CGI's 7 Smartest Ideas

Some innovative highlights from Bill Clinton’s three-day philanthropy event, focusing on fighting poverty, empowering women and embracing global interdependency.

09.23.10 11:01 PM ET

Some innovative highlights from Bill Clinton's three-day philanthropy event, focusing on fighting poverty, empowering women, and embracing global interdependency. By Dana Goldstein

The Daily Beast was in the house for every second of the jam-packed Clinton Global Initiative, former President Bill Clinton's three-day philanthropic extravaganza. Here are the seven smartest ideas we heard on how the world can beat poverty, empower women and girls, and, in President Clinton's words, embrace our newly "interdependent" world, in which each of us is affected by the well-being of those across the globe.

• Fight cancer in the developing world. Philanthropists used to believe there was no practical way to get expensive cancer treatments to the poor. Partners in Health founder Paul Farmer says that thinking is outdated and unfair. "Poor people are kind of getting shafted," Farmer said. "We need a global fund for cancer care"—an international body to organize efforts to beat the disease in the developing world. In the meantime, you can donate to help fight cervical cancer—a preventable and treatable disease—in Haiti.

• Spread the word about babies and words! Regularly speaking to infants, babies, and toddlers helps their young brains develop and gets them ready for reading and writing. According to Molly Melching, founder of the Senagalese women's rights group Tostan, some Senagalese women believe silence protects children from evil spirits. With education about the benefits of speech, mothers embrace change.

Full Coverage: Clinton Global InitiativeIn the U.S., college-educated parents speak to their children about twice as often as working-class parents, and by age 3, the affluent kids know more than 1,000 words, compared to the approximately 750 words poorer children know. Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone, says many working-class parents simply need information on the latest brain science. That's why he launched "Baby College," a parenting education and support group in Harlem.

• Don't ignore what's happening in Pakistan. Twenty million people have lost their homes, livelihoods, and health in the devastating floods, which the State Department's Richard Holbrooke called the worst humanitarian disaster of our lifetimes. Contribute $10 to United Nations flood-relief efforts by texting SWAT to the number 50555.

• Involve men in the fight for women's rights! Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are fighting child sex trafficking around the world with their foundation's "Real Men Don't Buy Girls" campaign. Two million children worldwide are forced into coercive sex—and some of them are right here in the United States. Learn how to help here.

• Don't forget Haiti. There are lots of troubles in the world, but Haiti still needs our attention and help. President Bill Clinton says the best way to turn Haitian society around is to get 100 percent of Haitian children educated. Currently, only 45 percent are enrolled in school, and the adult literacy rate is also only 45 percent. Progress and Development Haiti is doing amazing work organizing schools in the camps for Haiti's displaced population.

• Lobby for the U.S. to institute a longer school day, spending the extra time focusing on academic, artistic, and social enrichment for kids. "We have one of the shortest school days in the industrialized world," said Harlem Children's Zone founder Geoffrey Canada. "No one thinks, if the kids are all failing, maybe we should work a little longer to see if they succeed?" For more extended-learning-time ideas and volunteer opportunities to work with kids after school, check out The After-School Corporation.

Two million children worldwide are forced into coercive sex—and some of them are right here in the United States.

• Use viral media to tell everyone you know about "the girl effect." Check out this absolutely amazing video that explains how fighting poverty and ending early marriage and motherhood can turn around entire societies, and how you can help.

Dana Goldstein is a Spencer Education Journalism Fellow at Columbia University, and a former associate editor at The Daily Beast. Her writing on politics, women's issues, and education has also appeared in The American Prospect, The Nation, The New Republic, BusinessWeek, and Slate. You can follow her work at