A Commitment to Change: Reflecting on CGI 2009

It is hard not to be overwhelmed by the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) experience (my first).  It isn’t the glitter and the glamour, though there is plenty of that, but the energy of 1,000, multiplied by a determination to address the issues of the world and the belief that meaningful change can be affected, one commitment at a time.  That’s what lights the days and evenings of CGI for me.

Education, energy and climate change, global health, poverty alleviation, and a special focus on women and girls were all topics of impassioned, informed, and lively discussions that engaged private investors, NGOs, multinational corporations, policy makers and world leaders.

Those of us whose work is dedicated to economic empowerment found our thinking informed by those who understand that hunger, water, infrastructure and health are driving factors in success or failure; that women and girls face incomprehensible challenges, yet are a natural resource capable of changing the world.

(This short video does a great job of presenting the case for investment in women and girls.)

Regardless of the issue, the need to get essential programs to scale was always a point of commonality and of struggle.  I listened to those whose work has touched hundreds and those whose programs reach hundreds of thousands.  I heard a commitment to see that three million additional girls receive an education.  (According to statistics shared by Jordan’s Queen Rania, the cost of getting these girls into school is $11 billion, which is what Americans spend on pets every three months.)

During all this, I couldn’t keep my thoughts from wandering to the microfinance field here in the U.S. Our numbers remain small, yet the impact on each borrower, his or her family, and the communities in which they live is large.  Commitments are the promises of change at CGI.  Our commitment, though not announced on the stage by Brad, Demi, Bill, or Hillary, is to focus on innovative ways to reach those microenterprises where small infusions of capital will unleash extraordinary power to change the world.

We have a great deal to be proud of and oh so much more to contribute.

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