May 23, 2018 The Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire

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CSRlive Commentary

09.22.2009 - 11:03PM

Category: Events

Clinton Global Initiative Uses Social Capital to Promote Positive Change


By CSRwire Contributing Writer Bill Baue of Sea Change Media

Autumnal equinox brings a bountiful harvest of activity on sustainability - with its epicenter in New York City this week:

And perhaps most visibly, convening in New York with an address from President Barack Obama was the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting -- the rock fest of sustainability. True to form for Slick Willie (President Bill Clinton's nickname), the event acts as social lubrication where political leaders, CEOs, and pop stars hobnob to spotlight their commitments to positive change.

Whereas most philanthropy operates in the bottom-line economy by granting cash to fuel change (while the remaining 95 percent of their invested assets arguably undermines that work), the CGI model leverages the power of social capital by forcing self-proclaimed change-makers to put their reputation on the line. CGI members (pricetag: $20,000) make Commitments to Action: new, specific, and measurable initiatives that deliver social and environmental good. In other words, CGI flips traditional philanthropy on its head, making the do--gooders pay for the privilege of the platform to "showcase" their benevolence. (Non-members can also make commitments, with less visibility.)

One critique is that organizations can get credit for what they likely would have done anyway. That said, the power of the pulpit cannot be underestimated. For example, last year Al Gore chose CGI as the forum in which to urge non-violent protest against the building of new coal power plants without carbon capture and storage in place. Low and behold, activist-authors Bill McKibben and Wendell Berry took up his call, and in February, they enacted the Capital Climate Action -- a protest against the Capital Power Plant, which was built to burn the coal that powers Congress.

To be clear, this was not a member commitment. But it does illustrate how CGI represents perhaps the biggest bullhorn to broadcast strategies for change. Broadcasting opportunities surrounding CGI abound. The CGI webcast page also embeds an application that allows a global audience to tweet their questions to CGI. Others can follow CGI tweets @ClintonTweet and follow CGI-related tweets by the hashtag #CGI09.

CSRwire is devising its own Commitment to Action, and CSRwire President Jan Morgan is attending CGI to gather perspectives from participants. Stay tuned next week when CSRwire Contributing Writer Francesca Rheannon of Sea Change Media focuses her commentary on Jan's report-back from the event.



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