On June 24th , the Social Media Club Chicago (SMC) mixed it up with attendees in town for TN2020, an international summit hosted by the British Council. The event was titled Social Media for Global Social Good. Barbara Rozgonyi, co-founder of the SMC, provided a summary of the event, which was held in the Wolf Point Ballroom at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza in downtown Chicago.
The quality of the presentations varied considerably. For example, Adi Diaz, co-founder of Epic Fu on-line, delivered a highly energized, animated talk that captivated the audience. Diaz described how she strategically used WEB videos to build a profitable web site that is dedicated to the “geek” culture. Not only was the speech entertaining, it also included many practical tips that enabled Diaz to achieve “35 million views” of Epic Fu. In contrast, some of the speakers were dry. For example, Noel Hidalgo, Director of Technology Innovation, New York State Senate, described how social media is ostensibly “transforming” one of the most corrupt state legislatures. I compared notes with the person sitting next to me, and we both felt that Hidalgo’s speech was, at best, lackluster.
But the real stars of the event were the attendees, not the speakers. The energy in the hotel’s ballroom was palpable, largely fueled by the international visitors from TN2020 (Transatlantic Network 2020). This highly selective group consists of very talented achievers who range in age from roughly 25-35 years old. One of its main purposes is to “revitalize transatlantic and global links for the future by building coalitions of young Europeans and North Americans to take collaborative action on global issues.”
During the networking portion of the program, I spoke with several members.One of them, a young Canadian, had a personal mission to promote greater understanding of climate change among institutions. His passion towards reducing our dependency on fossil fuels was matched only by his intelligence in discussing sociological perspectives about how institutional transformations occur.
Another young person in attendance (not a member of TN2020) is currently a PhD candidate in economics at the University of Chicago. This individual was equally ardent about bringing forth social change. However, he believed that only the for-profit sector can improve the lot of mankind. His thesis is that non-profits can’t amass the capital that is required to significantly advance the social good.
After reflecting upon my conversations with these millennials (those who were born after 1980), I thought back to a point that had been made 35 years ago, when I listened to a lecture given by Merton Miller at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Miller, a Noble prize winning economist, espoused the view that major changes in economic theories don’t actually take place until the originators of the old theories die-off.
Our current environmental disaster, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, is a good case in point. In countless State of the Union messages over the past 40 years, US Presidents—from Nixon to Obama—have advanced the notion that solving our energy crisis is a major national priority:
“I have a series of plans and goals set to ensure that, by the end of this decade, Americans will not have to rely on
any source of energy beyond our own…we can be confident that the energy crisis will be resolved, not only for our time,
but for all time… The capacity for self-sufficiency in energy is a great goal. It is also an essential goal, and we are going to achieve it.”
—-President Richard Nixon speaking on November 25, 1973
After attending last Thursday’s get-together, I am beginning to realize that to achieve our goals of energy self-sufficiency—and a clean energy future—we need help from the global community. Furthermore, the strategies—for achieving these visions—reside in the minds of young, bright people, like those who were in the ballroom. They will be the ones who will eventually make our collective energy-vision, a reality.