Today I attended the opening session of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in NYC. It’s my second year attending. In many ways, it’s similar to other conferences, with plenary sessions, breakouts, networking, etc. In other ways, it’s unique. To begin with, as former President Clinton said in his speech to us, “This is the only conference you’ll ever attend where the gift bags are empty.” Because CGI provides its members with the chance to give to others.
There is a great deal of power at CGI. More than 60 current and former heads of state, 500 business leaders, and 400 leaders from NGOs and philanthropic organizations from 84 countries attend.
As at most conferences, the real deal making happens outside of the sessions. What makes this conference different is that the pitching and buying is among NGOs and philanthropists/funders. And the matchmaker between the NGOs and funders is President Clinton and CGI. In fact, one of the great success stories we heard today was Global Give Back Circle.
Another distinction, at least for the nonprofit sector, is CGI’s demand that all NGOs and funders who attend be crystal clear in making their commitments. NGOs stating what they will accomplish and when, and funders indicating how much money and other resources they will invest and when. Now in its fifth year, CGI tracks and monitors participating NGOs and funders.
There’s even more. CGI provides a tremendous platform and recognition for NGOs and philanthropy. President Obama addressed us today to add his encouragement and support, drawing on his personal experience in community organizing.
CGI’s members have made more than 1,400 commitments affecting more than 200 million people around the world. Because of their efforts, more than 10 million children have access to a better education, 48 million people have better health care, and more than 12 million people have safe drinking water.
As President Clinton explained today, when he was president, the question always was “What are you going to do, and what will it cost?” He said that the question at CGI is “HOW are you going to do it?” That the HOW is the burning question that CGI members work on.
Tomorrow, I’ll be interviewing corporate and foundation investors who are making commitments, and sharing their views here.