CGI: Saying Yes to Partnership

Creating the change we need through partnerships, access to information, and progressive thinking.

By Andrew Schwartz

Bill Clinton is more magician than man these days. In a world where most only bemoan the state of the world and insist the bureaucracy is too thick for anything to get done, President Clinton chooses to wade through the land of “No” and plants big and little “Yes’s” along the way.  His foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), is dedicated to turning ideas into action. Instead of simply talking about how bad the poor and oppressed have it; the members of CGI create and implement solutions to these problems. Because of the CGI, millions have gained access to water, better agriculture, education, health care, human rights…the list goes on.

Everyone from presidents to royalty, celebrities to scientists, and activists to reporters show up to help. I sat in on a panel moderated by Madeleine K. Albright, and participated in by Paul Farmer, of Partners in Health, Tawakkol Karman, co-founder of Women Journalists Without Chains as well as the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, and Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia. The panel discussed the importance of the free and rapid dissemination of information to today’s youth, focusing primarily on youth in developing countries. Ms. Karman, the face of the Yemini uprising during the Arab Spring, praised the importance the Internet and free information played in the Revolution. She opined, “The access to information is a human right and should not be caught up in proprietary boundaries. The Internet should be free and access to the information should be universal.”

Information and knowledge allows change to come. Without it the status quo of oppression and tyranny are allowed to dominate unimpeded. Speaking of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales stated, “It’s there that many learn about how to create societal change.” Wikipedia is a terrible business model,” Mr. Wales admitted, “because it gives away everything for free. The company barely scrapes by and because the company is supported mainly from donations, there is no guarantee that it will exist one year till the next…The benefit of knowing that the world is a better place as a result of his company makes up for potential dollars lost.”

Unfortunately, the panel was cut short. Bill Clinton –along with Morad Fareed, Jason F. McClennan, Dr. Deepak Chopra, Steve Bing, Terry McAuliffe, and –interrupted the conversation to introduce The WELL Building Standard, the first building standard that is designed to improve people’s health and wellness. These are not names one is used to seeing together. However, because of CGI, these individuals have come together to use their own power and prestige to improve the lives of people all across the planet.

In her keynote speech, Secretary Hillary Clinton praised CGI members and constituents for doing just that. She pointed out that the world is flush with both capital and capability. It is paramount that those with means give back to their countrymen and women to ensure that all people, not just a few, are able to enjoy our green earth. The world population is expected to grow by two billion in the next 20 years. We can no longer focus on the immediate problems at hand. We must plan for what is going to come. If we are to be successful in the future, we must realize that hoarding and provincialism cannot sustain us.

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reminded us at CGI, “We need to broaden and increase our network of partnerships to meet our goals. Developing partnerships may be uncomfortable for all of us, but it is essential for moving forward.”

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