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Home » Clinton Global Initiative

Other Voices: Bloggers at CGI

By Tom Watson on September 25, 2008No Comment

Though we’re penned in stage far (very far) left in the big Sheraton ballroom upstairs, down here in the media room the digital correspondents at CGI have all they need to bring online readers timely updates on the proceedings – plenty of coffee and water, four video screens to cover all the action, a briefing room for the occasional press conference and blazing wifi. This is where the writing gets done, and there are as many viewpoints as there are bloggers down here. So I thought I’d share a few voices and ideas from this cookie-grabbing, handler-grousing corps of laptop-straining commentators.

Dave Johnson is blogging for the Skoll Foundation’s SocialEdge site and he posted a great backgrounder on just what CGI is, who attends, and what the organization hopes to accomplish. Here’s an excerpt:

The way the Clinton Global Initiative is structured is designed to
bring together world leaders, business leaders, leaders of NGOs and
philanthropists in an environment that encourages action.  The
conference is held in New York at the same time as the UN General
assembly, which means many world leaders are in town.  Clinton uses his
prestige to get many of those leaders to come to the conference, which
is then a draw to attract major business leaders and philanthropists.
These people pay a significant sum to attend and spend three days in
the presence of Bill Clinton and … each other.

The conference theme is commitment.  On top of the significant fee
everyone who attends is asked to make a commitment for the following
year, and to get it done.  If they do not make good on their commitment
they are not invited back which in this crowd can be a big deal.
Status is very much in use as a motivator in the "getting things done"
structure of this effort.

Allison Fine, author of Momentum and the recent Case Foundation paper on Social Citizens, adds to that overview on her blog:

The CGI brings all of these pieces together to provide large
investments in infrastructure and urgent needs in developing
countries.  It is astonishing to see the size of the commitments -
similar in size to the economies of the countries themselves – as
President Clinton recited over the past four years of $30 billion
affecting 215 millino people in tens of countries. In additon, the
microphilanthropy segment of CGI has raised $4 million, generated
400,000 hours of volunteer time and donated 4 million items to causes.

Nancy Scola, of the excellent wired politics site techPresident, has a great post on some of the dynamics at play at CGI:

Bill Clinton’s model for making progress is to prove success, then
replicate it. The holy grail of CGI is simply "a measurable result that
can then be modeled in other places." This high-flying former president
seems entirely weary of the political hot air that blows at lesser
atmospheric levels. But he eats up stuff like what happened this
morning, when the Nike Foundation joined Johnson-Sirleaf to present a
$5 million check for the Adolescent Girls Initiative, a discrete 3-year
project to teach technical skills to Liberian women between 16 and 24.

What’s striking to me about CGI is, for lacking a better way of
putting it, forcefully applying business-world metrics to philanthropic
space. In a "blogger session" Clinton held on Monday night, it was made
clear that he has little appetite for save-the-world namby-pambiness.
He wants results. CGI attendees are expected to detail exactly what
they’re going to do back home. And, Clinton says, anyone who doesn’t
live up to their commitment won’t be getting one of the coveted tickets
to next year’s summit.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy is also here, and Ian Wilhelm has been fiing reports – here’s his take on the Clinton-Gates discussion from yesterday evening:

In an Oprah-style setting, the former president peppered the technology tycoon with questions about philanthropy, AIDS, and the current economic environment.

Given
the financial crisis, Mr. Gates said to get more rich people to give
money to charity, “we have to show them it’s fun and there’s impact.”

And
despite the stock-market volatility, he said that smart corporations
realize that charitable programs will help build future business
opportunities in the developing world and help recruit talented people
out of college.

There are also a bunch of bloggers using Twitter, the short messaging service, especially during the big plenary sessions and to exchange rumors and sometimes snarky comments (no, I’m not immune) – you can follow my Twitter stream here or use this page to track the #cgi08 hash tag and enjoy a fascinating stream of discussion from inside the Sheraton.

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