On February 23, 2011, the launch of a new non-profit aptly named ConvergeUS made waves in Washington, DC’s tech and policy communities.
Founded by technology and social innovation entrepreneurs Rey Ramsey and Biz Stone, ConvergeUS will “leverage the collective power of the technology sector to accelerate social innovation in collaboration with nonprofit organizations, government entities, academic institutions, and the private sector.”
Working in telecommunications policy, especially in the space where telecommunications and civil rights intersect, can, at times, be painful.
I think most policy people can at least understand, if not empathize with, the frustration of many technology and civil rights advocates – These advocates make painfully slow progress trying to convince the industry, government, and society to incorporate a seemingly obvious issue into our societal framework – using technology to advance social justice.
But on Wednesday evening, I couldn’t have been happier to be part of the telecommunications industry. Representatives from the public and private sectors came together as public officials, engineers, and entrepreneurs to espouse one simple message:
Business + Technology + Social Innovation = The Definition of Our Future Success.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski participated in the event to praise the ConvergeUS creators’ vision. The Chairman’s remarks were echoed by Joseph Waz, a representative of Comcast – sponsor of the event – who expressed his excitement over the collaboration of the best minds from every part of the industry to put technology to work for society.
Andrew McLaughlin, former White House Deputy CTO, moderated a distinguished panel of experts that included the founders of ConvergeUS, as well as Leland Devon Melvin, NASA Associate Administrator for Education; Muhammed Chaudhry, President and CEO of Silicon Valley Education Foundation; and Marta Urquilla, Senior Policy Advisor to the White House Domestic Policy Council’s Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.
The panelists spoke about how technology can be used to solve some of today’s most pressing challenges. The topics that were discussed ranged from how to leverage applications to increase parental involvement in early childhood education, to the potential use of social media to put the spotlight on engineers and scientist as role models, and to the use of technology as a vehicle to improve our lives from multiple standpoints.
Under the leadership of Executive Director Patrick Gusman, ConvergeUS is working with this formula to convene annual summits and provide an online innovation clearinghouse to create and implement blueprints on how to use technology to solve social challenges. ConvergeUS will also work on additional social innovation technology projects to realize the promise of social technology.
Now that ConvergeUS has given us the formula and started the conversation, one question remains:
What ideas do YOU have to use business + technology + social innovation to tackle the social challenges of today and tomorrow?
Jacqueline Clary is the John W. Jones Fellow at the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council. In this position, she focuses on a variety of policy issues to advance minority participation in the media and telecommunications industries. Ms. Clary earned her B.A. from John Carroll University, her J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law, and is a member of the New York State Bar.