Finding the right fit
For a while, I searched for women’s focused organizations within Toronto, where I might be able to join the Board or find meaningful volunteer opportunities. Randomly Google searching for such organizations, I stumbled upon a group called World Pulse. This kick started my personal campaign to increase my involvement in contributing to women’s rights issues by signing up as a volunteer. My love of travel has broadened my global outlook and my passion for women’s issues all made World Pulse a perfect fit.
Who is World Pulse?
In my opinion, World Pulse is different from a lot of organizations I’ve come across, in terms of its approach. It is described on its website as an action media network powered by women from over 190 countries. Its goal is to make the voice of women all over the world heard through its web-based platform. Witnessing its global reach, and the way it was bringing women from all over the world together, I had to join. I decided to become a volunteer “Listener”.
What is a Listener?
Basically my role is to make sure that women know their voices are being heard, comment on their stories, urge them to share more, and every so often, when a shining gem of a story comes to light, I may recommend it for publishing. This role, at a literal level, seems simple, and it is, however the first-hand education I am receiving from the personal stories of affected women, is astounding. The personal transformation more than anything is very revealing to me, and while I may feel that I’m helping these women, the opposite is probably truer, they’re helping me. Cliché? Yes. But true.
My personal campaign to become more involved strengthened when I decided to book a flight to New York City. I registered to attend World Pulse Live 2012, taking place at the School of Professional and Continuing Studies, NYU. Here is a fitting description of World Pulse Live 2012 from the World Pulse website:
“Three amazing women, representing the energy and power of the World Pulse community, are now in the US for the first time to lift their voices. These grassroots leaders are revealing how they use the power of new media and technology to change lives and create solutions on the front lines of today’s most pressing issues, including gender-based violence, food security, economic freedoms, and leadership training.” (www.worldpulse.com, 2012)
I had the distinct honour of listening to the personal stories of each of these women. No ones emotions were spared in the room, I wished I hadn’t forgotten my Kleenex! Neema, Stella, and Hummingbird each gave very personal experiences, detailing their personal visions, and their faith in media and technology as a means to make change for women in their respective countries. To me, they represent the possibilities that exist amidst adversity. They’ve decided to use their voices, their stories, and their own negative experiences to create positive change.
I decided to theme my trip with the idea of social good and found another conference happening the next day in NYC. This one was called the Social Good Summit 2012 (SGS 2012) and was presented by widely known organizations such as Mashable, Ericsson, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNDP, the United Nations Foundation, and 92|Y.
An interesting thing about this conference was that it encouraged meet-ups to occur all over the world. It was amazing to see the size of groups gathered in places such as China, Zambia, and the like, some places initiating the first conference of this kind in their country discussing social good.
A Palpable Energy
I walked into the SGS 2012 lecture hall, and that’s when it really hit me, I was a part of a community passionate about all things socially good and the possibility of solving problems much bigger than just our own. The room was buzzing with hundreds of people, the hall was packed, and there were cameras everywhere. I knew I was somewhere special, maybe at one of the many centres around the world where good ideas could be born.
The panels were stacked with high profile speakers such as Hans Vestberg - CEO of Ericsson, Pete Cashmore - CEO and Founder of Mashable, Kathy Calvin - CEO of United Nations Foundation, Todd Park – Chief Technology Officer at the White House, Kumi Naidoo – Executive Director of Green Peace, and the list went on! There were no breaks, there was simply too much to talk about, so I sat tight, not wanting to miss anything.
Here are some examples of the topics covered in individual panel discussions:
The World in 2015: Millenium Development Goals
Maintaining the Momentum: Delivering Solutions for Girls & Women
Unleashing The Power Of Open Innovation In Government
How Digital is Redefining Diplomacy
Can Mobile Phones Eliminate Pediatric AIDS?
Ocean Conservation In The Digital Age
Disappearing Degrees of Separation: Creating Community Connections
How Google Earth is Changing the World
Project Diaspora: Africa's Technology Renaissance
Internet Freedom, Mobile Technology and Human Rights
Mobile Revolution: How Your Phone Will Become The Most Dangerous Weapon In The Fight For Social Justice
I should also mention, this was a three-day conference, of which I could only attend one day. The topics above only represent some of the topics covered during my one day of attendance! People such as Jane Goodall and Deepak Chopra were speaking in the days to come, and the topics only became increasingly interesting. I left the event charged, with renewed purpose, vigor, and more motivation.
Takeaway #1: Take action
There is a huge mobilized (no pun intended) community out there, passionate and serious about changing the world’s problems. It’s not enough to talk about it, and wish it away, but action is the only means to solving anything. What can we learn from Neema, Stella, and Hummingbird? Even though they come from rural and war torn villages, despite risk, despite the lack of support, and despite the lack of glamour that accompanies what they do – they are using their voices to DO something. Why? Because they know their purpose, and have a NEED to act on it, not just a pleasant desire to.
Surround yourself with likeminded motivated individuals
Surrounding myself with the company of passionate do-gooders at the SGS 2012 reminded me of what selflessly motivated people can accomplish through the power of collaboration and creativity. Margaret Meade got it right when she said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
Take a small step forward
Part of my action plan was this blog. It has been a constant intention for as long as I can remember, and I finally decided to take action and make it happen. Social Good 2.0 is my way of continuously engaging with people who share the same passion as me. In a way, it’s my own mini global online classroom where I’m hoping to both share my ideas and learn from those of others. Who knows, maybe it’ll be the birthplace of some radically amazing innovative ideas that solve some of the world’s biggest problems!
While we in North America face the challenge of getting people to put their Smartphone’s away, in other parts of the world, mobile phone usage is highly encouraged. Mobile phones might be the very thing that helps people receive the treatment they need or saves a woman from being sexually assaulted.
A little training and a mobile phone can be life saving
Over and over again, both at the World Pulse Live 2012 event and the SGS 2012, I heard numerous stories praising the value of mobile phones. For example, Stella shared a story based on her experience training rural women how to use technology. A women in her village worked for a man, cleaning etc. He continually abused her. Upon instruction from Stella on how to use group text messaging on her mobile phone, the women was able to save herself. She heard her perpetrator approaching one day, and knowing what was likely to come next, she quickly sent out a group text messaging asking for help. Help arrived before anything could happen, and all because of the value of having a mobile phone, and being trained on how to use it. Sometimes simple solutions are the most effective, and this story exemplifies this.
Bigger isn’t always better
Neema from the Democratic Republic of Congo also shared that while laptops and computers are great, in villages, it can take up to 10 to 20 minutes for one page to load, and additionally for women to access the computers, they usually need to find a cyber café. For some women, leaving the home is not an option, making this form of technology relatively inaccessible for them. Stella also rightly mentioned, women are able to more easily conceal the possession of a small mobile phone, putting them at less risk from men who feel threatened by it. She herself doesn’t carry around a smartphone since that is too big to hide. Possessing a mobile phone can also be a sign of power for a woman, because it means she has control of her own situation.
Having access to a mobile device has allowed women to become more educated on the options available to them. Whether it be exposing them to governmental policies via a website on their phone, that can help them assert their rights as it pertains to themselves and their children, or learning more about health conditions that they can easily prevent. Truthfully, the value and benefits of mobile devices cannot be summarized in this one post.
A device is only good if it’s being used, otherwise it’s just a device
Another key insight, as common sense as it may sound, came from Josh Nesbit, CEO of Medic Mobile, where he shared that mobile phones are great and so is technology, but they’re only great when people are using it.
It certainly brings into question how behavioural change, cultural sensitivity, and technology, can be effectively integrated. Stay tuned for another post on this and more about mobile phones!
Images Courtesy of:
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