So have I been overly impressed? Am I a starry-eyed Clintonista, blind to the dark realities? I don’t live in the middle of philanthropy issues in my daily life, but I am not aware of a get-things-done conference like this, and especially of this magnitude, occurring before.
The attitude here is: Of course you have to blend governments, business leaders and non-profits together like this. Tom Watson at News onPhilanthropy writes,
”Not surprisingly, business people stressed economic sunstainability and cost control; NGOs talked about partenrships and cooperation with government; government ministers generally provided "realism" about the political situations in various corners of the globe.”
It seems today – after listening to the arguments of so many leaders – like the most natural partnerships. And it seems that it is just accepted here that this is the way society’s challenges obviously should be approached. Now from my admittedly limited, outsider perspective, last I knew the various innovative ideas of venture/entrepreneurial philanthropy and public/private were supposedly still in formative, developing stages – yet here it’s almost as if these had been an operational strategy for decades, all the kinks worked out, “of course this is how it’s done”
In many ways this conference feels like a dam bursting, releasing an explosion of pent-up, problem-solving energy. I often describe blogging as information naturally finding channels in which to flow around the gatekeepers and I see something similar here. I think – at least I hope – there will be a ripple effect, spreading out and touching others. Of course, there are so many heads of companies and organizations ehre that if they do take any of this energy back with them, there has to be a ripple effect.
At Salon today, Joe Conason writes http://www.salon.com/opinion/conason/2006/09/22/clinton_initiative/ of Bill Clinton,
“the impresario and visionary whose foundation’s goals merely include alleviating poverty, disease, and religious and ethnic conflict while cooling off global warming.”
And he says that the conference is,
“…raising the prospect of a world where America can lead again, with regained prestige and government competence. Whether intentionally or not, he is demonstrating what world leadership really means.
It is possible, although he would probably resist the idea, that the symbolic value of his conference is even greater than those huge dollar totals. At a time when American government seems oblivious or worse toward human need and environmental peril, the former president is raising the standard of practical compassion and challenging the priorities of conservatism. The message of CGI is that things can change and that ordinary people can act — and that they should expect governments, corporations and institutions of every kind to act, too.” [emphasis added]
The level of public/private partnering happening here seems quite remarkable. Also, the spirit of “responsible business” is strong. It’s like our society has developed a thirst to finally see some positive role models, especially form the business community, stepping forward. I see that desire just as strongly within business as outside. I mean, even Wal-Mart is here, talking about sustainable and responsible business practices. (Could Exxon or Big Tobacco be next? Leave a comment.) Sure, there is a self-interest in building positive feelings about their brand, and profit to be made from energy efficiency, but I sense this could be part of a beginning of a new era.