Friday, October 19, 2007

Anita Borg Social Impact Award: Imagining Ourselves, and Burmese Monks

This is my third year serving on the jury of the Anita Borg Social Impact award. And sometimes I've wondered if I was the right person to be on the jury--as a jury we have in the past gone "safe," awarding winners who were in effect being given the award for lifetime achievement, something I have never felt was right for an award named after Anita Borg.

This year's deliberations were also hard for me--because I was so torn between the top two contenders. But the good news about being so torn is that both of them exemplified the spirit of rewarding someone for taking a risk, and rewarding them early enough in the process to give them a real boost in whatever it is they are doing that has social impact (something that is moot for a lifetime achievement award). So here are my personal congratulations--to Paula Goldman, the winner of this year's Anita Borg Social Impact Award. I feel she deserved it when I was on the jury reviewing the documents, and I feel even more strongly about it now that I have had a chance to hear her personal story and meet her in person. She is every bit as spunky and committed as I imagined her. She has given voice to over a million women and persevered against great odds.

And now my personal congratulations to Elisa Camahort and the team at BlogHer. We on the jury talked about giving runner-ups (especially those so close to the top winner) some sort of visibility, and I have to confess that it seems to have dropped off our radar screens. (Tends to happen when you have a volunteer jury that is brought together for the purpose of making the the difficult choice and disbands with some relief without having to actually think anymore about how difficult the choice was). Readers of this blog may know I was upset about their not winning last year, and although they didn't win on this round, I feel that the Institute has grown and evolved in the last 3 years. So as a fiduciary matter, I feel good about it. Maybe next year is when I get my act together to petition the Institute to publicize runners-up.

And a final rant about lifetime achievement awards, of which of course the Nobel is the pre-eminent example. Much as I thought Al Gore deserved recognition, I wished the Nobel committee was nimble enough to be able to award the Burmese monks so that perhaps they could have made a tangible difference right now ...

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