Grinning his trademark smile, Bill Clinton was greeted with a standing ovation from an eager and enthusiastic crowd. While he joked about answers that he did not have, he also shared the ones that he did.
One of my favorite moments from his speech came when he offered his take on when the economic crisis will end. “Nov 9th at 3:30 in the afternoon,” he predicted, illustrating the impossibly-false precision of any answer.
Outlining the fundamentals which have not changed in this economic moment, he reminded us that:
Clearly drawing upon his substantive background in government and philanthropy, Clinton provided a thoughtful closing session to the conference. He illustrated how boundaries could be bridged, and provided a clear call to action for other foundations. He provided concrete examples for how foundations can work effectively in partnership with government and the public sector, drawing specifically on examples from the Clinton Global Initiative’s environmental and health efforts.
While all of his points were relevant, I especially admired his challenge to us to focus on the “how” question. Reflecting on the stimulus package, he provided commentary on how the process had focused on two questions: (1) “What are you going to do?” and (2) “How much money are you going to spend?” He invited the audience to focus on a third question: “How are you going to turn your good intentions into good changes?” Using the example of job creation, he pointed out the importance of identifying what kind of jobs and “prioritizing options that employ greatest number of people.” He warned us that decision-makers will be judged by how we answer the “how” question. How we do it is up to us.
Kaberi Banerjee-Murthy is a board member of Resource Generation.