20 September 2011

Social Media Summit Day One Thoughts

There are a lot of events going on today around the UN. Right now there is just too much stuff to really put down anything too much of substance. It is my hope that I will be able to put together some more comprehensive posts about these topics soon, but I wanted to share some really quick thoughts about some of the events that I had the opportunity to participate in yesterday.

  • Every Woman Every Child: There is a drive to find measurable results.  The examples used this were low hanging fruit like increasing midwives in Bangladesh by 3,000.  I followed up by asking how they were going to track results that are much harder to count like maternal mortality in countries where many births still take place outside of hospitals.  The answer I got was that the records are improving and that it is one of the priorities to ensure that these metrics are being properly tracked.  I am not entirely convinced, but it is at least good to know that they are thinking about how to fill this gap.  With countries leading the way in data collection and setting their own goals, it seems like it might be hard to know what data is actually being recorded.
  • Mark Kornblau on the US position about Palestine's bid for statehood: "Any action in New York is detrimental to the peace process."  He also spoke at length about how the US has rehabilitated its image in the UN.
  • Ted Turner is really something else.  He clearly does not like nuclear in any form since the Japan earthquake and has a disdain for the amount of money spent on defense.  Clearly he has settled into the role of being a big idea guy.  When asked a specific reporting question he shrugged it off saying, "I'm a big brushstroke guy."
  • Mandy Moore is impressive on her advocacy of malaria.  I have been critical of celebrities, but she does a nice job of sticking to the basics of the program that distributes bed nets which has strong evidence of working.  There is no pretending to know any more than she already knows and easily deferred on any technical questions she could not answer.  Simple? Yes.  If Nothing But Nets can do a good job, they can connect Mandy's role to teaching people more about malaria and activate them beyond the donation.
  • Michael Elliot, CEO of ONE: New initiative will be related to agriculture and the Horn of Africa.  He says that it has been something they have worked on for awhile and now is prescient due to present famine.  Tom Paulson asked an excellent question about the campaign getting softer with their approach and was assured that the new campaign will be 'edgy.'  Likely, this means 'Invisible Children' edgy rather than Oxfam.  We will have to see. I had the chance to ask him about moving from the simple story to discussing complexity.  He sees it as a real challenge and something that they went to be able to achieve with their new campaign.  Being that Elliot is a news guy there is a chance that he may be able to lead ONE towards a real change...
  • Raj Shah: Premiered the new FWD (Famine, War and Drought) campaign that focuses on providing real time data to people on the Horn of Africa. He feels that we should be sharing what is happening through food prices, rain, etc.  Strangely, he left off what USAID was actually doing in the Horn.  When I asked about it, his response was that it would be included in the tool but kept it vague enough so that it is possible that all data related to programs will not be available with the same vigor as food prices.  When asked about NCDs Shah essentially said they remain a secondary concern to communicable diseases where there is a real opportunity to reduce burden and improve health.  He also mentioned a few times the procurement of local goods and services when working in the HoA...good news.  Finally, on the issue of transparency, I asked him about what he hopes for building transparency and sharing data.  Shah seemed very excited to talk about this and had trouble not being too aspirational.  His hopes might exceed what can actually be done, but he is up on transparency and wants the US to be a leader on sharing information.  FWD may be a strong start.
  • Fact that needed context: Shah said that maize production grew by 300% in Western Kenya when talking about the drought and food security.  What he forgot to say was that Western is getting plenty of rain, unlike Northern Kenya which is impacted by the drought.  The news is great, but it is related to the drought only in the context that the country can supply food for itself.
  • Looking to Today: We kick off the morning with discussions on mHealth, the state of HIV, and a briefing on Women and Population.  The afternoon will include a chat with Lance Armstrong and most importantly a chance to chat with CDC head Dr Thomas Freiden and a briefing on the UN High Level Meeting on NCDs.
If you are interested in any of the topics I have quickly covered, let me know and I will be sure to try to expand on the more when I get the chance.  Also, jump in with some questions you would like answered by the events.  The afternoon stuff will be very interesting and are an opportunity to learn more about the direction of NCDs.

Also, I am not tweeting much because there are a ton of people here live tweeting using the #socialgood tag.  It has been pretty disappointing the quality of tweets from the event.  Basically it is echoing what is being said without any real commentary or thought.  Definitely give points to last year for being smaller and allow myself, @laurenist and Alanna to chatter away.