This past weekend, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Communications Consortium Media Center hosted a gathering of creative and eager social media executives, and motivated them toward the social good. I was honored to be one of the organizers of this brainstorming event, which was framed around the fact that the world’s population, sometime this year, will reach seven billion.
Seven billion…it’s an intangibly huge number, difficult for anyone to comprehend, but in an effort to wrap our minds around it, we read the
National Geographic cover story about 7 billion,
and watched this video, which gives some perspective to the number. Did you know, by the way, that the “typical” person today is a right-handed Asian male? Armed with this and additional background information from the UNFPA, we got to work.
The UNFPA’s goal is to launch a social media campaign that will reach as many of those seven billion people as possible, make them aware of the positives and negatives that come along with a population this large, and ideally, encourage them to help sustain their world. They brought together 60 innovative minds representing competing social media platforms such as
civically-minded not-for-profits and foundations like The Purpose Prize, corporations including Mars, Inc., online media like Mashable and BlogTalkRadio, and bloggers and experts from various parts of the world including The Middle East, India, Africa and South America.
What struck me was that everyone present came together in a selfless and collaborative way. For two long days we listened to presentations and debated plans of action and campaign ideas in buzz groups. Whenever Mac-tapping, iPhone-toting participants in the room got too excited about creating dynamic apps and video campaigns, peers from developing countries would cause us to step back and consider that most of the population do not have smartphones or broadband internet. A Guinean radio journalist in one of my groups pointed out that although most West Africans own cell phones, most can’t afford text messaging plans, and couldn’t read texts even if they had the money. The campaign will have to reach across language barriers, social networking platforms, and virtual boundaries patrolled by governments.
Though the weekend’s goal was at first overwhelming, we managed, through cooperation and listening, to achieve it. Terms like data exhaust, infographic, crowdsourcing and data philanthropy were bandied about, word clouds were drawn, flip charts were covered with bullet points, votes were tallied, and our final ideas were presented to UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. He had inspired us to succeed from the start, and his excitement about our resulting ideas made our efforts worth it.
The social media campaign will hopefully launch sometime around World Population Day (July 11, 2011), so stayed tuned for updates and details on how you can participate. This campaign has the potential to prove to skeptics that social media truly is powerful and not just an international waste of time. Using social media for social good on such a large scale will be an amazing feat, and I can’t wait to help make it viral.