It occurs to me that this may be my third CGI, but it alo might be your first. So maybe I should back up and start with some basics about what is going on here.
After leaving office Bill Clinton started the Clinton Foundation, engaging in global philanthropy. He would go to global leadership conferences like Davos. While these are great events that get leaders together to talk about the state of the world, they are talk conferences not DO conferences. So Clinton decided to start a conference based on actually making things happen.
The way the Clinton Global Initiative is structured is designed to bring together world leaders, business leaders, leaders of NGOs and philanthropists in an environment that encourages action. The conference is held in New York at the same time as the UN General assembly, which means many world leaders are in town. Clinton uses his prestige to get many of those leaders to come to the conference, which is then a draw to attract major business leaders and philanthropists. These people pay a significant sum to attend and spend three days in the presence of Bill Clinton and … each other.
The conference theme is commitment. On top of the significant fee everyone who attends is asked to make a commitment for the following year, and to get it done. If they do not make good on their commitment they are not invited back which in this crowd can be a big deal. Status is very much in use as a motivator in the "getting things done" structure of this effort.
The conference consists of plenary sessions and working group sessions. The plenaries are in the main ballroom, with significant speakers. Then the conference breaks up into four workgroup sessions on the topics the conference is covering.
I’m looking at the four screens right now and see Madeline albright on a panel in a Poverty Alleviation workgoup session. On the next screen is General Wesley Clark on a panel in an Energy and Climate Change workgroup. Gene Sperling is addressing the Education workgroup andI think thast is the President of Mexico on a panel in the Global Health workgroup. The rest of the panelists in each group is of a similar stature in their field.
These workgroups have panel sessions to start them, discussing the problems tbhat the particular workshop addresses. (Example: Climate is currently discussing Renewables Revolution.) Then the workgroup breaks out to smaller groups around table that brainstorm solutions to the problems discussed. At the end of the session there are reports on what the tables came up with and more panel.
At any time during the conference attendees are expected to go to a "Commitment Table" and make their commitment. An example of a commitment from a past year is one person pledged the year and a million dollars do inoculate all the children in a province of Honduras against Hepatitis B. This means the infrastructure for this will be in place – clinics, personel, supplies, etc. so the children can also be inoculated against other diseases. And the project is scalable, expanding into neighboring provinces in following years.
At the first session of the conference President Clinton brings a few significant commitment makers up to the stage for recognition, to kick things off and set the tone. Then periodically during the conference he brings others to the stage to hilite and explain their commitments. This keeps people thinking aobut the commitments they will make and reinforces the action nature of the conference.
In addition to this atmosphere of problem-solving this is a tremendous networking opportunity, with NGO leaders meeting up and partnering with potential donors and govvernment leaders.
And finally, NGOs, governments and businesses partnering was a relatively unexplored concept back when CGI started. CGI helped push that model along, provided proof of concept, scaled it up and has since established this as an effective way to get things done.