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The mission of the Your Mark on the World Center is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.

Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Grounded in Action: Leveraging Conferences & Events for Social Impact

Guest post from Justin Murrill, Global Sustainability Manager, AMD.

Events and conferences that explore solutions to our most pressing social and environmental challenges can be outstanding sources of information and inspiration. With many minds collaborating on innovative solutions, complete with break-out sessions and networking events, what could be missing?

One answer: action. Literally rolling up our sleeves and doing something that benefits the causes or social issues being explored. Action is the conduit that connects our inspirational lofty-thinking at these events with the spirit of accomplishment and real social impact.

So, how can we spark this sort of action? Last year at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Eco Conference – where around 3,000 people interested in sustainability gathered to discuss how to protect and improve our planet – AMD debuted our scalable approach to integrate action-based volunteer events into conferences. The “AMD Green Army” volunteer event brought together hundreds of conference attendees and local employees with local non-profits to make new connections while enhancing Austin’s urban landscape.

After last year’s success, we decided to host our second annual “AMD Green Army” volunteer event earlier this month at SXSW Eco. Together these events convened over 250 people from the conference and nearby businesses, universities, and the general public to clean up and revitalize areas of the city.  Volunteers planted trees, removed 165 bags of trash from creeks and rivers, made 5,000 “seed-balls” for a fire devastated region and stored 9,000 native tree seeds for threatened species.

But beyond the measurable social and environmental benefits, we found adding volunteerism into social good events makes the whole experience more fulfilling for participants.  But don’t just take it from me. One volunteer said:

 “I LOVED the opportunity to engage in meaningful work, step outside of my comfort zone and meet new people.”

Another participant said:

It was great to socialize with colleagues and meet new people in a scenic outdoor environment, while creating a positive impact to our beautiful city’s environment.”

The volunteers expressed that they loved getting out of their chairs to go outside and connect with nature and each other. They left the conference not only with inspiration and knowledge from the speakers, but also with a fun and rewarding experience, and a deeper connection to their peers.  And the local non-profit partners told us they love this approach because they receive more hands to help with on-the-ground efforts.

The social and environmental issues we discuss at these conferences are typically massive and require endurance and persistence. But as the computer scientist Tony Hoare said, “Inside every large program is a small program struggling to get out.” We agree, and that’s why taking small action is important.  The AMD Green Army approach provides participants with a break from these overwhelming issues while contributing to the environment.

If we get this right, many small actions can add up to make a real difference, and that is hopefully where you come in!

Imagine if a few years from now it was the norm for conferences and events to integrate volunteerism into the agenda… the good we could achieve collectively would really add up and yield rewarding benefits for all.

For this to happen, others need to share and adapt/adopt this concept.  For the next gathering you organize or attend, we hope you add or request volunteerism as part of the agenda. For ideas on how to build your own “Green Army” read AMD’s white paper – Bringing Action into the Agenda: Crowdsourcing Volunteerism at Corporate Events. Hopefully it will help you tap into the motivation of these gatherings, and yield some fun and rewarding action!

Justin Murrill is the Global Sustainability Manager for Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and author of the white paper Bringing Action into the Agenda: Crowdsourcing Volunteerism at Corporate Events”.  Justin’s postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied. Follow Justin @JustinMurrill and check out AMD’s latest Corporate Responsibility Report – the summary is available as a tablet app.

Photos courtesy of AMD.

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