01/25/2011 04:12 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

NetHope Addresses the Shared Norms for a New Reality

This week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, we'll be participating with some of the world's top leaders from business, politics, economics, academics, and media to discuss the "Shared Norms for a New Reality" for the global economy. We are increasingly living in a world where we are more and more interconnected through technology. This is creating new social norms for people across the globe, but what are these "New Norms", and how do NetHope and our member organizations help address them?

One thing is for sure, consumers and society are increasing social and environmental demands on businesses. Taking on the challenges as well as capitalizing on the opportunities of globalization is a reality for companies operating today, as an example. Companies must integrate global challenges into their growth and innovation strategies not just to gain social license to operate but because that is where the market is. Initiatives with global development challenges are sometimes the "tip of the spear" for NetHope partners as they look to move into emerging markets. NetHope gives multinationals a laboratory for exploring frugal innovation, which assists them in development of projects for the global marketplace. An example of this is a recent project where NetHope and its NGO member, CARE teamed with Microsoft, in performing field trials with mobile phones and some key Microsoft Mobility software to assist in Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of AIDS (PMTCT) in rural East Africa.

In addition to needing to address social and environmental issues, business is drinking from the fire hose of disruptive technologies. The pace of change and technological innovation is great, but it should be thought of as part of the solution, not just a problem. Technology --enabling the NGO sector and civil society is critical to building more inclusive and scalable solutions that harness natural consumer trends -- like the growth of mobile telephony -- to drive dual returns. To borrow from Thomas Friedman, technology is one of the great forces that flattens the world and technology-based platforms for development have the opportunity to be positively disruptive. Again, for example, NetHope is working with Catholic Relief Services and World Vision, two of its NGO members, along with ESRI a leader in mapping technologies, on applying Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping technology to improve access to clean water in East Africa.

At NetHope we are built to surface disruptive technology, ideation and innovation by being not only a think tank for what's next but a do tank for solving what's now -- harnessing technology to solve today's most pressing global challenges. We are fundamentally organized as a collaborative network. Our uncommon alliance of 32 INGOs, the private sector, leading private foundations and now government work together in the practical laboratory of the developing world to deliver innovative solutions to solve some of the world's toughest problems. By leveraging connectivity and technology solutions, these partnerships create sustainable and large scale change in communities such as Haiti, rural Africa, and Pakistan. These partnerships are critical to driving transformational approaches for these communities and bringing together the world's best problem solvers while leveraging market trends, building better supply chains, more connected economies and driving GDP growth.

Reading the Annual Report and background material from World Economic Forum leaders in advance of this year's Forum, with their focus on risks and disasters, one could conclude it's a going to be a downer. But if we accept those risks, complexities, and interdependencies as reality -- as new norms and as systems challenges that require uncommon solutions -- we can see opportunity in the challenges, and use these constraints to promote and accelerate innovation and long-term change. That's what we hope to be talking to others about next week at the Forum -- and we will be sharing our perspective on the conversation throughout the week on our blog. You can participate in the conversation on Twitter by following the World Economic Forum, Davos on Twitter, or by tweeting to hashtag #WEF.