Friday, June 11, 2010

#ThePromise Conference at Internet Week New York

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend the #promise conference as part of Internet Week New York. The day long conference hosted a variety of speakers from large corporations such as Pepsico, MTV, and GE to internet start ups and non-profit organizations.

The goal of the conference was to explore the ways in which people are using the internet and social media to engage people in conversations to create change.

The first part of the day featured speakers from Pepsico, Timberland, and GE. Pepsico spoke primarily on their recycling campaign, while GE spoke on their healthymagination campaign. Both of these speakers seemed like a giant commercial and I was a little nervous, that the entire day was going to pan out into a big greenwashing conference, but fortunately the rest of the day was a bit more enlightening. One of the good things that did come out of the morning talks was that all the corporations recognized that the reason corporate social responsibility exists is that individuals are influencing corporations to create change and become more responsible for their actions.

One of the gifts that we got when we signed into the conference was a copy of Douglas Rushkoff's book, Life, Inc. One of the panel sessions sat down with Rushkoff to discuss his book and the concept of how the world became a corporation and how we can now take it back. Rushkoff stressed that the best business is business that does something good. The doing good is profitable, maybe not at the rate that investment bankers like, but in terms of overall sustainability.

Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back

The overall theme of the day is how the internet is changing the way that corporations talk with both their employees and the public. It is no longer about consumers, but about people. This entire conversation reminded me of a talk on social media that I attended as part of West Coast Green last October. One of the books they recommended at West Coast Green was The Cluetrain Manifesto. The Cluetrain Manifesto first came out in 1999 - way before Facebook, Twitter, and all the social media tools we use today. Even back then they recognized the role of chat rooms and news board to force corporations to change.

The Cluetrain Manifesto: 10th Anniversary Edition

One of the questions that came up in yesterday's conversations was, "What if BP had embraced social networks when the well first exploded? Would it have turned the world into problem solvers?" I think that even without BP embracing social networks, the world has used them to voice their disgust and pose their own solutions to the problem.

Some of the charities that were present yesterday included charity: water and Crowdrise. charity: water used Twitter last year to organize twestivals around the world to raise money - one of the first efforts of it's kind. Crowdrise is the creation of actor Edward Norton. Yesterday, Edward Norton talked about the creation of Crowdrise as a tool to bring networks together for fundraising. One of the points he brought up was that he hoped that Crowdrise would allow people to share what they were doing in a way that defined them. 

The final speaker was Ville Tikka from Nokia. The role of mobile phones around the world has an amazing amount of potential. Places where computers are scarce, mobile phone prevail. Villa talked about the five issues which had the most potential for tackling social problems - health, learning, livelihoods, advocacy, and resilience. More information about the innovations that are taking place can be found at

Overall, the speakers who presented at #promise were varied and interesting, unfortunately I do not have the space to go into them all.  There was a live feed of the conference which may be made available later. The #promise conference provided an interesting venue for people to talk about corporate social responsibility and social media and engagement. 

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