Clinton Global Initiative 2012 Draws Big Names, Focuses on Design

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The Clinton Global Initiative’s 2012 Annual Meeting kicked off at noon on Sunday.  The event, which follows the highly publicized Rio+20 Conference held in Brazil two months earlier, holds an easy claim to the heavy weight champion title for all conferences focused on social and environmental challenges.  Taking place over three days, CGI 2012 includes plenary sessions complimented by smaller, issue-based breakout sessions with Heads of State, business leaders and nonprofit directors from around the world.  The roster of participants reads like a who’s who of world leaders and global change-makers and speaks volumes to former President Clinton’s continued influence.  Both Pres. Barak Obama and challenger, Mitt Romney are slated to speak.  The newly elected presidents of Libya and Egypt are in attendance as are media heavyweights Piers Morgan and Fareed Zakaria.  The ever-ebullient former New York governor-turned cable news anchor, Elliot Spitzer hustled through the pressroom early Sunday morning, shortly after the doors opened.  Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs is scheduled for a Monday panel.

UN Sec. General, Ban Key Moon, World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, Walmart CEO, Michael Duke, and Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan accompanied Clinton on an opening panel, which centered on the this year’s theme: “designing for impact.”  Topics related to health, scaling up good ideas to achieve meaningful impact, education and youth employment dominated the conversation.

Clinton famously started CGI in 2005 “to help turn good intentions into real action and results.”  The Initiative’s aim is to convene global leaders for the purpose of implementing innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. According to CGI, their meetings have brought together more than 150 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date CGI members have made more than 2,100 commitments aimed at improving the lives of nearly 400 million people around the globe. When fully funded and implemented, Clinton claims these commitments will be valued at $69.2 billion.

New to the Meeting this year was a broad theme, designing for impact, which will guide discussions of CGI focus areas like health, education, energy, ecosystems and market-based solutions.  Senior editor of Fast Company, Linda Tischler and Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO, a design and innovation consulting firm, opened the session with an infomercial-style interview about the benefits of approaching problems from a design perspective. “There wasn’t a single thing in the manmade world that wasn’t designed,” said Brown, “The things that generally work well are the things where some thought has been given… whether a system of government, a product, or a service.”  Design implies an outcomes-oriented mindset, claimed Brown, who stressed the importance of designing solutions specifically tailored the communities they are intended to serve. Citing the Aravind Eye Institute’s groundbreaking work on cataract surgery in India, Brown pointed out that constraints in the developing world provide impetus for innovation, which can create massive efficiencies when applied to the developed world.  Brown stressed the importance of systems thinking when considering design and the need to quickly transform research into prototypes. “Good design comes from diving in and getting on with things… Design is a process of learning from doing.”

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