The United Nations’ Media for Social Impact 2015 Summit


May 1, 2015


By Steven Aitkenhead

On May 1, 2015, the United Nations Office for Partnerships and PVBLIC Foundation hosted the second annual Media for Social Impact Summit at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The summit gathered the media industry’s top leaders as the UN asked for their cooperation to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.

The UN will officially launch new Sustainable Development Goals this September, and needs the private and public sectors—as well as members of the media—to work together to achieve them.

The objective of the May 1 summit was to create the “world’s largest and most important advertising campaign” to raise global awareness of mankind’s most concerning issues, such as poverty, gender equality and climate change. The campaign is part of a broader 15-year communications strategy, sustained by PVBLIC’s annual summit, to teach civil society how they can help solve these issues by 2030. In order to do so, the UN is proposing that media representatives cooperatively develop an open-source platform called “#theGlobalGoals” that will inform and engage a global audience about the Sustainable Development Goals.

#TheGlobalGoals aims to become the world’s biggest social impact movement. While such a media campaign may not have the power to reach the entire globe, speakers at the summit—such as Kenneth Cole, founder of Kenneth Cole Productions; Jason Harris, president and CEO of Mekanism; and Andrea Purse, director of broadcast media from The White House—used social impact media campaign case studies to show that the media industry is more powerful than it has ever been, and is continuously expanding

According to the World Economic Forum of 2015, there will by 50 billion connected devices by the year 2020, expanding the reach of media. Due to new mobile technology, the media industry is shifting its resources from traditional forms of distribution to new ways that involve connectivity. Today, anyone can be a director, photographer, and even a reporter, creating news content via mobile devices and social media.  Anyone with a smartphone or Internet connection has the ability to provide and access information on demand in a matter of seconds, and powerful messages can go viral around the world if everyone does their part.

Citizens can engage with government, organizations, companies, and even religious institutions by using technologies as simple as SMS texting.  This is now allowing leaders to connect with society on a more personal level.

The campaign “It’s on Us” is a leading example of how a government initiative—in this case, an initiative designed to prevent sexual assault—was able to go viral by using a powerful message in line with strategic media.   The campaign was able to make the cause personal to whoever was exposed to the ads, calling on viewers to action and to take a stand and fight for the cause. This case proved that by leveraging global connectivity, campaigns can communicate the same message through different high-traffic online and offline media, such as newspapers, magazines, billboards and other ads, to create a much stronger impact.

Do these examples prove that the growth of technology is affecting democracy and the way the world is governed? The answer is yes. By paying attention to what these social impact campaigns have been able to achieve, governments can engage the public in social inclusion programs. Civil society can further aid government by participating and providing information on important issues. Democratization through all types of media technologies might change the economic development and prosperity of communities, influencing coming generations to work in a more cooperative way to improve their surroundings and their future.

Although technology and global connectivity are making the world a smaller place, publicizing “#theGlobalGoals” is still an extremely difficult challenge. The UN has been working on its Millennium Development Goals since the start of the century and has realized that it cannot take on this immense task on its own.  Through the leadership and convening power of the PVBLIC Foundation, the United Nations is partnering with media companies and organizations such as Mekanism, Kinetic, LATCOM, Memac and Ogilvy to utilize media for social impact.

The May 1 summit was a product of the vision of PVBLIC Foundation Co-Founder and Chairman Sergio Fernández de Cordova, the ongoing support of PVBLIC Co-Founder and President Antonio Ruiz-Giménez, Jr., and the leadership of Co-Founder and Executive Director Rachel Cohen Gerrol. The summit leveraged the Foundation’s unique umbrella of existing social contributions in the media space, including “The Global Poverty Project,” “Everyone On,” “Break The Cycle,” and others, to develop technology and media partnerships with the United Nations and improve the future through technology and media.

Steven Aitkenhead is a business and project development manager at P3 Global Management Inc., a leader in smart city infrastructure and public-private partnerships.

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