As an entrepreneur and an investor, I am motivated to create and deliver great products that build communities of passionate and empowered users. I am also part of a growing group of entrepreneurs, investors, activists, nonprofit leaders, business executives, actors, musicians, artists and athletes that brings that same approach to philanthropy and social good. Groups like the UN Foundation's Global Entrepreneurs Council (which I am honored to be a member of) and Palindrome Advisors (the nonprofit collective I founded along with 100 other like-minded individuals to change how leaders give back). We are working to break down the traditional lines that previously divided the for-profit, non-profit, and NGO sectors, and we are bridging the online and off-line worlds. A constant question we always must ask ourselves is: are we there yet?
Whether in a car travelling on a family vacation or in the context of social good, the answer is always that we're getting closer...
Today's global challenges are matched only by the opportunity to address them. Hundreds of millions of people are affected by solvable problems such as malaria, unequal treatment of girls, and deadly yet preventable childhood diseases. Just looking at malaria, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes, each year affects 200 million illnesses and causes 600,000 deaths, mostly among children under the age of five. Malaria is particularly devastating in Africa, where a child in Africa dies every 60 seconds from a malaria infection. Because one in five children lack access to life-saving immunizations, a child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine-preventable disease. Diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and polio kill 1.5 million children every year. That's the bad news. The good news is that we've reached an inflection point where we can now come together to solve these and other pressing global issues: by dedicating time and resources to building tools that allow the world to solve these problems collectively
The expansion of online and mobile engagement gives us growing capacity to involve millions of people in solving these problems. Last year the number of global internet users rose by 8 percent over the previous year to 2.25 million people, or 32 percent of the global population at the time (Mary Meeker, KPCB). There are more than 6 billion mobile phone subscriptions in the world today. 6 billion. Even accounting for people who have more than one, roughly three quarters of the world's population has access to a mobile phone (World Bank). In less than 3 years, the percentage of American adults who own a tablet or eReader has grown from 2 percent to 29 percent (Mary Meeker, KPCB).
These accelerating trends are fascinating in and of themselves, but in the context of empowering modern philanthropy, engagement is a game-changer. By meeting people on their devices, we can foster positive change. With a new cross-sector approach, we are able to apply the best practices from multiple disciplines, maximizing our ability to realize the promise of social media for social good.
The latest example of this new approach was launched today, when we and the United Nations Foundation unveiled the Global Good Challenge (unf.org/good, #GlobalGood, @unfggc) at the Social Good Summit. The Foundation's largest and most ambitious digital initiative to date, the Global Good Challenge rewards participants with unique prizes for "donating their voices" by taking action and engaging their online networks to support the work of the United Nations. Some of the prize highlights include VIP backstage passes for a Lady Gaga concert, MTV Video Music Awards tickets, and a visit to the set of "The Celebrity Apprentice" for a meeting with Ivanka and Donald Trump.
In order to bring such a significant endeavor to life, and ensure that it has the impact on society that we believe it will, the UN Foundation isn't going at this alone. In fact, it is approaching this momentous opportunity with a focus on community -- a community of people, organizations and technology that will turn this dream into a reality. Working with its Global Entrepreneurs Council, Palindrome Advisors, Plyfe and an amazing group of corporate partners, the UN Foundation has led a breakthrough initiative that will prove the impact technology and social media can have on our world.
I am proud of my leadership role in developing the Global Good Challenge, because this shows the creativity of the new thinking -- and new partnerships -- around addressing global issues. At its core, the Challenge is a fun new way for people to use technology and social media for social good. Users take simple actions, such as posting to Facebook, following a Twitter handle, or answering a quiz question. By doing so, they learn more about a global issue they can help solve -- such as malaria prevention, girls empowerment, and protecting children from preventable diseases - and they earn chances to win once-in-a-lifetime prizes.
Those who take the Challenge will raise awareness and take action to help the United Nations prevent malaria with Nothing But Nets, empower girls with Girl Up, and protect children from preventable diseases with Shot@Life. Now through mid-November, global citizens can sign up for the Global Good Challenge at unf.org/good or www.facebook.com/unitednationsfoundation, and join the conversation on Twitter: #GlobalGood and @unfggc.
This all seems deceptively simple, but that's for a good reason. We want the ability to spread social good to be in anyone's hands. So regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, and any other demarcation, YOU have the ability to "donate your voice" to the greater good.
Thanks for playing and making a difference,
Follow Zaw Thet on Twitter: www.twitter.com/zawthet