It’s one thing for political powerhouses like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to discuss some of the world’s most pressing social challenges alongside leaders of developing countries, major non-profits and big private-sector businesses. But it’s quite another when they’re also discussing you — or more precisely, how societies around the world can encourage social entrepreneurs and other forward-thinking individuals to help solve the world’s ills.
For young entrepreneurs angling to change the world, you’ll want to pay close attention to the Clinton Global Initiative‘s annual meeting, which kicks off in New York City on Sunday. The reason is this event differs from many others, as CGI asks its members — such as, Walmart and Deutsche Bank — to follow-up their rhetoric by putting money where their mouth is. Those funds, in turn, get committed to help realize implementable plans — including some that young treps can get directly involved in.
The theme for this year’s three-day meeting is focused on designing the world to create more opportunity and equality. Here are five areas to watch:
1. Product and Environmental Redesign
On a broad level, former President Clinton and Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, as well as heads of the World Bank Group and a design consultancy called IDEO will discuss how to invent better tools and find creative ways for designing our environments. But aspiring-product designers may find more concrete inspiration from a session that will rethink how items such as medical devices, insecticide-treated bed-nets, talking books and cooking stoves are created for the world’s poorest consumers.
Future urban planners or industrial designers should track speeches from the top brass of the American Institute of Architects and the World Heart Federation, who will discuss healthier design improvements for buildings and outdoor spaces.
2. Social Entrepreneurism
As a young trep himself in 2010, Ahmad Ashkar launched the Hult Global Case Challenge at a previous Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting. His initiative awards $1 million annually for implementing proposed solutions to social problems conceived by college students and alums. He’s set to speak again at this year’s event and says young treps will want to:
- Track the shift from traditional-philanthropic approaches to new, more catalytic ones that encourage social business.
- See how our growing global population is creating a mega opportunity for social business.
- Watch how corporations are tackling the world’s most pressing issues.
“By paying close attention to these areas, young entrepreneurs can get a sense of what the future landscape of entrepreneurship looks like at the bottom of the pyramid,” says Ashkar, CEO of the Hult Global Case Challenge. “The social space is a trillion dollar sector, where the opportunity for innovation is tearing at the seams.”
3. Ecological Advancements
Geeks of the green movement will find plenty of worthwhile discussions with new funding committed to innovative projects. One session will explore mobility solutions from the angles of infrastructure design, new and alternative vehicles, road safety and accessibility. Another will focus on food — both improving its resilience in extreme conditions and discovering ways to shrink our ecological footprint while consuming it.
4. Startup Funds
Aspiring business owners should watch for new financing schemes to kick start a venture. At a Clinton Global Initiative America meeting earlier this year, Jalia Ventures and the United Negro College Fund created a $3.5 million competition to develop minority-owned businesses with a social or environmental mission. “Being able to extract the insights that come out of the CGI will give any start-up junky a leg up, especially around funding sources,” says Ashkar.
5. Technological Innovation
Even non-members of the Clinton Global Initiative say they will be watching for new initiatives, some of which may introduce technological advancements with a do-good, social spin. Certain breakout sessions, for instance, will explore how to provide better access to education in underserved populations. “One way is through unique mobile device applications and educational curriculum,” says Brittany Lothe, head of corporate social responsibility for the business software provider SAP.
“There is a great opportunity for young entrepreneurs to find ways to activate and help solve the world’s most challenging, pressing issues.”
What CGI speech or discussion are you most eager to tune in to? Let us know in the comment section below.