U.S. citizens are moving through a challenging economic and social time. For many, the American Dream seems to be slipping away beneath a tide of pink slips and foreclosure notices. And while many are still well off and willing to help their neighbors, it can be difficult to find constructive ways to help their community.
History has shown that Americans rise to the occasion when circumstances require us to rally together. Given the breadth and depth of economic and social issues currently facing the United States, the time has come to converge and leverage our human, financial, and technological resources for breakthrough solutions.
Some of our best minds work and innovate in the technology sector. Social networking, ubiquitous video streaming and global connectivity have ushered in a new world for many, but not all. We plan to apply the brainpower that delivered these inventions to the biggest social challenges of our time. In short, we think the technology industry can reboot American innovation and prosperity.
To spearhead our efforts, we are driving an innovative, new non-profit called ConvergeUS that will bring together social entrepreneurs, technologists and subject matter experts to advance or accelerate solutions to social problems by utilizing technology.
In many areas of our country, citizens face a rising tide of educational failure and lost economic opportunity. The 2008 Strong American Schools report ranked America's high school graduation rate 19th in the world. Forty years ago, we were number one. According to the 2010 Census, the number Americans living below the poverty line (43.6 million) is the largest number in the 51 years the report has been published.
The vision of ConvergeUS is to use the assets of the technology and technology-driven sectors as the spark to move the dreams of millions of our fellow Americans into reality. We believe that America's problem-solving capacity -- so often effectively mobilized in crisis -- must be channeled in a systematic way to address long-term challenges, such as poor education achievement, lagging access to health care, and our growing environmental issues.
At our first annual summit -- and every year that follows -- ConvergeUS will select a small number of nonprofit, foundation or academic partners who have the commitment and capacity to tackle well-defined social issues. ConvergeUS will then join its partners' experts with a stable of technologists and entrepreneurs from the private sector to create game-changing advances. Supported by its academic partners such as Babson College and others, ConvergeUS will facilitate the collaboration of these brilliant minds and drive results in a systematic, process-oriented approach.
For 2011, ConvergeUS has selected partnerships that will tackle early childhood reading (The Campaign for Grade Level Reading) STEM education (Silicon Valley Education Foundation) and health literacy (CommonHealth ACTION, Farm Sanctuary and Reach Out and Read).
Although we recognize that technology and social media are not panaceas, we know that they can be game changers when used for a specific purpose. We have witnessed technology and social media help drive unprecedented social transformation and social good across the globe, most recently in North Africa and the Middle East. Nevertheless, aside from spontaneous responses to disasters and disease outbreaks, efforts to harness technology for social progress have not been coordinated in a purposeful way or sustained over a significant period of time. This fragmented, short-term approach must end.
We urge others to replicate our methodology and combine America's great capacity for problem-solving and unparalleled technological ingenuity to accelerate and multiply efforts for a better America.
The assault on the American dream is relevant to each and every citizen of our country and requires our collective efforts to ensure America's future success. We believe better leveraging innovation can help us get there.
Rey Ramsey is President and CEO of TechNet and Chairman of ConvergeUS. Biz Stone is Co-founder of Obvious and Twitter and Co-founder of ConvergeUS.