Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn: “A Path Appears” | Google News Lab

Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn: “A Path Appears” | Google News Lab


[MUSIC PLAYING] STEVE GROVE: All right,
hello, everybody. My name is Steve Grove. And I’m the director of the
News Lab here at Google. It’s a new team focused on
working with journalists and entrepreneurs to build the
future of media with Google. And it’s my pleasure
to welcome you today to this talk with Nick
Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn about their new
book, “A Path Appears.” Before I have them
come up, I’m just going to tell you a
little bit about Nick and Sheryl and the book. And then we’ll start
the conversation. Nick and Sheryl are a
really dynamic couple. They jointly won a Pulitzer
Prize together in 1990 for their coverage of
the Tiananmen Square crisis in China. At the time, it was the
first husband and wife team to ever win a
Pulitzer Prize together. And Sheryl was actually
the first Asian American to a Pulitzer Prize as well. Sheryl covered energy
and international markets for the “New York Times”
among many other topics. She’s also the
anchor of something that used to be called
the “New York Times” Page One, which was a look
ahead at the coming stories of the next day. She’s also worked on
the strategic planning side of the business and
the circulation department, where she ran an
effort to build up the next generation of readers. So it’s really a rare instance
in which Sheryl worked both in the journalistic
side of the newsroom but also the business side
of a newsroom as well, which gives her, I think, a really
unique perspective on media and where we’re headed. She’s since grown
an impressive career in banking and in
financing, focused on technology firms,
new media firms and also double bottom line
firms, firms that look to do both
profitable things but also things that
are good for the world. Nick is a columnist for
the “New York Times,” as you probably know, where
he focuses on human rights and giving a voice
to the voiceless. He’s really come to
represent, I think, the conscience of the “New
York Times” in a lot of ways. He started out on the
reporting side of the business as a reporter in Los Angeles,
in Hong Kong, and Beijing, and in Tokyo, obviously in
China, as we said before. And he’s the kind of journalist
who will do just about anything to tell a story that he
really feels needs to be told. During Nick’s travels
he’s caught malarial, he has confronted warlords, he’s
encountered an Indonesian mob caring heads on
pikes, he’s survived an African plain crash. Nick has been everywhere. He has done everything. And we’re pleased to have
him here at Google today. Hopefully, it will be a
little safe time for you here in Mountain View
then on the road. In addition to the Pulitzer
Prize he won with Sheryl, he won another
Pulitzer in the ’90s for his coverage of the
situation– sorry, in 2005, for his coverage of
the situation in Darfur and has also won
the Fred Cuny Prize for the Prevention
of Armed Conflict. So this is truly a power
couple we have here today. We’re very excited to have them. And I think it’s a
testament to the fact that they’re a power
couple who uses their power to do good in the world. So please join me in welcoming
Nick Kristof and Sherly WuDunn. [APPLAUSE] Thanks so much. NICK KRISTOF: Hey, Steve. STEVE GROVE: Yeah, thanks. Well welcome to Google. We’re so happy to have you
both here with us today. NICK KRISTOF: Glad to be here. STEVE GROVE: And we want
to dig into the book. But I thought before we got
into some of the specific issues that you focused
on, I’m curious what it’s like to write a
book with your spouse. SHERYL WUDUNN:
Well, first of all, I only had to write half a book. So, it was really nice. STEVE GROVE: Oh,
you’re half-off. SHERYL WUDUNN: Well, no,
that’s actually nice. When you write a book
with someone else, you only have to
write half of it. NICK KRISTOF: I
mostly wrote subjects. Sheryl wrote predicates. STEVE GROVE: Oh,
sentence by sentence. [LAUGHTER] But in your fourth
book together, I assume you have a process? STEVE GROVE: Yeah. No, we actually take subjects. And the we carve out subjects. And then we each write, and
then we swap, edit and rewrite. NICK KRISTOF: But what I think
Steve is actually trying to ask is, how do you write a book
together and stay married, right? [LAUGHTER] I think that’s the subtext. And you know, the
truth is that– and we also have
three kids together. And if you can
raise kids together, it is infinitely easier to
produce a book together. You know, you can put
a book to bed at night, and it stays asleep. A manuscript doesn’t
play you off each other. If you screw up, the
stakes are lower, you know. STEVE GROVE: I’ve
never heard a book writing process sound
so easy, actually, comparatively speaking. Like I said, you’ve written
a lot of books together. All four of your books
have been best sellers. A lot of your past works have
been a little more journalistic in nature. This book seems to
combine storytelling with a call to action. Tell us a little bit
about the motivation for writing this book. SHERYL WUDUNN:
Well, I have to say that, first of all, because I’m
not a journalist any longer, I sort of felt that I
could leave aside this need to be balanced and factual
and sort of not take sides. And our first two books
really were like that. I mean our first two
books, on China, first, and then on Asia, we really
were still the journalists. And we were always accountable
for whatever we said. And we were very
careful, especially writing about China,
not to take sides. But it was clear, just
from the reporting, it just spoke for itself. And then in both “Half the
Sky” and “A Path Appears,” we also did focus
on the reporting. And I think that was part
of the value in, at least, “Half the Sky” and now “A Path
Appears,” that we actually did a lot of reporting. So it wasn’t as though
we took a stand first, and then everything was
written from that one stand’s point of view. I think the value
is that we turned up things that were
just so obviously horrific that the facts
spoke for themselves. And so, at the end, it was at
the end that we sort of nudge. We don’t want to
really be overbearing, because we want people to
make their own decision. But there is a point of view,
much more of a point of view in each of those last two books. NICK KRISTOF: It sort
of came about, really, because, after “Half the
Sky,” people kept asking us, so what can I do? And it does seem to us
that an awful lot of people kind of want to do
the right thing, want to find a purpose
or meaning in life but worry about corruption,
about inefficiency in aid groups, or
just the problem seemed too vast, so
that anything you do is just a kind of meaningless
drop in the bucket. And it does seem
to us that there are answers to those concerns. They’re legitimate, that helping
people is harder than it looks. But that we have a
much more evidence now than we had a decade or
two ago about what works, where you get bang for the buck. And that there are
things we can do where we can have a high
degree of confidence that one can really have
a transformational impact. We talked about clubfoot
early on in the book. 1 kid in a 1,000 is
born with clubfoot. We never notice it
in this country, because if you’re born
with a club foot, then it gets treated right at birth. And you know,
everything is fine. Only when we are
writing the book did we find out that my mom had
been born with clubfoot, which I was completely oblivious
to, because she’s very active and very athletic. And yet in some place
in the developing world, that child will never
be able to walk, will never be able to go to
school, will become a beggar. And with help, you
can cure that child so that their life is
completely transformed. And boy, when you see
that operation happening, it’s unbelievable what
can be accomplished. STEVE GROVE: I’m sorry,
go ahead, Sheryl. SHERYL WUDUNN: And I think
that’s really important. Because I think
that a lot of people really do think, oh,
my gosh, these problems are so overwhelming. I mean, how can I even
begin to make a difference? And what we think
is so essential is for people to break down
that problem to little bits and to realize that you can have
an extreme amount of control over a little bit. And you know, I know
how important bits are to you all here, too. But I really do think
that even transforming one life is pretty amazing. And if you can do
that from scratch, I mean help someone
like Rashid, who is the woman in Niger,
a girl in Niger, who had clubfoot in both feet. And we actually found
someone, an American, who was born and
raised in California, who had donated $250 to help
someone in the developing world get cured of clubfoot. And so we followed her check
and found Rashid in Niger. And her money really helped
Rashid get cured of clubfoot. STEVE GROVE: You
talk about people feeling like they don’t know
exactly how they can access some of these problems
or how they can help. Early on in the
book– I just want to read a brief
excerpt that I think will resonate with our
crowd here at Google. You write that, so many social
problems in the 21st century seem intractable and insoluble. We explore Mars. We embed telephones
in our wrist watches. But we can’t keep families
safe in the inner cities. We can map subatomic
particles such as gluons. We can design robots
that drive cars and respond to speech and
defeat grandmasters in chess. But be grudgingly accept
failure in our struggles to keep kids in school off
drugs and out of gangs. Why is that? Why does it seem easier
for us, as a society, to tackle some of these,
what we call around Google, moonshot problems than it is to
do the really simple, important work of helping other people. NICK KRISTOF: You know,
humans are complex. And I think that we’re beginning
to understand, increasingly, that poverty is not just–
the metrics about poverty aren’t just amounts of money,
of income that you earn, but there are pathologies that
interact with poverty that are caused by it and then
create self-replicating cycles and self-destructive behaviors. Poverty can rob you
of cognitive capacity. There’s some fascinating
studies in India of IQ before and after
the rice harvest. And before the
rice harvest, when people are
economically stressed, their IQ is 11 points lower
than it is immediately after the rice harvest. When people are
stressed in these ways, they sometimes engage in
self-destructive behaviors. And these cycles can repeat. And these are hard problems. You look at a child
poverty in the US, and I think what Sheryl and I
saw is that poverty in America, the basic kind of
material situation, was infinitely better off than
if one is poor in Calcutta. But there is a sense of
despair and hopelessness, if you are a mom in
West Virginia, that is quite parallel to the despair
of people in slums in Calcutta. And that commonality, I think,
is a reminder of our humanity and of the need to try to do
what we can to chip away at it but also the complexity
of the challenges. SHERYL WUDUNN: I
also think that there are more solutions that
are coming to light. There’s been a lot of
data-driven, evidence-based research that shows
this strategy is better than that strategy,
because they have done randomized controlled trials
to show that a program that focuses on early childhood
really can make a broader difference and
change the trajectory of the life of a kid. And so while, in
the past, we have done a lot of
these interventions with kids in impoverished
homes, often what’s happened is that we’ve
intervened too late. And now this research
is showing that you’ve got to intervene a lot earlier. And of course, when you
put theory into practice, and even if you take something
out of the experimental stage, from the randomized control
trial, which is everything is very much controlled,
into the real world, things do change. You may not get
as good teachers, or the classroom
isn’t exactly the same as it was in the experiment. And maybe it’s a
poor construction, and so there’s noise
outside, so that impairs the ability
of the kids to learn. So there’s a million
different things that go on. But at least, we have the
beginnings of strategies that we know can work
if we can actually get to that sort
of perfect stage. And that’s really
important, because we didn’t have all
that in the past. STEVE GROVE: I’m
curious, your assessment, in all the
conversations you had, how far along you think we are? I’m reminded, there
was an MIT economist you wrote about Esther– SHERYL WUDUNN: Esther Duflo. STEVE GROVE: –yes, who did a
study determining that actually cook stoves aren’t as effective
as the State Department thought they were going to be, despite
a lot of money and energy that went into them. And we’re obviously a
data-driven company, here at Google. We measure just about
everything that we do. Do you think that the nonprofit
sector is changing because of people like Esther
or we have ways to go? SHERYL WUDUNN: Absolutely,
it’s definitely changing. But there are problems. I mean, even though we have
these great evidence-based strategies, one problem
is that they’re expensive. You know, someone came
up to me the other day and said that we
have a non-profit. And we believe in this
data-driven stuff. But the problem is
it’s so expensive. We’re this tiny nonprofit. And so we want to experiment
with these teaching strategies that we’ve developed,
but I can’t pay for doing a
randomized control trial and have different sites. It’s just too expensive. And so you run into sort of
the practicality of things. NICK KRISTOF: Oh, but the
change is just enormous. Basically, the nonprofit
sector, in general, has hugely lagged the for
profit sector in productivity, in metrics. It’s been much more
about inputs, not enough about outputs. You haven’t had that the
discipline of the market to create better productivity. But now, partly because of
randomized controlled trials, we’re just getting a much
better sense of what works, at what cost, what our
priorities should be. For example, there
was huge excitement a few years ago
about microlending. And when it was
carefully studied, rigorously, it
turned out, frankly, that microlending helped but
wasn’t nearly as transformative as people had hoped. But when it was
studied, it turned out that another element
of microfinance really was transformative. And that was microsavings. Most people around
the world don’t have a capacity to save money. They don’t have bank accounts. They typically get money
coming in once or twice a year at the end of a
harvest, and then you can put money in a jar
somewhere in your house or you can buy extra chickens. In West Africa, you
can deposit money with the Susu money traders. And you pay 4o0% annual
interest on your savings. So we could give people
a microsavings capacity. That really has
proved transformative. Getting that kind of
evidence about what works, where we
should be investing, I think has just far
reaching implications. And the real problem has been
that we have evidence now, but we don’t translate
it into policy. SHERYL WUDUNN: And that’s
where the rub really comes, because you’ve
got to shift then the cultural side of NGOs
and different organizations, so that they can actually
move towards things that really are shown to work. And then also, with policy,
certainly with early childhood education, we know that
early childhood education is really important. So when President Obama
says, I want universal pre-K and John Boehner
says, yes, I do, too. I mean, he clapped, actually. But then it gets stuck in the
dysfunction of Washington. And things just
don’t move along. Even though we all know
that it is the best thing for our country’s young. STEVE GROVE: Is part of that
a problem of measurement, because I know that– and you
write about this in the book– some of the benefits of
early childhood education come 15, 16, 17 years later,
when prisons aren’t as full, which is just a
harder message, maybe, to convey, especially, maybe, to
policymakers who are thinking, maybe, shorter term
than we might like. Is there things
that the nonprofits can do to communicate that
message more effectively or is that a policy problem? SHERYL WUDUNN: Well,
those are the long-term, some outcomes that
are clear as well. But along the way, there
are lots of metrics as well. For instance,
staying in school, I mean that’s one of
the key metrics. So for younger kids,
if they actually get, not a head start
even, even if they are born at the starting
line with everyone else, that’s a real achievement. Because so many kids,
especially if, for instance , a lot of babies are born
with fetal alcohol syndrome, and so you’re way behind the
starting line when you’re born. Because that does impair. It has huge amounts
of implications for the brain development. And then smoking
also has an impact. We hadn’t really
appreciated that years ago. But smoking also can actually
lead to more violent children, partly because they believe
that smoking creates a greater amount
of testosterone. So there are implications there. And so you have, if the
kid can start– at least be born at the starting
line, and then also is talked to, by
the age of four, we know that children
of parents on welfare have heard 30 million
fewer words than children of professional parents. So 30 million words
by the age of four, that difference,
that gap you can just imagine how far behind those
kids are of parents on welfare. So we have milestones
along the way, too. NICK KRISTOF: I don’t think
that the problem is even the length of time. I think part of the
problem is that, if you’re a member
of Congress, then you are consistently
getting bombarded with claims of evidence from
partisans of every side. And you don’t understand
randomized controlled trials. And so you just kind
of shrug at it all and go with what your gut tells you. And one of the problems, with
some of the most efficient interventions, is that you
can’t put a human face on them. So maybe the single
program in America that has the greatest, most
robust evidence of cost effectiveness is called the
Nurse Family Partnership. And it essentially
involves home visitations, beginning in pregnancy, for
very at-risk, low income moms, up to age two. And it tries to reduce
the number of moms who are smoking in pregnancy,
drinking in pregnancy, doing drugs, exposing
their kids to lead. Then it gets them to
read to their child, talk to their child, hug their
child, this kind of thing. And the impact is astonishing. And at age 15,
those kids, 13 years after the program has
ended, are only half as likely to have been
arrested as kids randomly assigned not to
be in the program. But you can’t choose
any one particular kid and say, look, this
kid is shining, because they were
in Nurse Family Partnership 13 years ago. And in general, I
think why is nutrition, why do we under invest in
early nutrition programs and micronutrients
and salt iodization? Again, because it’s very hard
to put a human face on that. It’s very hard for
me, as a columnist, to write a triumphant column
about salt iodization. I know, because I’ve tried. [LAUGHTER] So I thinks that that
is part of the problem, that some of the
most effective things work on a statistical
basis rather than through individual
human triumphs. STEVE GROVE: I mean,
you, in your columns and certainly in the book,
use so many stories of people that you’ve met to try to
put a face on these problems. Do you feel like that works? SHERYL WUDUNN: Well, there’s
been some really interesting research on what happens
when you put a face in front of someone when it
comes to donors. Paul Sloic, who’s someone we
also talk about in the book, really was helping–
I think it was CARE. And he was analyzing
what happens when a potential donor sees
a photograph of one girl who is starving. And how much do you give. So you give an amount x. And then if they just
add one other person into the photograph,
let’s say her brother, well donations drop by half. Now, why is that? And it seems to be
because you think that, if there are
two people there, you make less of
a difference then if you see only
one person there. So there is a lot
going on there when it comes to just
visual stimulation. And at the same time,
though, researchers have found that donations really
are kind of an emotional thing. You make a decision
to donate based on an emotional
connection, not so much a statistical connection. They’ve actually
also found that, if you give someone
some statistics, oh, if you can give $10,
you’ll save 10 kids, or if it’s $1,000,
you’ll save 1,000 kids. Well, those numbers just
don’t do anything for people. It’s that one kid
that they care about. NICK KRISTOF: In fact,
if you ask people to do math problems,
first, to exercise the more rational
parts of the brain, and then you ask them to
donate, they donate less. SHERYL WUDUNN: Yeah, I know. STEVE GROVE: Interesting. SHERYL WUDUNN: And so
also, if your screensaver has like dollar
signs on it, you’re also less likely to donate
than if it has fish on it. STEVE GROVE: Well, this gets
into an interesting area that you cover in
the book, where you study the
neurology of giving. You both actually went to
the University of Oregon. You got inside of
a brain scanner. Tell our audience a little
bit about that experience and what you learned,
both the experience itself of getting inside
that brain scanner and what you learned about
the psychology of giving. SHERYL WUDUNN: Well, that
was actually fascinating. So now, because of neuroscience
and the development of the FMRI, they
actually can see what happens in the brain when
you’ve give and when you get. And so there are
number of researchers that have put hundreds of
people through these brain scans to come up
with a composite and see what happens
on the average. And it turns out
that when you give, you actually
stimulate the pleasure center of your brain, which is
the same pleasure center that is stimulated when you
eat chocolate or ice cream or when you flirt,
when you fall in love, also when you get
addicted to drugs. It is that addiction
center, too, which, I guess, means that you might be able
to be addicted to giving. But they also found that in
half or even sometimes more subjects, those people feel
more pleasure when they actually give than when they get,
which is very interesting. STEVE GROVE: So you were
wheeled into this scanner. And you were shown
images of organizations you wanted to give to, and
then it just checked your brain for how you were responding
to those opportunities. NICK KRISTOF: That’s right. We had a screen in front
of us and a clicker. And so we were
told, OK, you have been given x amount of money. And then they’re monitoring
the nucleus accumbens in these pleasure
centers, and they see how much they light up. And then you’re
asked, do you want to give $20 to Helen Keller
International, for example? And you can say yes or no. And they see, when you say
yes, what that does, again, to the nucleus accumbens and,
again, how much it lights up. And this really confirms
this broader lesson, which goes back to
ancient scripture, that it is more blessed
to give than to receive. And it really does have
modern neuroscience behind it and also population studies. One of my favorite
studies looked at a population of
seniors and found that those who joined a
religious organization, went regularly to
religious services, their mortality risk for
that year dropped 29%. Those who exercise
regularly drop 30%. Those who volunteered for
multiple organizations, their mortality risk
that year dropped 44%. And presumably,
if you just manage to volunteer for a religious
running organization– [LAUGHTER] –you’re immortal. STEVE GROVE: You hit
the jackpot, yeah. The perfect storm. You’re talking a lot about
sort of the personal connection to the person that
you’re giving to. And you write in the book
about having proximity to someone else’s pain. You talk about walking through,
for example, camps in Darfur, where families are giving
almost their whole life to help their neighbor out, when someone
far away might not do that. It doesn’t make them
more sort of a person, they just can’t feel
the power of that story. Society has also
become more unequal, and so people don’t have access
to some of those stories. I wonder if you
think about internet and the power of social
media and the internet to give people access to
stories of people who need help? Is that increasing,
do you think, people’s ability to sympathize
or is it desensitizing us? What do you make of the
internet’s influence on people’s desire and
propensity to give? SHERYL WUDUNN: You know, I
think that it helps, certainly. But I think that
also in real life, you want to have a personal
sort of visualization or meet someone in person. I think that really
makes a big difference. Because right now, I think
the logic for researchers who have examined
this phenomenon, they’re saying, well, why is
it that people who are wealthy tend to be less? Actually, it turns out
that 20% of the people, with the lowest income,
they basically give a larger percentage
of their income to charity than
people at the top 20%. And so it’s not as though
the people at the top 20% are less compassionate. It’s just that one
explanation is that they just are not surrounded by need. And when we do better,
we become more wealthy, we move into houses,
we get bigger houses, we get bigger plots of land,
maybe a fence around it, so we’re kind of fenced
out of the need around us. So we live in nice
neighborhoods. So we almost never interact
with people in need. And so when you are actually
in a poor neighborhood, you are on the lower
income spectrum, you see need all the time. And so you feel
obligated to give. You feel compassionate. It moves you to give. Susan Fiske, who is a researcher
at Princeton University, she’s looked at
successful people. And she looked at
their brain scans of what happens when
they are shown pictures of people who are homeless. And they see those
people as objects not even as human beings. So in other words, she
calls it the “otherization” of these people. The wealthy people and
the successful people are “otherizing,” turning into
objects people who are really human beings. So that’s a phenomena. NICK KRISTOF: I’m
skeptical, frankly, that the internet changes that. I mean I think partly
through self-selection, I think maybe empathetic,
compassionate people will seek out depictions
of people in need. And their empathy
will be reinforced. I think less
empathetic people will manage to avoid
those depictions. We in the news media
could be quite useful. Especially television
could be quite powerful if we projected
into living rooms or onto your screen the story’s
of disadvantaged people. But I think that we
historically have not done a good job with that. And I think that now as the
business model of television collapses, and everybody
is desperate for ratings, I think that’s going to
be substantially less likely in the next 15 years. One of the things I found really
dispiriting, as a journalist, was that the Bill and
Melinda Gates Foundation had essentially bribed
ABC News to cover global nutrition, global health. It wasn’t called a bribe. It was called a grant. [LAUGHTER] And it was controversial within
the development community, because why should
Bill and Melinda Gates be giving money not to vaccinate
children or to provide bed nets or to save lives
in some other way but rather to pay overpaid
television executives to do what they should
be doing anyway? But in fact, after
a year, it was regarded as quite successful. ABC News did some really
good coverage of nutrition, of maternal health. And it projected those
issues on the agenda in ways that would get
more resources to them. So after a year,
Gates Foundation was ready to renew the bribe. And ABC News said, no. We don’t want to
take your money. Because we see that when
we air these pieces, then that’s when viewers
switch the channel. I find that just
really discouraging. And I think that television
and other news organizations are going to take the hint that
that is not what viewers want. And that you can make more money
and get higher ratings if you put a Democrat and a Republican
in the studio together and have them yell
at each other. And if that’s the
case, then these issues just aren’t going to
get on the agenda. And if that’s the case, they’re
not going to get addressed. STEVE GROVE: What
have you seen that has been effective to get
these issues on the agenda and cut through the clutter
of the chaos on line or on television? SHERYL WUDUNN: Well, advocacy
is one, really important tool. And I think that
particularly companies, they have a huge influence
when they actually do advocate for issues. And so if companies
are willing to take on some of these
issues, that actually just improves society
around them, too. I mean, it doesn’t have to be at
the really, really local level. It could be at the
more national level. But ultimately, it also helps
enhance the brand of a company if they take on
some of these issues that most people
don’t disagree with. It’s just that it
needs to get help to be pushed through sort
of the Washington mechanism. And so I do think that
advocacy is one area. And individuals can also
play a role in advocacy. We often think, oh, how can one
person make such a difference? Well, in the same way
that you go out and vote, and your vote, amassed
with all the others, it does ultimately
make a difference, the same thing with advocacy. I mean if you write– this
sounds very old-fashioned– but if you write to your
congressperson, man or woman, they want to hear. I mean they, obviously, want
to hear a lot of voices. And now there are
petition mechanisms, through change.org
or moveon.org, a lot of ways that you can
actually get lots of signatures to send something to
your congressperson, to get a message across. They need to hear
this, because if they don’t hear from their
constituents, then, of course, they’re not going to think
that it’s an important issue. And they won’t put
theirselves on the line. NICK KRISTOF: I’ve
also become a believer in selectivism, somewhat
against my better judgment. I found the Joseph Kony
campaign kind of fascinating. And it was much criticized
for lots of reasons. But I found it just
astonishing that here’s a story, the
Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda,
a Central African Republic, Congo, that
basically we in the news media didn’t cover. And all of the sudden,
every school kid in America was passionate about the issue. And the upshot
was more resources going to the anti LRA campaign. The number two under Kony
has just surrendered. Attacks by the LRA have
dropped more than 90%. And I think that there are
some kinds of storytelling that just work from the ground up. And as we in the news
media drop the ball on some of these
stories, sometimes people are able to pick them
up and spread the word. And people want to participate. The “Bring Back Our Girls”
campaign was another example. Now, it obviously did not bring
back those 200 plus Nigerian girls. I think that it did get
the Nigerian government and some other
governments more focused on the idea of educating
girls, an incredibly disenfranchised part
of those populations. So here and there,
there may be ways for effective storytelling,
effective grassroots campaigns by people to kind of keep issues
alive in ways that raise issues on a global agenda, get
resources, and bring some results if
imperfect results. STEVE GROVE: Yeah, I guess
your point is that there’s not really a downside
to selectivism. Selectivism is doing
something that you think is going to help, and
it’s fairly sort of empty, but it might create some
momentum around an action. SHERYL WUDUNN: Well,
certainly an awareness. I mean that’s
really hard to break through all the stuff that
comes out– sorry– on the web. I mean I think it
really is important that, if you can actually
break through that and raise awareness
about girls’ education in Nigeria, after all, I mean
that’s a real accomplishment. STEVE GROVE: We want to turn
to our audience for questions in a moment. I’m wondering what you think
tech companies, like Google, could be doing more effectively
to help people access opportunities to
make a difference? SHERYL WUDUNN: Well, I
think that we actually have a lot of ideas
in “A Path Appears.” and I think that, first of
all, at an individual level, I think it’s important
for people to say, hey, if they like what
they learn about or read, whatever, then to say,
hey, this is something that I do care about. I want to play a
little bit of a role. You can start out
very, very small. And I mean I think that’s what’s
so important about what we’re trying to convey
is that this is not something you have
to drop everything and then go and do, go
off to India, whatever. This is something you can
do in bite-sized pieces. Because I think that
as long as everyone, or many people together, devote
a little bit of their time– I mean an hour a month, start
out with an hour a month. It can be really,
really manageable. Over time, I think
you’ll find that you’ll get a lot more out of it. There has been,
also, research that shows that, when you give
back, maybe on a Saturday, on a typical Saturday,
once a week, you really can take on more sort
of work pressure, because that gives you a way
to accommodate all the pressure you feel in the
rest of your world. So that it really does
alleviate some of the burden. And that’s partly because
of the neuroscience that we talked about,
that when you give, you’re actually doing something
in your brain that actually gives you pleasure. And so it’s kind of a relief
from your workaday world. So it’s not only
good for society, but it’s also good for you. And I think that our
approach is really to start small and
do it with friends. And then maybe, if you
can engage the company to do something all together,
that’s even more powerful. NICK KRISTOF: I would just add
that I think corporate America, generally, and the tech
sector, in particular, has done a pretty lousy
job with corporate social responsibility, CSR
programs, that these tend to be window dressing,
these tend to be off, foisted on the side. The people in them,
very often, are people who haven’t made
it in the mainstream of the organization. They’re not going to then go
on and ever run the company. And not only do they not do
much in terms of really making a difference in
society, they don’t do much for recruitment,
for retention, for morale of the company. And I think especially
for a company that cares about its brand, that
cares about millennials– I think millennials, much
more than my generation, when they’re looking
for a place to work, they want a company
that has some values. I think increasingly
the consumers themselves will be making
decisions about charity, if you will, not just writing
charitable donation checks at the end of the year, but
in terms of their consumer choices, maybe in terms of
their investment choices. And I don’t think this has sunk
into CEOs around the country, generally, that CSR could be
a very powerful way, if they actually do something, to
really improve, to really change the dynamic within the company
as well, at the same time, to really make a
difference beyond. SHERYL WUDUNN: Of course,
present company excluded. There have been some really
interesting examples. For instance, a
major accounting firm was noticing that the turnover
rate among their millennials was much higher
than among everyone else in the corporation. And they just wondering,
what’s going on? And so they started doing
interviews and investigating. And they discovered that a
lot of the younger recruits were saying, well, if
I’m going to be spending 16 hours of my day
at a company, I want to know what kind of value
is it contributing to society. And an accounting
firm, what I can say? What kind of value? And so they had to work at that. They actually had
to really create programs that allowed
a lot of the young, or anybody in the company,
to try and give back or to help out, do some
accounting for a nonprofit. They had to devise ways to
actually show that there really was a place in society
where these organizations were playing a really
fundamental, important role. And I thought that
was very interesting. And I think that
this just happened to be a case study for
this accounting firm. But I think this is
probably happening across the corporate spectrum. STEVE GROVE: Great. Well, why don’t we turn to
our audience for questions from those who are here. I think we have a
few roving mics. Just throw your
hand up in there, and we’ll pass a mic over. NICK KRISTOF: Easy questions to
me, hard questions to Sheryl. AUDIENCE: Hi, my name
is Danielle Bauers. And I found your comment
about Bill Gates and ABC extremely interesting. So I’m curious,
with all the studies that you guys have done,
what would you recommend ABC? How would you recommend
they tell that story that might not sadden viewers
and might actually inspire them to act? NICK KRISTOF: I think there are
two lessons from the data about what works. One is that you have
to open up the pathway with an individual story and
make an emotional connection before you make a rational one. So you find one, particular,
very, very compelling anecdote. And then you could
broaden it out from there. And the second one it has is it
has to ultimately be uplifting, to show that change is possible. And so there can be a
desperate part of it, but the end should
be this arc that shows that there can be an
impact if people do something. So the dog can be desperately
unhappy for a moment, but then has to emerge
as this super dog, because somebody
cared about that dog. And then you have to
show, after people are feeling compassionate for
that dog, then you have to say, OK, there are x zillion dogs
out there in the same situation. And once people have
had that connection, then it’s OK to
throw in some data. SHERYL WUDUNN: And
sometimes that’s really tricky,
because when you get to the news and the
newsrooms, they’re like, we just want
to report the facts. We can’t manipulate. But there is some
degree of, so to speak, manipulation just by
virtue of the facts that you select to put in there. But it is true that there’s been
a hesitancy among reporters. They say, well, I’m not
going do this arc thing, because it’s it isn’t
really what’s there. And we have to
report what’s there. So there’s a little
bit of a tension. STEVE GROVE: Other questions? AUDIENCE: So, as
you know, Google is constantly trying to
optimize user experience based on what we know about users. And there’s always a certain
amount of background noise out in the world about Google
being manipulative as opposed to doing this as a
service to the users. There’s always this
sort of tension about how this is perceived. It might seem like a
no-brainer that trying to get to know the users
in order to sell them toothpaste is perhaps
not as noble as trying to get to know the
user so there you can get them to contribute
to worthy causes. But is there still
an issue there about how far an
organization like Google should go before it
becomes manipulative and we’re basically
convincing people to do things that they
otherwise wouldn’t do? SHERYL WUDUNN: That’s a
really interesting question. People say, well, everyone has
different definitions of good. And so, it’ll be, well,
my definition of good is very fair and balanced. And your definition
of good is not, so therefore you shouldn’t
be manipulating all the way to the end. But I think that I would
set that bar pretty high, that you really can do
a lot more before you get to the point where
you’re really hurting. I mean, obviously,
at some point, you’re going to be doing
harm, so whether it’s in invading privacy
or whether it’s excluding other voices
from getting in. I mean there a number
of things you’d have to also analyze as
to what the downside is from this extra, so to
speak, manipulation. But I think that I would
set that bar pretty high. NICK KRISTOF: In general,
I’m wary of manipulation. I mean one a rare case where
I think I’d be sympathetic would be in dramas
and television dramas. I think there’s
pretty good evidence. I mean “16 and Pregnant,”
for example, the MTV show, seems to have
dramatically reduced teen pregnancy in America by
kind of reminding teenagers just how much of a hassle
it is to be a mom at 16. And there is, likewise,
evidence from India that television
arriving in a village, bringing in kind of middle
class values to a village is equivalent to 6 years’
education in terms of improving women’s rights in that village. I must say, as a
scribbler who tends to have a great deal of
disdain for television, this was really hard
for me to accept. But I think you can make a
case in those cases, maybe. But in general, I
think that one should be wary of being didactic,
of manipulating results for kind of social good. I think it does breed backlash. SHERYL WUDUNN: I
think it depends on what you mean
by manipulation. We really would have to
sort of set some parameters. And it’s not as though
you’re deceiving people or you’re crowding out
other voices, other counter voices that would say, well,
this isn’t really the good that you’re doing. I think it really just depends. And maybe manipulation
is too strong a word. I don’t know. STEVE GROVE: Lot of people,
storytelling and manipulation, basically. SHERYL WUDUNN: Or advocacy. STEVE GROVE: Other questions? Yeah. Actually, where is the– are we
just sort of passing it around? AUDIENCE: I have the mic. STEVE GROVE: There we go. AUDIENCE: And I’ll pass it
to these people right next. So first of all, I
wanted to just say thank you so much for doing
the work you’re doing. Just speaking, personally,
I did not use to give, and, because of an article
you wrote, I began to give. I mean, not that I
have that much money. But I think you’ve really
impacted people in your books that you’ve written together. And I’ve been wondering
this question a lot and asking some friends. And I’d love to ask you. Could you name like
5 or 10 charities that you think make
the most impact? Because some of the
charities– the one you wrote about in an
article, Fistula Foundation, was a great example. Could you name 5 or 10 of them? SHERYL WUDUNN: In the back
of the book, we have a list. We have a whole list– AUDIENCE: Sorry. Well, I look forward to. SHERYL WUDUNN: –of them. Yeah, absolutely. But like Reach Out and Read
is a great organization that helps kids read. It basically prescribes books,
just like it does medicines, for parents to give
their children. And so it says, OK, you’ve
got to prescribe reading, 30 minutes a day, to
even your six month old. So that’s a typical
organization. But there are a
whole bunch, based on what your interests are. And what we really actually–
there are a couple things I would say about this. One is that it’s really
going to focus on outcomes. A lot of organizations,
they’ll say that they send 100 million
books out, whatever. But you know, did children
really receive them? Did they read the books? I think the focus on
outcomes is really important. The second thing
is that it really depends on what
you’re interested in. I think that some
people, health care, maybe they’re not as
interested in health care as they are in education. And so for us to say, well, you
should give to this health care organization, well, you it
may not do much for you. And so I think it’s
really important to figure out what areas
you care about and then bring some friends along. Because when you
do it together, you can discuss some
of these issues. You can discuss
which organizations you want to give to. You can maybe have
rotating organizations. STEVE GROVE: Yeah, you
recommend in the book having like a giving club
with your friends. SHERYL WUDUNN: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. Start off with a
book club, and then turn it into a giving club. STEVE GROVE: Other questions? Here. AUDIENCE: Thank you so much. Nick, I heard you speak at
an event, very eloquently, about the unfair bifurcation
between the noble nonprofit and the greedy for profit. And in my experience,
especially recently, a lot of people with
financial resources are more likely to invest
in social entrepreneurs, who may have for profit
companies, but they’re working on amazing
contributions, from eradicating disease
to transforming education. That wouldn’t move the
needle on that top 20% that you mentioned, necessarily
making nonprofit donations, but given that it’s still
contributing, hopefully, to an efficient, more
productive world, what are your thoughts on that? NICK KRISTOF: This is really
Sheryl’s world more than mine. Sheryl is precisely
kind of raising capital, often for for profit
companies that do good. SHERYL WUDUNN: I mean
in general, right now– in the past, we always
thought of the nonprofits as the engines of good. But right now, everything,
it’s a free for all. There are a lot of corporations
that are doing great good. And there are actually
some nonprofits who aren’t doing good,
maybe even doing harm. And so it’s really
important that we also borrow from the for profit
world, so for instance marketing. In the nonprofit
world, marketing is considered an evil activity. Well, if you don’t market? What better cause to market
than a really good social cause, right? And so I think that there’s
really this melding, and there’s just a mixing up
of all these different things. As long as there’s
a social mission to a for profit
enterprise, they really can accomplish a great deal. And if it’s incorporated
into the DNA of the company, than each widget that they sell
then accomplishes something. So for instance, health
care is really much easier to do that, because
supposedly, if you’ve developed this new medicine that
is helping people with asthma or a device that helps
them with asthma, each device that you
sell will help people. But at some point, when these
corporations get very large, there’s a lot of tension,
because maybe you want to oversell, or maybe we’re
getting into the manipulation here. Maybe you’re trying to
manipulate things in order to get more product
out the door, because you have these
profit goals to make. So it does get tricky. But in general,
we think that it’s a good thing that
for profit companies are actually beginning to
think about incorporating a social mission
into their companies. It’s harder, because you’ve
got a social bottom line and you’ve got a
financial bottom line. And some, in the
environmental space, have an environmental
bottom line, so it’s got getting
a lot harder. But we think that, hey, we
all have to make this place, we have to work to make
this world a better place. Because we have to live in it. But we think it’s really
just a good trend. NICK KRISTOF: One
thing I’d add is that philanthropy,
whether it’s to nonprofits or a to for profits,
with a social mission, is great and very
important and can make a huge difference
for individuals. And there are some
areas, though, where you really need
government action. You would never think about
building an interstate highway system financed through bake
sales and volunteers going out with a shovel to dig one
more foot of highway. In the same way, we desperately
need early childhood interventions in this country. And it is kind of crazy to
do the equivalent of trying to finance it
through bake sales. I think one of the
big problems is in this country is
we perceive poverty through this prism of
personal responsibility. And there is something to it. There are occasions when
poverty is associated with irresponsible behavior. We have a huge problem
with teenage pregnancy. 30% percent of American
girls get pregnant by age 19. And that involves plenty
of irresponsibility on the part of both the guys and
girls not using birth control, whatever it may be. But we also, as a
society, we have proven tools that
will dramatically reduce those teenage
pregnancy rates. We’ll save money doing it. Every dollar invested in
long-acting reversible contraceptives aimed
at those teenagers will pay itself back
seven times over, because every Medicaid
childbirth cost $12,000, which is a huge thing to prevent. And yet when we have
these tools and we as a society don’t
implement them, that seems a real narrative
of personal irresponsibility on the part of all of us. And so I think we somehow
have to kind of balance the traditional philanthropy
with the new kinds of philanthropy and
impact investing, which are very
powerful, and also advocacy to have government
step up to the plate and try to create opportunity
to try to address some of these broader
problems we have. STEVE GROVE: We’re
almost out of time. I wanted to, before
we end, ask you. If you’re sitting in
the audience today or you’re watching
online or you’re seeing this clip
on YouTube later and you want to
make a difference and you just don’t
quite know how to start, you offer some practical tips
at the end of where to start. Give us a synopsis of
that, for our audience here, to leave us
with how we can take early steps to
make a difference. NICK KRISTOF: Well
one thing, I just also want to give a plug
that there well be– please, do read the book–
but on January 26, also, there’ll be a PBS version
of the book that will air, beginning January 26 and then
each Monday night after that. I guess what I would
say is that too often we tend to give because
somebody asks. So we get a phone call,
marketing call, and somebody mentions children with
cancer or disabled veterans, and we kind of freeze and
agree to donate without knowing anything about the caller on
the other end of the phone. We would never buy a
television like that. And in the same
way– and people who are good at raising
money aren’t always the ones are good
at spending money. So I think it behooves us,
where the stakes are so high, to think of our
prosocial portfolio, if you will, as
something like investing. And something that is
important to invest wisely, where there will be important
returns, potentially lifesaving ones. It doesn’t seem to me to
matter hugely whether you do that in East Palo
Alto or in Congo. There are huge needs
in both places. But I think it is critical to
try to invest in areas where there will be high returns. And there are
plenty of those now. SHERYL WUDUNN: And I
would suggest, really, I am serious about a
book club that you then can discuss with some friends
to choose an area that you all might want to play a role in
and then perhaps an organization that you might want
to affiliate with. Do it together. It’s just a lot more fun. And it’s great to be able to
do it with a group of friends. You might even take
it a lot farther or come up with a
new way of doing it. So I think that’s
what I would suggest. STEVE GROVE: Great. Nick and Sheryl, thank you
so much for coming to Google. It’s been such a
pleasure to have you. NICK KRISTOF: Thanks so much. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING]

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