5 Most Important Takeaways from the 2015 Social Good Summit

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By Christine Newman

Two days, countless speakers, even more ideas. Having trouble sorting through it all, or weren’t able to attend? Don’t worry, I’ve assembled a list of the five most important takeaways from the 2015 Social Good Summit:

5. The Global Goals are more important than Kim Kardashian’s bottom (eloquent quote by Richard Curtis)

Some may disagree (*cough* Kimye), but we have a chance right now to integrate the Goals into pop culture and get young people talking about what they can do to eliminate hunger as often as they debate just how to get Kylie Jenner’s lips. Youth around the world already see “doing good” as important and cool, we just need to package the information in shareable content that resonates enough to get them thinking and acting in concrete ways. After all, the Global Goals already have an advantage since helping people generally doesn’t lead to needing medical attention.

4. The voices of the most disenfranchised must be heard – and now it’s easier than ever.

Those being targeted through the Global Goals need the ability and encouragement to speak up. We need to hear their stories firsthand, and need to listen to what it is THEY need. It’s no longer sufficient for decision making to be done only in ivory towers and hotel conference rooms. Solutions also need to come from the slums of Mumbai, rural outposts in Kenya and the streets of Detroit. Not only does this make for stronger interventions, but it also gains the community buy-in that is critical for successful implementation. And with internet access often reaching places before clean water, cheaper technology and constant innovation, obtaining this feedback is easier than ever. There are no longer excuses for each and every initiative not to have community members at the table from the beginning.

3. Partnerships, partnerships, partnerships.

It’s time for civil society, NGOs, government and private sector players to play a friendly round of golf or meet for a beer. The Global Goals are too big and complex for one sector or party to accomplish them alone, and even attempting to do so puts initiatives at a disadvantage from the start. Each sector, and even each individual organization, brings unique expertise and abilities that complement and strengthen other efforts. Collaborating within and across sectors is no longer a “nice to do,” it is now a “must do” if the Goals are to be accomplished.

2. Count your chickens before they hatch.

The only way we can tell what we’ve accomplished is by knowing where we started. Any initiative must first gather baseline data, and then move forward with an appropriate monitoring and evaluation plan. Data is the only way to prove that something worked (or didn’t), and will be the only way that success can be declared in 2030.

1.  Tell me a story.

It’s time for global health and development professionals to stop writing textbooks and start writing picture books. The grave problems around the world need to be broken down to emotional, personal stories that connect with people and make them understand both the issues and possible solutions. The Syrian refugee crisis didn’t really start resonating with the general public until pictures were released of Aylan Kurdi, the three year old Syrian refugee who washed up dead on a Turkish beach. It’s not that the majority of people are cold-hearted and don’t care about others’ suffering—rather it’s very difficult to grasp the enormity and gravity of a situation when all you read about are numbers and general descriptions. When a situation is broken down to a simple example about one person or family, the public can then directly connect and understand. The tragic story of Aylan Kurdi was widely shared and discussed on social media, and that is the beginning to engaging people in getting involved and taking action.

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