USAID leads a 3-day online jam on social issues

Global Pulse 2010 draws thousands of participants from more than 155 countries

Global Pulse 2010

Location: www.globalpulse2010.gov

Agencies: U.S. Agency for International Development (lead)
with assistance from the Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, and State departments.

Technology: IBM Innovation Jam

From March 29-31, nearly 7,000 socially engaged people took part in a three-day online conversation about 10 of the greatest challenges that the global community faces, including empowering women and girls and supporting a sustainable planet.

Global Pulse 2010 offered the international community an opportunity to voice opinions, share ideas and come up with innovative solutions to social issues that the world community faces in the fields of science, technology, entrepreneurship and human development.

The U.S. Agency for International Development took the lead, with support from the Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, and State departments, in addition to private partners.


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The aim was to turn dialogues into partnerships and ideas and rhetoric into action, said Ryan Cherlin, a senior program assistant at USAID, during a recent government Web managers conference.

Each of the partner agencies and organizations extended invitations to participants within their communities or networks. USAID didn’t want the usual suspects coming to the table, but it also didn’t want to open the conversation to the general public. Instead, organizers wanted to protect the integrity of the conversation with people who were informed about the topic areas, Cherlin said.

Global Pulse site

USAID used IBM’s Innovation Jam technology, which can support an unlimited number of participants simultaneously. Because of budget constraints, the agency chose the option to support 20,000 people.

“The cool thing about the technology is it performs real-time text analysis,” Cherlin said.

Throughout the three-day event, the IBM Jam technology sifted through the data and conversations, extracting main ideas and themes from the 10 forums. Each forum had hundreds of topics and conversations taking place. A facilitator hosted the forums, which included people from government and the private sector and even celebrities active in global social issues.

The results: 

  • Nearly 7,000 individuals from more than 155 countries participated.
  • The event inspired 3,000 posts, which included ideas, comments, links and solutions.
  • Sixty percent of the participants were from outside the United States.
  • Gender parity was about 50/50.
  • A majority of participants were between 25 and 34 years old.
  • Twenty-one percent were between 45 and 54 years old.

Global Pulse 2010 also has a Facebook page with nearly 3,000 fans. The page “is not a sterile site where we are posting links to things we want people to see,” Cherlin said. “It really is an engaged community.”  

People are still posting and making videos, posting links to their blogs and interesting articles, Cherlin noted.  A number of people have told USAID that they have built partnerships with people they might not have met had it not been for the Global Pulse 2010 event.

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