Monthly Archives: June 2012

Changing the global conversation through “social”

#RioplusSocial: A new way to engage.

In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to discuss the concept of sustainable development. At that time, many people around the world did not know the conference was even happening. At that first summit, delegates from 172 governments discussed development challenges. What came out of that conference was a call to action; motivation for future sustainable development. The most poignant moment came when Severn Suzuki, a 12 year-old environmental activist, gave a speech on the future from a youth perspective. As one might expect, the young woman’s speech completely captivated the delegates.

This week, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development meets once again in a meeting dubbed “Rio+20.” During the summit, countless ideas will be discussed in regards to sustainable development, from the green economy to population dynamics. However, one thing about the two conferences remain the same: the attendees are experts, government leaders, and NGOs.

Where does the Severn Suzuki come from this time around?

One thing that’s certainly changed between the 1992 conference and today, perhaps even within the last five years, is the dominance of social media in our daily lives. From revolutions to breaking news, social media postings on Twitter, Facebook, and Weibo break down barriers and connect individuals in a number of meaningful ways. Social media isn’t perfect, but it certainly demonstrates acts as a new method for people separated by distance, culture, and creed to share thoughts and ideas. Moreover, social media produces a way for those concepts to be turned into action.

Enter Rio+Social

Conceived by a number of private partners including the United Nations Foundation and Mashable, Rio+Social is a day-long event being held on June 19 in Rio. This event brings together a number of development professionals, business leaders, creative thinkers, and thought leaders to present and share ideas on the role of social media in tackling important global issues. What makes the event unique, however, is that it is inherently being driven by social media. Using twitter and facebook, anyone can submit questions and influence the conversation.

This is a democratization of the Rio+20 conference and a chance for people around the world to get involved on a meaningful level. It will be a conversation starter, a point to begin thinking about issues that surround the future we want for our planet.

Events like Rio+Social are changing the ways that global governance occur: no longer will the world accept few making decisions for the many. Through social media conversations, people from Washington to Beijing to Des Moines to Rio can share their thoughts on important global issues.

Social media is still a young communication method, but nevertheless a vital one. Considering the huge number of people who have facebook or twitter accounts, one can only begin to imagine the possibilities for social media platforms within the global space. While Facebook and Twitter may not be the end all be all when it comes to “social,” the role they play in our everyday lives demonstrates just how social media is here to stay.

Rio+Social, in some ways, is a guinea pig for the future of “social” in international issues. Call me an idealist, but I’m confident that it will be a model to look towards in the future for tackling the world’s biggest problems. Facebook and Twitter don’t just have to be about posting the latest picture from a party: they can be tools for good. The conference tomorrow may not provide concrete solutions, but it will give us a new lens.

As most of us aren’t in Rio de Janeiro, you can follow the livestream of the entire event on June 19 by visiting starting as soon as you wake up. 

More importantly, you should join the conversation by tweeting about the #FutureWeWant by using the hashtag #RioplusSocial as you watch the event. I’ll be tweeting right along with you from my new twitter handle, @JonFRice. 


Summer 2012 etc.

The muggy weather. The daily riding of the Metro. No going to class.

It has to be summer in the DMV!

As you might have expected, I’m back on the East Coast and well into the swing of things for the summer. I’ve started interning full-time with doing communications with a non-profit that supports the United Nations, which has been a great experience so far! Outside of work, I am reading some great books (The Net Delusion, Everything is Illuminated), trying different restaurants (ShopHouse East Asian Kitchen, Agora), and attempting to balance my time between productive and unproductive things.

A note:

One thing I’ve noticed about political engagement while home is this: it’s very much an either/or situation. Now, there is a large group of Americans who are not politically engaged whatsoever, which could be considered within an either/or paradigm. However, within those who are politically adept, there remains a polarity: people know American politics or International Relations, but rarely do they know both (beyond where they obviously overlap). Even this summer, working within the international development community, I find myself slipping in coverage of the election.

To produce the next generation’s political leaders, we need balanced students who are aware and passionate about both domestic and international issues. While it’s fine to have a preference with the study of government, both subfields are key to understanding of our place within the global system.

Beyond my rant, a personal update:

Today, I deactivated my @j_ricecakes twitter username. If you’re already following me, you don’t have to do anything. If you’re not or you want to DM/MT me, the new one is @JonFRice.

Tweet away and happy summer!

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