- Social Media
- Active Citizenship
- Good Giving
- Corporate Responsibility
- Be Fearless
While Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was preparing for her first trip abroad to Asia this past weekend, her husband (the first gentleman of the State Department, former POTUS and current philanthropist) was in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Austin, TX holding a giant pep rally for service and community action amongst college students and administrators. The rally a.k.a. the second annual CGI U is the University version of the acclaimed Clinton Global Initiative (thus the “U”), which brings the best and brightest together with the smart and powerful to discuss global challenges and announce meaningful commitments to address these issues. <?xml:namespace prefix = o />
The meeting, which was held at UT Austin this year, convened over 1,000 students and activists, nearly 100 college and university presidents, and celebrity cause champions including NFL All-Pro Nnamdi Asomugha, Matthew McConaughey, Natalie Portman and Luke Russert (who, like his dad, is a gifted broadcaster for those of you have yet to see him action).
From hands-on service projects and celebrity pep talks to panels featuring A-list social entrepreneurs and announcements of innovative commitments to create change, CGI U combines the best aspects of the major philanthropy convening with the best aspects of a college student leadership retreat (yes. I am a former student government geek).
Yesterday, I had the great opportunity to connect with my good friend, Mickey Bergman, who is the Program Manager for CGI U. Mickey was kind enough to answer a few questions to give us an insider’s view of the inner-workings of CGI U and the highlights from this year’s meeting – and although he didn’t say it in response to any of my questions, no matter what he says, I know that spending the weekend with Natalie Portman (Queen Amidala for all you Star Wars fans) was at the top of his list.
Michael: What is your role in CGI U?
Mickey: CGI U Program Manager. I am responsible for all content of the program: plenary sessions, special sessions, working sessions (there are five tracks: poverty alleviation, peace and human rights, education, global health, and energy and climate change). Specifically, I am in charge of putting together the program: panelists, moderators, discussion structure, and facilitation of active participation. I have a team of 10 topic managers and deputies.
Michael: What's the biggest similarity/difference to CGI?
Mickey: CGIU is almost the exact implementation of the CGI model on the University world: students, campuses and University presidents. Two things make CGI unique from any other meeting, both exist in CGIU: 1) Commitments – every single participant at CGI or CGIU makes a personal commitment in one of the topics covered during the meeting. 2) Active participation – every single element of the CGI program entails active participation by the audience - whether it be facilitated table discussions during the working sessions, or skill building sessions.
CGIU this year was larger than any other CGI meeting. Over 1,300 participants. All 50 states of the U.S. and additional 62 countries were represented. 1,700 commitments were made. CGIU features a unique program, in which all participants take to our host city and assist in a service project.
Michael: What were some commitments you heard this year?
Mickey: Can't say which are my favorites…not allowed to pick favorites. Here are some of the Human Rights Commitments to give you an idea. Visit the CGI U website for a detailed list of all commitments.
Commitment: To provide support to children orphaned by the "5.12 Sichuan Earthquake". In partnership with a volunteer organization of Shanghai International Studies University, this commitment will provide psychological assistance and peer empowerment to children orphaned by the earthquake in Sichuan[SISH-WAHN] in 2008.Commitment: To build a secondary school for refugees from Darfur and Southern Sudan, in an effort to enhance educational opportunities for genocide and war victims.Commitment: Public Diplomats for Human Rights will enhance the integration of 192 Bhutanese refugees who have relocated in the greater Syracuse community by providing English language classes and improving their access to employment opportunities.Commitment: This program will enable college students to work with their campus and local business community to create sports-based solutions to homelessness.Commitment: To provide educational seminars to rural communities in the Kyrgyz Republic, in an effort to reduce the increasing number of "bride-kidnappings" and human trafficking in the region.Commitment: To design and implement a project which will provide women with economic opportunities, while supporting their children's education.
Michael: CGIU creates a unique learning opportunity and community for a few hundred kids each year. How does this ripple out to others and begin to create impact?
Mickey: It is quite awesome when you think of the ripple effect CGIU has. 1,700 commitments were made during this weekend at CGIU. That means that when these students head back to their homes, campuses and communities, 1,700 projects, programs, and actions, are about to be implemented in more than 62 countries around the world. The number of people affected will be in the tens or hundreds of thousands.
Michael: You're apart of the team that makes CGI and CGIU work. What unique quality does President Clinton bring to the table that makes these efforts so successful?
Mickey: President Clinton is a magnificent communicator and a passionate leader. His ability to inspire people to join causes is unmatched. His analytical ability helps him identify gaps and challenges, as well as possible solutions. He takes solutions used to deal with one challenge, and implements the same principals on another. He inspires students and audiences to be the change themselves.
In forming CGI, President Clinton established a mechanism to leverage people's resources with his own power as a convener. This combination helps catalyze commitments and projects to change the world.
Michael (Mickey) Bergman is the Founder and President of the Solel Strategic Group, a consulting firm dedicated to conflict mitigation throughout the world. Mickey is currently working with the Aspen Institute in a joint initiative with the US Department of State on Palestinian Economy and Youth, advising Governor Bill Richardson on foreign policy, and consulting for the Clinton Global Initiative University. Prior to establishing Solel, Mickey served for two years as the Director of Congressional Relations and Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation based in Washington, DC. Mickey has published several articles and opinion pieces in publications including: the Boston Globe, Daily Star, Aspen Magazine and the Middle East Bulletin.