The Social Innovation Summit (SIS) is a place where really nice people who do really nice things come together to share really important innovations on ways to improve society…really!

As a veteran of many conferences where hierarchy and title matter, I often found conversations to be stilted, led by elders pontificating on their topic of choice. At SIS, every conversation began or ended with the words “How Can I Help?”  Age, gender, and politics were irrelevant. The currency of the day was “let’s do something together to make this a better place.”  Generosity of time, a spirit of sharing, and an egalitarian approach to courtesy was pervasive.

Beyond the conversation and camaraderie, these were the topics I learned about at SIS that changed my outlook:

Caine's ArcadeCaine’s ArcadeThis was a story of the creativity and change that occurs when we recall our own childhood imaginations. One summer day Nirvan Mullick’s life was completely and totally transformed by a serendipitous meeting with a 9-year-old boy. The power of the Internet and the vision of YouTube allowed this to happen.


Endometriosis. Celebrity power came in the most unlikely manifestation, when model and celebrity chef Padma Lakshmi shared her journey of devastation caused by her uterus. Wait, what…on stage in a public forum? Yep! By the end of her presentation, Twitter was ablaze with conversations about her revelation and the Endometriosis Foundation of America she co-founded. I personally sent this information to half-dozen women friends who have suffered unnecessarily for decades and now can get help.

. Daniel Epstein exudes infectious enthusiasm. The founder of The Unreasonable Institute, his jaw-dropping, 10-minute talk on life-changing solutions developed by young “unreasonable” entrepreneurs was inspiring. Get involved by supporting and learning about the incredible journey of this institute.

PeaceJamPeaceJam What if “at-risk” youth surrounded by violence could be taught by a Nobel Peace Laureate to learn about the spirit, skills, and wisdom they embody. Might there be peace in our time? Might compassion, compromise and charity become endemic?  Dawn Engle and Ivan Suvanjieff set out on a journey to discover if this was possible. And so began a movement that now connects 13 Nobel Peace Laureates with 1 million youth in 39 countries. And they have yet to unleash the full power of collaborative technology. With help the best is yet to be.

Barbara Bush and Adanna ChukwumaHealthCare. I was proud to be part of the CiscoCSR team that orchestrated our engagement with this conference. You always worry about how your section will “fit in,” and I’m pleased to say Kathy English, Sr. Director, Public Sector and Dr. William Kennedy from Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, gave a wonderful presentation on the future of healthcare in the digital age. The highlight was a LIVE Telemedicine video session where the audience  watched Dr. Kennedy engage with his 13-year-old patient Shawn. Read Dr. Kennedy’s blog post on the Huffington Post.

This activity was followed by Barbara Bush talking about her Global Health Corps. Adanna Chukwuma, a fellow in the program from Nigeria, brought down the house with her impassioned journey on global healthcare as a human right

The Social Innovation Summit occurs twice a year. The next gathering will be in New York City at the United Nations. For me there is nothing more uplifting and regenerating than being around really nice people. The fact that these same people are changing the world for the better… well … 2013 is looking awfully bright to me!



Mary Anne Petrillo

Senior Marketing Manager, Digital Strategy

Corporate Social Responsibility