When it was first created in 2005 by President Bill Clinton and his top advisor Doug Band, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) announced that it would convene the world's leaders to work collaboratively to create innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges.
A lot of people of people had their doubts; could Clinton still bring leaders together without the power of the White House? Would partisan acrimony hobble CGI's ability to accomplish its lofty goals? Did the world need CGI?
Since it's inception, CGI's annual meeting has become the most effective philanthropic forum the world has ever had. They have brought together 150 current and former heads of state, 18 Nobel Prize laureates, hundreds of CEOs, heads of foundations, major philanthropists, directors of the best NGO's and the worlds top media leaders.
Those who attend are given the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone. They are urged to act in new and bold ways, and they are publicly applauded when they do. Having brought dozens of philanthopists to CGI over the years, I can say first hand that it is the easiest, and fastest, way for those with an interest in philanthropy to move from interest to action.
As a result, CGI members have made 2,000 commitments, which are having real life, quantifiable results. They have improved the lives of 300 million people in more than 180 countries. When they are fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued in excess of $63 billion.
So, while congress and the UN struggle with permanent gridlock, CGI has proven that it can convene and catalyze, addressing problems that many people long believed to be intractable. At a time when institutions around the world seem unable to make even the most basic decisions, CGI is working.
The 2011 Annual Meeting will take place Sept. 20-22 in New York City. Once again leaders from around the world will gather, grapple with wildly complex problems, and implement clear plans of action. resident Clinton will guide them, quietly urging them to do more and proving that despite enormous challenges it is possible for us all to collectively make progress.
Slowly but surely the Clinton Global Initiative has become one of the most important institutions we have.