As world leaders prepare to congregate at the UN Millennium Development Goal Summit in New York City next week, the Twittersphere is already buzzing with dialogue and calls to action around the MDGs.
I was thrilled to see that this year, unlike previous summits, the UN is making unprecedented efforts to give online influencers and NGOs access to the resources they will need to share knowledge, open up conversations and engage activists around the world in negotiations that will be held largely behind closed doors.
It’s exciting to see the UN pursuing social media as a means by which to create a more inclusive process. Since half the world’s population is under 29 and over 70% of 12-29 year olds are on social networks, there’s no doubt that social media will play an integral role in our race against time to achieve the MDGs by 2015.
“We’ve all seen the power of social media to reach millions of people and get them engaged on issues that mean something to them,” wrote Associate Director of the UN Foundation’s New York Office, Robert Skinner, in a recent email. “At UN Foundation, we believe that social media can do the same for the Millennium Development Goals by raising awareness and bringing organizations and people together for causes that we know the whole world cares about. To achieve the MDGs we need more than just governments to engage. The MDGs are really the world’s ‘to do list’ and social media can bring all parts of society together to achieve them.”
The UN Foundation, along with Mashable, has been instrumental in organizing the game-changing UN Week Digital Media Lounge at the 92nd Street Y, which will allow bloggers and NGOs access to Skype conversations with UN officials as well as in-person media interviews with issue experts. The idea is that bloggers will share this content online with an engaged audience who will be compelled to share with their networks and so on.
“The ease with which we share information through social networks enables us to move on social justice issues at speeds that were previously unimaginable,” observes media technologist, Deanna Zandt in her new book Share This! How You Will Change the World with Social Networking. Acknowledging the reach bloggers, tweeters and online activists can have through social media couldn’t be more important to achieve the UN’s critical goals to slash hunger, poverty, maternal and child deaths, and disease by 2015.
While we can mobilize our movements online, it’s equally important to turn online conversations into offline action as noted by Zoravar Dhaliwal and his team at Community Lab, the NYC-based nonprofit startup that works directly with governments around the world to integrate local needs into national responses.
Community Lab will be hosting their first free One World Rising concert, with Andrew WK, at Santos Party House in NYC on September 25. Their goal? To gather a group of like-minded young people and build strong community around the MDGs. Reserve your (free) ticket and, if you can’t join us, make sure to follow @community_lab and their hashtag #OWR on Twitter for highlights!
In this era of online citizen engagement, it’s great to see our world leaders taking the first steps by harnessing the momentum of social media. So, world leaders, if you keep us informed, engage us in dialogue and acknowledge our input; we’ll do our part to keep the pressure on (when necessary!) and support your work towards a poverty-free world.
Sonal Bains has worked for a number of national and international advocacy organizations running hard-hitting corporate, electoral and legislative campaigns. She has led media campaigns for The Daily Beast, Personal Democracy Forum, Women's Media Center, TckTckTck.org, Applied Research Center and Asia Society; as well as authors Dr. Vandana Shiva, Walter Mosley, Thomas Frank and more. Sonal's background in grassroots organizing lends a unique perspective in creating platforms for social justice issues in the media, creating points of entry for new voices and crafting powerful messages to mobilize a wide scope of constituencies into action. Sonal is an alumnus of the Green Corps Field School for Environmental Organizing and graduated from the George Washington University with degrees in Environmental Management and Art History.