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September 23, 2012

Bill Clinton Seeks Designs for a Better World

by Peter Fedynsky

Designing for Impact is the theme of the 8th annual Clinton Global Initiative which began Sunday in New York City.  What former president Bill Clinton means by design has nothing to do with fashion, but rather a more prosperous and sustainable world.  

Global leaders and innovators in government, business and civil society are participating in three-day conference focusing attention on environmental protection, women’s empowerment, sustainable energy, and health.  The host, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, asked design expert Tim Brown to explain how design relates to global problem solving.  Brown said it means more than just the appearance of products and services.

“Whether it be the business system, the business model that’s around it; whether it be the organizational models that you’re using to get things done - they’re all design opportunities - the processes used to get things done," said Brown.

Clinton said that most problems in the world have been solved somewhere by somebody.  The difficulty, he said, is implementing existing solutions on a global scale.

“That, it seems to me, requires not just putting more money into a given technological fix, but designing a strategy that will maximize the spread beyond what you, or you, or I, or any of us do," said Clinton.

The Clinton Global Initiative seeks to address problems ranging from sanitation and education to violence against women and clean energy.

Jordan's Queen Rania Al Abdullah addressed the conference, saying that one of the most striking problems in the Arab world is youth unemployment.  She said education must be made relevant to current needs and that the design of solutions must be tailored to each Arab nation.

“In designing for the future, we need to be inclusive - make sure that the youths' voice is being heard.  We need to, as I mentioned, harness technology, and we really need to lead with learning," said Queen Rania  Al Abdullah.

Among the panelists at the opening session were U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.  Mr. Clinton jokingly referred to them as the "Korean Bloc."

Jim Yong Kim recalled the 1960s, when South Korea often was referred to as a “basket case," without hope for development.  He said South Korea’s success since then proves that no nation is without hope.

Ban Ki-moon said world leaders have a collective responsibility to address what he called "an era of injustice, inequality and intolerance."  He included business leaders in that call.

“Business leaders should have clear visions that what they do is not only for gaining profits; what they do is for humanity," said Ban.

The conference runs through Tuesday, with sessions on topics such as change in Africa, women in the economy, college affordability, youth, philanthropy, and the environment.  The annual event has garnered billions of dollars in charitable donations since 2005 and several million dollars more were added on the opening day this year.