Hello, Is This Thing On? Reporting Live from the Social Good Summit 2015

Hello, Is This Thing On? Reporting Live from the Social Good Summit 2015

 {Photo credit: Michele Alexander/MSH}Speakers on the Social Good Summit stage discuss AIDS activism.Photo credit: Michele Alexander/MSH

Every September, New York City transforms into a hub of development activity as thousands of representatives from governments, non-governmental organizations, civil society, and the private sector gather for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). This September was no exception as the 70th UNGA kicked off by inaugurating the world’s new sustainable development goals (the SDGs or Global Goals).

On September 27 and 28, I joined hundreds of others in New York City for the Social Good Summit, an exciting two-day conference examining the impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives around the world. Hosted by Mashable, the UN Foundation, UNDP, and 92Y, this annual event brings together notables from all sectors from celebrities to government leaders. Some of the most impactful speakers included Nelson Mandela’s grandson Ndaba Mandela discussing AIDS activism; Facebook’s Naomi Gleit sharing how social media played a key role in connecting people and mobilizing support immediately following the April 25, 2015 Nepal earthquake; and UNFPA’s Babatunde Osotimehin and celebrity advocate Ashley Judd highlighting the importance of access to reproductive health services.

Walking through the doors of 92Y, I was not sure what to expect as I headed up to the Digital Media Lounge, where I would be covering the summit on MSH’s policy lens on Twitter, . The lounge was packed with social media influencers. As soon as the summit started, the room was abuzz with everyone hurrying to tweet and post their soundbites first. After two days tweeting from the Social Good Summit and other UNGA events, I left NYC with three key takeaways.

1. The Global Goals Are Everyone’s Goals

, , , . These hashtags and similar ones continually accompanied the Social Good Summit’s main conversation. They emphasized a key UNGA theme: everyone needs to know about the SDGs and everyone plays a part in achieving them by 2030. As I previously wrote, the Global Goals will influence development priorities and funding for the next 15 years. It is our responsibility as global health advocates to spread the word about them to help ensure these 17 goals are achieved – and the use of social media ensures that message is delivered.

2. We’re Not Just Talking to Ourselves

The question I am always asked is “Is anyone actually listening to social media chatter?” As I followed the conversation, everyone was tweeting: individuals, NGOs, the private sector, governments. And we were retweeting, replying to, and quoting each other – opening up the conversation to more than those in the room or on stage. During UNGA, MSH and partners hosted an event on women and children’s health in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the past, these panel events would have only been able to reach those in the room. Now, thanks to live streaming and live tweeting, more than 25 Twitter users joined our discussion and helped broadcast the event’s key takeaways to thousands of their followers and networks around the globe.

3. The Conversation Is Not Over

Though the Social Good Summit and UNGA events have ended, our work is not done, the conversations are not over, and the SDGs will not be achieved over night. As CARE’s CEO Michelle Nunn stated at the end of the summit’s first day, “we’re on the cusp of something quite powerful, but it is up to [us] to sustain that energy.” Social media campaigns and coverage of global health events, such as this week’s conference, will sustain that energy and help ensure the goals are prioritized over the next 15 years. Social media’s reach is unlimited. Social media has changed how we educate, communicate with, and activate people around the globe. People are hungry for information on what’s happening in global health and development – and we have to keep feeding them through Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and emerging media platforms.

Michele Alexander manages , MSH’s policy lens on Twitter.

Editor’s note: Connect with MSH on all our social media channels, including: Twitter (, , ), Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Storify, and Blog/RSS.

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MSH representatives participated in several high-level events during and , including: