The 2007 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) begins Wednesday.  Last year I attended and wrote for Social Edge about the CGI, and I will be doing so again this year.  (Last year’s posts are below.)  I have had a year to reflect on the experience, and I’d like to pass along some thoughts.

Maybe this sounds like hippie-talk, but I felt an "energy" at last year’s CGI that stayed with me through the entire year.  Reviewing last year’s posts I see that I even wrote about this at the time. 

In many ways this conference feels like a dam bursting, releasing an explosion of pent-up, problem-solving energy. I often describe blogging as information naturally finding channels in which to flow around the gatekeepers and I see something similar here. I think – at least I hope – there will be a ripple effect, spreading out and touching others. Of course, there are so many heads of companies and organizations here that if they do take any of this energy back with them, there has to be a ripple effect.

I know I did my part.  All through this last year, when people asked me about CGI I became energized and enthusiastic again, and they couldn’t shut me up from talking about what a great thing it was to be in this place where people were actually working on solving problems. 

I felt as though more was accomplished in the few days of last year’s conference than during the entire 6 years (then) of our present government.  It just felt so good to be at a gathering of people who shared a philosophy of doing good in the world and using practical approaches to solving problems and helping people.  I am looking forward with hope that this spirit will continue into this year’s conference.

The conference’s theme is tackling global challenges in bite-sized chunks.  My favorite example of this approach was a commitment to "inoculate 10,000 children in a specific region of Honduras against Hepatitis-A."  (Soon we’ll find out if it got done…)  Think about the practical value of this project – the specificity of the goal, what it leaves behind and its scalability.  At the end of the year this specific region of Honduras will should have the means to continue into the future: the people who performed the inoculations, the contacts with the suppliers of vaccines, the communications channels to inform people about the project, etc.  And of course they can inoculate these children against other diseases at the same time.  And all of this is scalable.  With all this is in place and with all the lessons learned they can expand the program into neighboring regions, step-by-step to the entire country, neighboring countries and continent.

Another observation – last year global warming was not so much a public topic.  I was surprised and impressed by how the conference attendees and speakers all agreed that it is a serious problem that must be tackled.  I’m sure you remember Richard Branson’s Stunning announcement.  And Wal-Mart (Wal-Mart!) made a major announcement at the conference that they were requiring their entire supply chain to reduce carbon emissions! I feel like CGI very much helped initiate the public concern about global warming that we have (finally!) seen in the US in the last year.

I also have a different kind of observation from last year’s conference.  I wrote then that many of the world leaders who attended sounded a warning about the conflict in the Middle East.  One after another, they warned that "street" tensions were increasing to a boiling point, and that the root of the tensions was centered around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not Iraq.  I am interested to see what they have to say now.  The region did not explode, but the turmoil in Pakistan is very serious.  And the core conflict is worse, not better.

So here we are.  Let’s have some fun and lively discussion this week!  Leave comments – lets make this a conversation.