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A Revolution in Our Pockets

A Revolution in Our Pockets

What do a best-selling author, a Pakistani musician, two CEOs of major health care systems and a cyber-security research analyst have in common?

I know that sounds like a set up to a really bad joke, but actually they, along with dozens of other global thought leaders were all under one roof recently in Naples.

This was not a freak coincidence or some type of think tank spring break, but rather the 5th annual Imagine Solutions Conference presented by the Searching for Solutions Institute. The one day conference is designed to connect Southwest Florida’s private sector and nonprofit leaders with the best and brightest thought leaders on important subjects, sparking big ideas, conversations and possible solutions to some of our most pressing issues globally, nationally and locally.

I have attended 4 Imagine Solutions conferences through generous scholarships provided to nonprofit leaders. I am grateful as I wouldn’t want to miss my only chance to come face to face with a polar explorer or the Under Secretary of Education. Each year I leave inspired and motivated to continue seeking solutions to issues we face in our region.

Other than being assembled in Naples, I was struck by another commonality among the speakers; the influence of technology, more specifically smart phones in their work. Nearly every one of the presenters, regardless of their area of expertise credited the readily available technology as a major factor or influencer in their ground breaking discoveries.

We are definitely living in the age of smart phones appearing front and center at meetings and conferences, but normally that is due to the audience’s penchant for multi-tasking. Rarely do you see the speaker pull out a phone in the middle of a presentation. But at this year’s Imagine Solutions conference iPhones and Galaxys took center stage as thought leader after thought leader continued to feature their phones as major players in their work.

Sometimes the phones were vehicles of solution, like the case in which human rights violations and violence are captured and exposed via small cell phone and hidden body cameras. Other times the phones were hailed for their ability connect patients to medical care remotely rather than a trip to a clinic or ER.

In the field of Education, curriculum is being transformed and reformed to meet the demands of kids who are digital natives (meaning they were born with smart phones and ipads in their hands).

The world renowned Pakistani musician I mentioned earlier is Usman Riaz. He is an artist, filmmaker, storyteller and a Berklee College of Music whiz kid. He emerged on the global scene in 2011 when a video for his song “Fire Fly” went viral. He revealed that he learned much of his dazzling guitar technique from his small village by watching YouTube videos and used the internet to learn how to write and conduct orchestra pieces and make films. As he concluded his on stage performances on the guitar, mandolin and harmonium he reached into his pocket and raised his cell phone into the air and challenged the audience with these words. “There is a revolution in our pocket. We have so much information available at our fingertips. Can you imagine what could happen if we use it.”

So grab your phones and let’s get started. Email me from it at [email protected] or send me a tweet @listeninginSWFL.

photo from

Sarah Owen
Sarah Owen

Sarah Owen, President & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, leads a passionate and diverse team dedicated to driving regional change for the common good. The Foundation is committed to engaging the community in conversations and action that creates sustainable positive change and provides the funding to make those changes a reality. More