Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Walking the Talk: Tech Leaders for Social Innovators

So as many of my friends know, I've never really been tempted to join Second Life. I think I get it--for people who like virtual reality, and for people who enjoy the idea of putting on different identities, well, all sorts of reasons, really. But I don't even like board games, so the idea of donning a second identity didn't feel at all like me.

But here I am at the one-day conference on Tech Leaders for Social Innovators associated with the Grace Hopper conference on women in computing--and I just interviewed Anuradha Vittachi, co-founder and CEO of OneWorld on OneClimate Island in Second Life. Sceptical colleagues back home--who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty--thought I was crazy to be trying this in front of 80 people. The technology would no doubt fail, people would get weirded out by looking at avatars that shift their feet, etc. But by some miracle (including a miracle named Caroline Simard, one of the conference organizers), we pulled it off. And it was an amazing opportunity to introduce Anuradha, whom I admire immensely, to a group of women who otherwise would probably not ever have run into her, even in Second Life.

And why wasn't Anuradha, a keynote speaker, at the conference anyway? Well because of her personal and organizational commitment to do something about climate change, she wanted to see if we could find an almost carbon free way for her to participate in the conference here in Florida from her office in London.

So we pulled it off, and it was, I think, a vindication for what was really the whole theme of the conference--how do your leverage technology for social change? And it created a nice bookend to presentations by some amazing global leaders in doing just that--Jensine Larson of World Pulse Media, Paula Goldman of Imagining Ourselves, and Bernadine Dias of Carnegie Mellon University and TechBridge World.

And what did I get out of it (besides the pleasure of simply pulling something off)? Well, probably the same thing everyone else got. I got incredible affirmation about what I'm doing because unlike almost every other conference I attend, we were all pretty honest about the times we felt like giving up, and how we each got over those moments. That it's not as easy as many people--including ourselves--like to make it look, and the recognition that we're human and fallible but still manage to do great things really encouraged me. To paraphrase Robbins: Even TechLeaders Get the Blues. But we still keep going.


Dennis Whittle said...

The guilty would like to publicly confess to his scepticism that this would work :)

carolines said...

I wasn't skeptical so much as clueless :-) if I had known the half of it... thank you Mari for making this happen with us!!

carolines said...

I wasn't skeptical so much as clueless about what it would entail... thank you Mari for making this happen with us!

Jill Ross said...

Should this go into the Guiness Book of World Records? Seeing Anuradha Vittachi present her slides from an island in second life while on video conference from her office in London and connected with a group of technical women leaders in a hotel room at Walt Diseny World Resort was simply awesome!

Her story was heard and it is compelling. And her commitment to climate change was evident. She is an inspiration for all of us to do more.

Caroline, thanks for making this the highlight of the Grace Hopper Conference for me!