Mobilizing Impact at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting

“Mobilizing for Impact.” That was the theme of the ninth Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting that President Bill Clinton, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton recently convened in New York City last month. At CGI Annual Meetings, leaders from across sectors do more than just developing new ideas or getting inspired: they come together to take real action to address pressing global challenges. I had the honor of attending CGI 2013 where I announced Benetech’s latest Commitment to Action.

I’ve just had the chance to reflect on how cool CGI 2013 and some of the ideas I’m still processing!

Photo of President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama discussing health care at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative.
President Obama and President Clinton discussing health care reform
From the opening “Mobilizing for Impact” panel moderated by President Clinton and featuring Bono, Khalida Brohi, Christine Lagarde, Mo Ibrahim and Sheryl Sandberg (including Bono’s hilarious “Clinton” impersonation, as well as Ibrahim accusing most of corporate attendees of exploiting Africa); to a 1:1 conversation with President Obama and President Clinton about the benefits and future of health care reform in America and access to quality health care around the globe; to a panel on “big bets” in philanthropy, featuring Bill Gates and others; to a session moderated by Judy Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights, U.S. Department of State, about empowering the world’s billion people with disabilities; or to talking with my peer Skoll Award winners about writing software for development, social justice and human rights needs—CGI 2013 was a nonstop flow of sessions and exchanges with partners on ways to leverage resources towards each organization’s mission.

Photo of Judy Heumann and panelists discussing "empowering the world's billion people with disabilities" at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative.
Judy Heumann (left) moderating the panel on empowering the
world's billion people with disabilities 
On the second day of the CGI Annual Meeting, I announced Benetech’s Commitment to Action: Leveraging Technology to Bring Books to the Blind in India. Our Commitment is to increase service and expand the number of accessible books for blind people in India via our Bookshare International initiative. Through this three-year project—made possible with support from the Lavelle Fund for the Blind as well as India’s adoption of a new copyright exception for people with print disabilities—we will pilot Bookshare International at scale in India. We expect to significantly improve access to books that blind people in India need for their education, employment and inclusion in society.

You can read more about how this project will create lasting impact in India in a blog post by Betsy Beaumon, VP and General Manager of our Global Literacy Program. With this project and the recently adopted Treaty of Marrakesh on making copyright exceptions for people with disabilities a global norm, we’re looking forward to realizing the potential of Bookshare International to eventually help millions of other people globally live fuller lives.

Even while the sessions were inspiring, and the Benetech team is busy executing on our latest commitment (you don’t get invited back to CGI if you don’t follow through), one of the best parts of the event was talking to my peer social entrepreneurs. The Skoll Foundation convened an event the day before CGI where at least thirty Skoll Award winners got together, and our conversations continued throughout the event. Three of my peers had really great ideas for software for solving significant problems in their work, and I’m still excited about these possibilities for collaboration. Just have to find some time and money to tackle them!

Finally, CGI invited me to represent Benetech’s Commitment to Action in a Video Announcement feature at the Annual Meeting, which you can watch below. Our commitment was selected as an exemplary approach to addressing a global challenge. We hope it will inspire viewers like you to take action on this or another social problem, in whatever way you can.


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