If this week’s Social Good Summit in New York could only prove one point, it would be that social media has a crucial role to play in communicating the story of international development. Whether it is a blog, a tweet, or a large Facebook presence—social media is a way to actively engage the public on development issues.

A view of the Social Good Summit. Photo Credit: UN Foundation

The second annual summit, hosted by Mashable and the UN Foundation, brought innovative thinkers dedicated to solving the world’s biggest problems, such as famine, malaria, maternal health mortality, and child marriage, together with bloggers and social media types.

The four-day summit included a star-studded line up—from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to cycling legend Lance Armstrong. It was live streamed by Mashable, and bloggers and attendees watched the panel discussions and livetweeted throughout the event using the hashtag #socialgood. The conversation was viral with thousands actively participating around the world via Twitter.

The highlights of the week include USAID Administrator Raj Shah launching our new FWD campaign, which is a  digital campaign that showcases interactive maps to tell the story of crisis and response in the Horn of Africa. The website is a place where people can get the latest information, forward the facts, and find ways to do more.

Another spectacular moment was when the UN Foundation awarded Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikiwete the Social Good Award for being an advocate for new technologies. He discussed the need for social media in Tanzania and then joined two first ladies from Kenya and South Africa to send their first tweets. Dr. Ida Betty Odinga, the wife of the prime minister of Kenya, and Thobeka Madiba Zuma, the first lady of South Africa sent their first tweets from the accounts of @socialgood and @UNFoundation.

The first lady of South Africa said: “Diseases have cost our countries the lives of women that died prematurely. I see social media taking over the medium of communication all over the world.”

The need for social media in international development was further emphasized by Kate James, chief communications officer for the Gates Foundation. She spoke about how organizations invested in providing solutions in the developing world should engage in dialogue together on social media.

The timing could not have been better because Melinda Gates launched her own twitter handle on Wednesday.

Check out the latest videos from the Social Good Summit.