In a world marred by crises, where the challenges we face are daunting, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) convened on September 18-19, 2023, with a powerful message: “Keep Going.” These two words captured the spirit of resilience, determination, and unity that pervaded the event. Hosted by President Bill Clinton, this gathering of global changemakers sought to address the complex issues that define our time, from ecological crises and migration to healthcare and gender equity. I was honored to attend on behalf of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University.
Don’t Give Up
President Clinton’s call to keep going resonated deeply with those in the impact space where burnout is all too real. The journey to creating lasting impact can be arduous and often feels like taking one step forward only to be pushed two steps back. Yet, in the midst of this challenging landscape, the message was clear: Don’t give up!
Pope Francis added a poignant perspective, saying, “Only we can cure the world from the globalization of indifference.” In a world where it’s easy to become desensitized to suffering and injustice, we must remember our shared responsibility to care for one another, especially the most vulnerable among us.
Together, We Can Solve Anything
The importance of collaboration emerged as a central theme at CGI 2023. It was a reminder that, no matter how overwhelming the problems we face may seem, they can only be solved by working together. Our interconnected world demands that we address issues holistically, recognizing the intertwined nature of the myriad crises.
Civil rights icon Bishop William Barbar acknowledged the importance of rescuing those in immediate danger but, more importantly, called on us to get to the root causes of these crises. A more holistic approach, coupled with a focus on moral leadership, can guide us to more effective solutions.
Centering the Most Impacted
Rev. Barber’s call to “lead with love, not hate” and to “put people at the center” reinforces the importance of prioritizing the most impacted individuals and communities. In the United States alone, nearly 140 million people live in poverty, a stark reminder that our moral authority in the world hinges on our ability to address these issues head-on.
Moreover, “shifting the power” in philanthropy through trust-based giving, as advocated by philanthropists like Matt Damon and Tony Elumelo, can foster innovation and creativity while empowering marginalized communities. Matt Damon stated that Water.org would not have been able to reach 58 million people without trust-based philanthropy. Tony Elumelu started his foundation to “democratize luck, thus empowering a generation of African entrepreneurs.”
Calling on Social Entrepreneurs
Acumen founder and CEO Jacqueline Novogratz highlighted the importance of character as a driving force for success among social entrepreneurs, emphasizing integrity, determination, and grit. She also pushed entrepreneurs to find investors who will accompany them, not push for growth too quickly. And to not be afraid of failure. The only way to succeed is to fail, and keep the faith.
To elevate the role of entrepreneurs and innovators, CGI’s Greenhouse initiative brought together 30 growth-stage startups and social entrepreneurs from around the world for the event. Featured among them were Miller Center alums, Shweta Jaju of ONergy and Danny Wright of Gravity Water.
Food Security and Urgency
Food security emerged as a significant concern at CGI 2023. The call for a more holistic approach to food policy resonated strongly. Renowned chef and humanitarian José Andrés urged us to avoid undermining local farmers by flooding markets with free food. Instead we must support sustainable solutions that address the root causes of hunger and food insecurity.
President Clinton asserted that “the seeds of terrorism are planted in despair,” underscoring the urgency of our actions. He called for pontificating less and doing more to create a more equitable and just world.
The Unfinished Business of Women’s Equity
Chelsea Clinton reminded us that women’s equity remains the “great unfinished business” of the 21st century. Around the world, we’re backsliding on many of the challenges women face, such as reproductive rights, wage gaps, and healthcare disparities. As a global community, we must ensure that gender inequities do not define this century.
Innovate with Urgency
The urgency to address global challenges was another recurring theme. Ruth Porat of Google stressed the importance of fostering a culture of innovation while keeping a keen focus on the most critical issues. Ajay Banga of The World Bank emphasized that money exists, but the challenge lies in making the right choices.
Above all, we cannot afford to be complacent. The world’s problems demand our collective action, innovation, and urgency.
Building Connections for a Better World
Amidst the vastness of CGI 2023, I’m grateful to have met up with longtime friends in the ecosystem and made meaningful new connections with potential partners. This underscores the power of gatherings like CGI, where individuals and organizations from diverse backgrounds come together with a shared purpose: to drive positive change.
The 2023 Clinton Global Initiative meeting served as a beacon of hope and a call to action in a world grappling with immense challenges. Through resilience, unity, and unwavering commitment, we can overcome the obstacles before us and build a better future for all. Keep going, together!