This past week featured the 2nd Annual Social Good Summit in New York hosted by Mashable, the United Nations Foundation, 92nd Street Y, and sponsored by Ericsson. The tagline for the summit was “new power. new players. new platforms” and was studded with superstars—from the media, government, social innovation, and the non-profit sector.

And thanks to live webcasting through Livestream, the hundreds of attendees in the audience were joined by hundreds more tuning in virtually. I can’t speak to what the live experience was, but I can provide a perspective on what it was like to attend the Social Good Summit virtually.

What is the purpose of the Social Good Summit?

As stated, the Summit “unites a dynamic community of global leaders to discuss a big idea: the power of innovative thinking and technology to solve our greatest challenges.” And from listening in to various sessions, there was definitely an effort to open the stage for speakers to connect with those in the audience and those tuning in virtually. Speakers used valuable time on center stage to mention websites, Twitter handles, online campaigns, actual and virtual ways to support, and even job and internship opportunities.

Emphasis on Space

There seemed to be an emphasis on creating space.
Rather than a few action-packed days of 6-8 hours of material, the Social Good Summit spanned 4 days, started at 1pm EST each day, and featured 4 hours of center-stage discussions. This created space to cover and post about the event live and in real-time.

Likewise, the presentations were of varied length but were all well-suited for the easily-distracted social media participant…with no discussion spanning longer than 45 minutes, and a few running just 7 minutes. And there were scheduled breaks—space to add a few more people on Twitter or look up a few organizations on Wikipedia or become a fan of a few related Facebook pages.

And as I learned through Facebook and Twitter updates from attendees, there was emphasis on physical space at the conference too, with a designated lounge for bloggers, tweeters, and social media cadre to write, talk to others, conduct interviews, and post about the event.

Emphasis on Youth

From tuning in to Livestream, the conference seemed to be especially geared towards the youngest of social entrepreneurs. With sessions such as “Next Generation Leadership”, to “Youth & Humanitarian Action” with Monique Coleman to “YouthQake: How Young People & Technology Are Changing the World” and “HMU (Hit Me UP!): Young People, Mobile, and Social Change” no one was too young to have a seat at the Social Good Summit.

And reasonable ticket prices for physical attendees and free livestream for virtual ones made it easier for  bootstrapped social entrepreneurs, non-profits, and perhaps especially–youth to attend.

Emphasis on Big Ideas

There’s something that happens when you hear from pioneers, leaders, and trend-setters in a field. You tend to find yourself inspired to pursue your own big ideas.

Whether it was Barbara Bush speaking about the story of Global Health Corps, Ted Turner sharing his advice for success and also flexing his sense of humor, Serena Williams talking about her commitment to education in Africa, Christy Turlington telling the moving story how her serious maternal health issue inspired her to make a global statement and how her work led her to connect with blogger sensation Heather Armstrong of Dooce, or Randi Zuckerberg talking about the role of Facebook in stopping the spread of malaria, or Dr. Raj Shah of USAID categorically explaining the food sustainability issues the world could be facing—whether it was any of those speakers who caught your eye, what they may left with you is the inspiration and belief that no matter how far-flung or non-conventional ideas for social good are, they are possible.

And as the Social Good Summit illustrated, increasingly, the vehicle from impossible to possible social entrepreneurship is powered by technology and social media.

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