Earlier today I had the pleasure of meeting Shawn Ahmed, the 29-year-old video blogger who was invited last week to attend the World Economic Forum meeting because of powerful videos he has made of impoverished Bangladeshis. He submitted a video to the 2011 Davos Debates and was chosen the winner over 100 other entries.
Shawn told me he was "thrilled" to be in Davos. "I've already talked to some important people who can help me use social media to improve development."
The young Canadian has been making videos about poverty since 2007, after he was motivated by a speech by world-renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs in September 2006. Sachs spoke at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind, where Ahmed was a graduate student in sociology.
Ahmed was so inspired by Sachs that he put his studies on hold and traveled to Bangladesh, homeland of his parents. Ahmed had a laptop and a camcorder, and started posting the videos he made on YouTube. You can see all of his powerful videos here. Today more than 83,000 people subscribe to his videos, which have been watched more than 2.6 million times.
Ahmed has more than 274,000 followers on Twitter. (My 20,000 followers seem paltry by comparison.) His profile on the micro-blogging site says he is a "Former Notre Dame grad student who dropped everything to start an unplanned, unexpected, & 'uncultured' journey to help the poor."
Ahmed feels that many charities try to raise money by showing sufferers, usually children, destitute and beleaguered. In his videos he tries to show hope, and gives the subjects of his videos the power of the Internet to speak directly to donors and supporters. Viewers of videos about a school destroyed by a storm responded with enough donations to have the school rebuilt. Ahmed made a video that shows the school being restored and ends with each happy student saying "thank you" to the camera.
Don Tapscott recently co-authored Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World.