whether you’re an individual, a nonprofit, a corporation, or a funder, understanding the role that you can play is a good start, but acting on that role is what matters. For example, the Mekong Basin Disease Surveillance Network, an entity which evolved from an initiative supported by The Rockefeller Foundation. The initiative focused on connecting field-level health staff across six countries with one another directly (not just through Ministerial channels). This connected group was deliberately developed into a quick response surveillance system that tracked the spread of diseases in the region and enabled each member country to better prepare for and mitigate their risks. The connections were actively and deliberately leveraged.
“Just because humanity is better connected doesn’t mean humanity is any better off; It only means that we’re better equipped to make it so.”
Each day and in every part of the world, we all become closer and closer to one another. Technology empowers us to do great things together, but technology is but one mechanism through which we connect. Let us not forget the human connections we experience every day through family, community, and personal and professional networks. Our connectedness is a gift. So take that phone, computer, brand, network, platform, or whatever resources are at your disposal and act. Being better connected is not an end itself; it’s a great new beginning filled with possibility. And I’m excited to see what we achieve together.
Visit ENGAGE to learn how funders can support and leverage networks for social impact.