Everywhere you turn these days, “investing for impact” seems to be at the forefront of social innovation thinking. At conferences, in the media, and in education, the term “impact investing” – defined as investment that aims to solve social or environmental challenges while generating financial profit – seems to be getting all the attention. Somehow, good old “giving” has gone out of vogue. But what is the field of social value creation losing if we leave straight philanthropy behind?
At the Stanford Center for Social Innovation, we just concluded a conference with the U.S. State Department in preparation for the upcoming Rio 2.0 conference (Rio+2.0: Bridging Connection Technologies and Sustainable Development). The focus of the conference was on the role of technology/connectivity to drive social change. As I was listening to the panels surrounded by global social innovators, the multiple meaning of the word “social” struck me. What does it mean to live in a “social” world in 2012?
20 years have passed since the 1992 Earth Summit, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, that made sustainable development a priority for the UN. In June 2012, policy leaders of the world will gather in Rio de Janeiro again to find solutions for the challenges the earth faces today. Today a number of them are at Stanford at the USRio+2.0 conference to prepare. Stanford Fellow Anita Zielina was there with them and shares what she heard.
Jennifer Aaker has a social media love story to tell. It starts with Sameer.
Some years back, the vibrant energetic young man from Sindhi, India, graduated from Stanford University, fell in love and married. Traveling with his wife in India three years ago, he was diagnosed with leukemia. Robert Chatwani was a Berkeley student and a friend from Gujarat, India. He took Sameer's call. It wasn't a good story. There was no donor match. So Robert went to work.
"Rio's a really big deal," Jeremy Weinstein reminded the Rio +2.0 post-lunch audience Friday.
Here are three basic reasons why, said the Associate Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.
1. Enormous opportunities are presented by technology. In 1992 you had 16 million internet users. Now there are 2 billion.
2. The frontier is expanding on what is possible with technology. Technology has become even more fundamental in the relationship between citizens and government.
3. A lot of the exciting innovation is coming from developing countries themselves.
The challenges seem overwhelming: The earth will be home to 9 billion people in 2050. Twenty-five percent of land will be highly degraded. Sixty to seventy percent of disease outbreaks will be from animals to humans. One point eight billion people will potentially be living with absolute water scarcity in 2025.
So how can technology help to face those challenges that Ann Bartuska, deputy under- secretary for research, education and economics in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, addressed in her speech?
The Innovation Culture: Four Entrepreneurs' Perspectives
Here's an informal look inside today's first panel at USRio + 2.0
Media publisher Tim O'Reilly challenges us to 'harness our collective intelligence for a sustainable future'.
On the second day of the USRio+2.0 conference, another range of high profile speakers talked about technologies that do exactly that: Try to make the world a better place. "Rio+2.0 is about technology and it’s potential to address real problems, large and small ones," that's how Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones put it.