A Summit without Silicon

Daniel Lewis - Brazil


November 19, 2015

I’ve always wanted to go to a keynote presentation. You know, those events that happen a few times every year where Google or Apple proclaims to unveil the future in front of the gaping eyes of thousands of tech nerds and pundits. After hours of anxiously waiting, they pull back the curtain and the world gasps at their newest chunk of silicon and curved metal that is somehow nearly identical to the slightly older and slightly different chunk of silicon and curved metal unveiled just over a year earlier; the world gasps at “the future”. But unlike the iPhone 7 which will be the “future” for maybe a solid 7 months and will really only be a slightly souped up version of its predecessor, the future talked about here, at the 2015 Social Good Brazil Summit, was the future of the world.

At this event, there was no product. No chips of silicon behind a velvet cloth or over-intensified video showing edges and curves of metal. There were just people, ideas, and the intersection between the two that amounts to possibly the single most important word of this era: innovation.

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When I stepped foot into the behemoth building that housed the 2015 SGB Summit my jaw unhinged; like a snake eating a rat whole unhinged. For five minutes I had to remember to breath as the blood rushed to my eyes taking in everything around me. Eventually, my adrenaline settled into an active lull; the machine running like clockwork around me as I watched Social Good Brazil’s small team of 12 and a set of 40+ volunteers moving to and fro preparing posters, speakers, badges, trash cans, you name it; they were making sure everything was perfect. And it was.

Day one of the conference comprised much of the social innovation umbrella. From discussing governmental innovation with an actual Brazilian Congressional Representative to sharing the latest news from inside the collaborative economy. Drug kingpin economies to crypto-currencies, we had it all. This last bit of course came from our headline speaker, Alexa Clay; the herald of misfits, weirdos and hackers herself.

Alexa clay is the author of The Misfit Economy,” a bestselling book exploring how the other half innovates, drawing on stories from the lives of gangsters, Pirates, hackers and slum dwellers.” She is an Amish-dressing, LARPing expert, who will actually be living in Brazil for the next two months. But Alexa’s not here for the beaches, or Samba; she’s here for the culture, or, more specifically, the underground economies. The two she is most excited about: The Floripan witch economy and Shamanism, both of which she says have evolved quasi-business models to keep their traditions alive.

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This is a woman who, while in Bombay, rode on the back of a drug dealer’s motorcycle after he had used a bit too much of his own product just to get the most accurate story possible. She’s not your usual headline speaker, but she fit, kind of perfectly, in our two day, Social Good Brazil experience that gathered over 2,000 misfits, entrepreneurs and social advocates to learn the newest ways in which people are making the world a better place.

But there was still day two and it did not disappoint. With members from Google, Kiva, UNDP and a host of homegrown Brazilian entrepreneurs, everyone left with their heads brimming with new ways to fight for social good. We also held the award ceremony for the Social Good Brasil Lab program, SGB’s social innovation accelerator, with the crowd voting on who they thought had made the best pitch the day before. The winner, Centista Que Virou Mae, is a community of Brazilian scientist mothers supporting women in motherhood and self-empowerment and was awarded a seed fund investment of R$ 20,000! With second place, Letras de Medico and third place Praças not far behind; each receiving R$16,000 and R$13,000 respectively.

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Day two was followed by a day of hands-on social innovation. Participants spent time with some of the summit speakers and a host of other social innovators; fully immersing themselves in many aspects of social innovation. Participants designed their first apps, peered 15 years into the future and actually partook in a new form of social movement called Play the Call: the SGB summit is much more than just talk.
So next year, just think: three more days at the office or three days learning, living, understanding and networking your way into the future of social innovation. The choice is yours, we just hope we’ll see you there with us next year!
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Daniel Lewis