The potential of new media for social good

This weekend, 22-24 September, The Social Good Summit 2012 (#sgsglobal) will gather people from all over the world, in person and online, to participate in a conversation on how the power of innovative thinking and technology can help solve our greatest challenges. Not only do the organizers promise interesting conversations, they want to translate the potential of new media to make the world a better place into action. The agenda is full of interesting topics such as “Digital activism: on the frontlines of the Arab spring” with Ramy Raoof, Egyptian blogger, “Social gaming for good” with Nick Kristof, Columnist at New York Times, and “Unleashing the power of open innovation in government” with Todd Park, U.S Chief Technology Officer of The White House. You can find the full agenda on the website, where you also can watch the live stream of the event.

Here at IFAD we are very excited about the summit. IFAD has for the last couple of years steadily increased the use of social media. Through our social media channels we cover events, our work in the field, and engage with our followers on topics of agricultural and rural development. We inform, listen and engage. For instance during our Governing Council in February this year, the world outside of IFAD could follow the conversations on sustainable smallholder agriculture. The key note speakers and the high level panels were accessible live both via webcast and tweets, and the response from our followers was remarkable. The conversation grew from the event in Rome to the online world, questions were asked, and new perspectives were added. This year we have also added G+ and Pinterest to our social media family, and we are continuously exploring how to engage in the best way with our followers and partners through these channels.

Last year we conducted a survey among our followers to understand more of what kind of material and topics they would be interested in, what areas of rural development they wanted to learn more about, and which channels they preferred. Today we have reached over 11 000 followers on Twitter and we are approaching 7000 on Facebook. We are steadily increasing our followers base, and maybe it's time to do a new survey, because we want to hear from our new followers as well: Which agriculture and rural development topics would you like us to talk about? Is there anything you would like to see more of from us? How can we attract and engage all the potential followers out there who are not yet following us? If you have any ideas and thoughts about this, send us a tweet or post on our Facebook wall.

When we talk about using new technology and media for social good, one of the first examples that come to my mind is from one of our key note speakers at the Sharefair a year ago. Rob Burnet from Well Told Story showed us how communications can be used to spur positive social changes that can be proved and measured, and lead to an improved world. Their activities in Kenya with the Shujaaz project have had an incredible reach and impact on young people. Rob Burnet says that in an independent survey done among 17 year olds in Kenya, 62% said that they follow Shujaaz every month, and 36% had taken action based on stories in Shujaaz. There are many examples out there of initiatives using new media and technology for impactful and engaging communications, and hopefully there will be many more to come. This weekend's summit will definitely show us more cases, and inspire not only new conversations but also new actions.

We will be following the event and tweeting live. Join us wherever you are for the global conversation.