This week in Washington, DC, ConvergeUS hosted a kickoff reception to say hello to the world and explain what they’re all about. From their website:
ConvergeUS brings together the technology, nonprofit, government and academic sectors to facilitate and accelerate technology-based social innovation. Support us in helping these converging interests spark new innovation – new strategies, concepts, ideas and coalitions – to meet social needs from early childhood education to assisting military families.
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, TechNet’s Rey Ramsey, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, former White House Deputy CTO Andrew McLaughlin, White House Director of Social Innovation Marta Urquilla, former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin and others were on hand to introduce and celebrate the organizations launch. TechNet, a bipartisan, political network of CEOs and Senior Executives, established ConvergeUS in the spring of 2010.
ConvergeUS will function as a facilitator and convener to bring stakeholders together to create a “Technology Innovation Blueprint” that focuses on purposeful applications of technology and social media. The organization will select three issues per year, which will likely focus on STEM and early childhood education, and military families. According to Ramsey and Stone, meetings will take place in Silicon Valley in order to absorb the “ethos of openness” and transparency that the tech world has embraced, and apply that to social good efforts.
A lively panel discussion moderated by Andrew McCloughlin, invited questions from the audience and beyond via a live Twitter feed in the room. Two stories particularly stood out from among the panel – one from Leland Melvin, explaining how he became interested in science through sports (eg, understanding the physics of having a low center of gravity helped him understand body position and balance), which not only helped him in becoming a professional athlete, but then gave him a solid education to fall back on when that career ended – taking him from the NFL to NASA. That story triggered a poignant recollection from Stone, who shared how his lack of sports experience in high school led him to lobby the principal to start a lacrosse team (in which no one at his school had any experience, thus giving him a level playing field, so to speak). Explained Stone:
The principle told me that if I could get a coach and a team together, to go for it. So I did and then I became captain. …That experience helped me realize that I don’t have to wait for an opportunity – I can manufacture one myself. Which is what entrepreneurship is all about.
ConvergeUS is designated as a 501 (c) (3) organization. The organization’s approach will focus on the following areas:
- ConvergeUS Annual Summit: Beginning in the fall of 2011, ConvergeUS will assemble social innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders, problem-solvers and subject matter experts in a high-level conference to address specific social challenges. The technology sector participants will be recruited into a permanent corps of Innovation Fellows. With its nonprofit partners and the resources committed at the summit, ConvergeUS will create technology blueprints and report the results of these plans at subsequent summits.
- Online Clearinghouse for Innovation Fellows and other Social Innovators: To enable the Innovation Fellows and other social innovators to work on the summit blueprints in the most effective manner, we will develop and manage a virtual innovation marketplace. This clearinghouse will enhance communication and provide access to additional innovation resources.
- Social Innovation Technology Projects: In addition to the social challenges and the blueprints arising out of the summits,ConvergeUS will identify and implement other model social innovation projects that are effective and scalable. These projects may be the result of requests from existing nonprofit partners or may be a response to new studies or data showing an unmet social need for which technology can increase the likelihood of finding an effective solution.
Watch this video (below) from the ConvergeUS launch event in Washington, D.C. which includes a short interview with Biz. Pardon the audio, which unfortunately, is a rather low.