SEED: Gathering the Impact Ecosystem

A reprise of the successful 2018 gathering, the founders of SOCAP and Impact Hub SF are coming together to join a wide array of leaders for a conference on the seed stage funding and acceleration ecosystem, for a deep dive into what’s working and what’s next; locally, regionally and around the world. Seed stage impact investing and entrepreneurship tend to live in silos across technology, financial inclusion, housing, consumer goods, health, cryptocurrencies, agriculture and food systems …and in geographic regions. We will break down the industry and geographic boundaries that tend to compartmentalize our selective and collective efforts.

This deep practitioner convening will allow for the exchange of winning strategies, and sharing of near and long-term development plans. Together, we will discuss gaps and opportunities in the sector, and push forward actionable concepts to evolve and augment the ecosystem that supports seed stage ventures.

WARM UP EVENING - Sunday May 19 - 5-9pm | Networking, Meet Ups and Registration

DAY ONE - May 20 - 9am to 9pm | The Now: What’s Working and What’s Not + Party

DAY TWO - May 21 - 9am to 5pm | The Next: Taking the Seed Stage Ecosystem Into the Future

Expert ‘fish bowl’ assessments, design labs, short form keynotes and plenaries, as well as product and practice demos, will be mixed in to ensure collaborative exchanges that honor that every attendee has expertise to bring to the convening, and that info delivery must be varied, creative and interactive. Space is limited to ensure high-quality idea exchange.

SISTER CONFERENCE: Also join us at TRANSFORM, to see what lies beyond sustainability, and beyond impact as usual, taking place starting 5pm May 22 through 5pm May 24 2019 right after SEED. Interested in coming to both conferences? Sign up for our Transform newsletter for information on discounts!

In collaboration with Impact Hub San Francisco

Produced and hosted by GatherLab


Painting life-changing adventures at the NOBEL

I was one of the chosen few to receive a special invite to represent 5th Element Group and India at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum 2018 in Oslo, Norway.

The Nobel Peace Prize Research and Information and University of Oslo invited a select few purpose-leaders to the Nobel Peace Prize Forum 2018 to address one of today’s most pressing and universally relevant topics: Climate Change, with Al Gore, former U.S. Vice-President and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, as the keynote speaker. (A few months ago I was selected as one of the 75 World Economic Forum Global Shapers to receive training in Climate Reality by former US Vice President Al Gore in Los Angeles).

The Nobel Peace Prize Week opened my eyes to possibilities, adventures, and wealth that can be unlocked when inspirational leaders, UN Sustainable Development Goals, Blockchain, Frontier Technology, and Social Impact ventures dance together — literally and metaphorically.

 

With MER, Special Projects Director, 5th Element Group

My Nobel adventure began as soon as I landed in snowy Oslo and decided to snow-walk for a mile to see Mary Elizabeth Russell, Special Projects Director at 5th Element Group, over screening of a documentary about 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad. The film offered a testament to Murad’s suffering, courage and unfathomable tenacity, but this portrait also recognized that compassion has never been in short supply. I was deeply touched, and super inspired by Nadia’s strong will to create systemic change. With both of us inspired and committed to make the world a better place, MER and I walked to the hotel. On our way, MER impressed me by putting her brilliant coordination skills to action and managed to setup a dinner for all 5th Element delegates at a “local’s favorite” restaurant.

 

With my inspirations — Jim and Ed — CEO and CMO of 5th Element

All the 5th Element Group leaders convened at the hotel and decided to walk to the restaurant. I finally met two my biggest inspirations and amazing purpose-leaders on this planet, Jim Van Eerden, CEO of 5th Element Group and Ed Martin, CMO of 5th Element Group. My admiration grew even more when they started telling me about the new initiatives of 5th for women empowerment and gender equity — causes I’m passionate about. Over this 2 mile walk in snowy beautiful Oslo, Jim, Ed and I ended up collaborating for the Indian Leadership Conclave, one of the flagship convenings on women empowerment, of India Needs You, a leadership movement I’ve been building by equipping young adults with a leadership toolkit. With the expertise and generous support of 5th, we plan to empower 200 Indian women entrepreneurs at ILC in January 2019. This shall make for an independent story soon.

 

Dinner with 5th delegates and partners at the Nobel Week

 

With Scott Rehmus, Co Founder of Impact Journeys

Super hungry, I decided to start my first meal in Oslo. It was flavorful and spicy — perfect segue into a series of meandering conversations around unlocking new set and power of wealth by solving UN SDGs. The conversations with these amazing folks were super exciting ; We just paused for a few minutes for a group photo, but the conversations reconvened over our snow-walk back to the hotel. The warmth I received from every 5th delegate and partner made me feel I’m at home ; I just felt blessed to be in the company of these wonderful superhumans. On my way back to the hotel, I engaged in this long conversation with Scott Rehmus, Co Founder of Impact Journeys and a strategic philanthropist. An expert in running family offices, Scott helped me learn a lot on how to unlock capital for cause, and how to make it easy for families to maximize their positive impact by integrating all their capital — financial, human, social, and physical.

 

Live Interview with Nobel Laureates 2018 — Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege

Last night’s conversations resumed over delicious breakfast. I did a lot of afternoon 1:1 meetings until early evening with amazing folks and ended up collaborating with brilliant peers from across the world to advance our works, achieve SDGs, and make the world a better place. After amazing collaborations, we walked to the University of Oslo to see 2018 Nobel Laureates Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad over live interviews. Nadia’s story about surviving Isis genocide, rebuilding Sinjar and resettling the Yazidi population inspired us to the core and motivated us to help Nadia restore humanity. We, at 5th, have launched a Free Yezidi match campaign. You may want to donate and help reach our 200k USD goal.

 

With Jim, Ed, and Scott at the Nobel Forum

Denis’s story about treating women who have been raped by armed rebels left all of us in awe with his contribution to women empowerment. Both the 2018 Laureates and their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict motivates me more to empower Indian women through India Needs You and 5th Element Group. Sharing the room with Nobel Laureates and amazing change-makers kindled my belief that WE CAN, and WE WILL change the world.

With Elissa and Isabel at the Torch Light March

After the inspirational live interview with 2018 Laureates, all of us Nobel delegates convened at the Oslo station, purchased torches, and marched towards the Grand Hotel for a beautiful peace Torch Light March to celebrate 2018 Nobel Laureates and peace in the world. With music, appeals, and torches, all of us waited for a balcony appearance of the Laureates. My side conversation with Elissa Harris, Chief Impact Officer at 5th Element Group, was exciting where we discussed India’s demographic dividend in the next 10 years and how India shall be a superpower soon. I was amazed at Elissa’s enthusiasm about Indian food and spicy cuisine.

 

Roundtable on Frontier Tech : Landscape and Opportunities

Next morning starting with an amazing roundtable on “Frontier Tech Landscape and Opportunities. Brilliantly moderated by Jim, CEO of 5th Element, the group discussed about capital that never existed before, how to deploy that capital where it is yet to be deployed, and scale new forms of corresponding collaborations. Highlights of the session were stories of Jeff Sparrow, CEO of GeoCommerce, who is tapping CO2 from the sky to tap a new 70 trillion dollars market and Joby Weeks, Partner at 5th Element and Crypto Guru, discussing how he has helped people become wealthy by investing in BitClub — He recommended the currency to one UPS driver that used to deliver packages to his house who invested $10,000 at the time and later paid off his house and car with the earnings that amounted to around 1.2 million dollars.

 

Sporting my Climate Reality Leader ring with Al Gore

After the roundtable, I checked my watch. It was time for the Nobel Peace Prize Forum and the opportunity to meet and hear my inspiration — former US Vice President and Nobel Laureate 2007, Al Gore once again this year after I got trained by him in Los Angeles in August 2018. Sporting my earned beautiful green “Climate Reality Leader” ring, I got myself seated in the University of Oslo. As 5th was the title sponsor of the Forum, 5th delegates had the privilege of sitting in the first row. Sitting next to amazing dynamic Jim, we got into a conversation with CEOs of Peace Through Commerce and New Generation Power, other partners of the Nobel Forum. We exchanged cards and planned on collaborating to unlock new capital when our conversation was cut short — The American politician and world’s leading environmentalist was welcomed to a standing applause. Following an amazing speech on how we can tackle climate crisis by Al Gore and a panel discussion on solutions available for adopting renewable sources and how an economy can thrive to sustainable solutions, I got into a long conversation with Al Gore. It was such an honor getting lauded by Al for my efforts after he trained me on Climate Reality in LA.

Post the forum, we had the privilege of attending a VIP reception with Al Gore and Norwegian Nobel Committee. I was not surprised with the number of awesome people I met at the reception ; Thanks to Ed, one of the planet’s most amazing marketers and connectors. We all went for a delightful dinner, and geared up for a late night 5th Element Group reception on Women and Impact Investing. Sipping fancy wines in a conference room overlooking snowy Oslo, everyone hoped for an inspirational end to an overwhelming busy productive day. Gayle Jennings, CEO of iNTENT Manifesto, Ex-Vice President at JP Morgan Chase and one of the pioneers in women empowerment space, shared her wonderful story on how she is supporting, investing, and celebrating Women of Color (WOC) tech entrepreneurs.

Sharing my story with planet’s most incredible change-makers

I also got a chance to share my story — I felt so grateful for the opportunity and felt so blessed to partner with the planet’s most incredible entrepreneurs. I shared on how I have been helping young entrepreneurs and how we have been building a leadership movement in India. The warmth, encouragement and support I received from the room is unparalleled and can’t be explained in words. The session ended with everyone thanking Jim/Ed/MER/Isabel and the entire 5th team for bringing planet’s most incredible humans together.

 

5th family welcomes you to the 5th Industrial Revolution

The entire group convened for one last time at breakfast next morning over the session — Impact Investing : Landscape and Opportunities. We explored creating a new socio — economic era that closes historic gaps in last mile inclusion with a mission of delivering frontier tech solutions to achieve Sustainable Development Goals. This brings me one of the most captivating parts of the Nobel week by fellow delegates — It is hard to quantify the learnings during the week but we explored pivotal questions and explored collaborations that shall shape the future of the world : Welcome to The Fifth Industrial Revolution.

Until next time,

Lots of love and Merry Christmas

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

About the Author

Pratik Gauri

Founder - India Needs You, Asian Youth Inspiration Awardee, Global Shaper - World Economic Forum, Climate Reality Leader, SLP Fellow, GAP Changemaker


The Responsibility of Conveners in Light of the #MeToo Movement

When a social movement takes hold of society in the way #MeToo has over the last few months the need for a more nuanced national dialog becomes ever more important.  As social impact conveners we have both a unique opportunity and responsibility to help increase the capacity of our society to have this dialog in a productive and restorative fashion.  From the spaces we create, the design choices we make, the policies we set forth, and the language we use - our ability to convene, to bring people together to engage in the exploration of core concepts like consent.

 

From our virtual conversation with social impact conveners (those who organize conferences, meetings, and other gatherings to bring people together around common purpose), we uncovered three core elements to share with other conveners that they may feel better prepared to engage their communities in this broader conversation.

 

  • Language
  • Policies
  • The Role of Justice
  • Session Design

 

Conveners.org hosts virtual conversations with our members to explore topics that benefit from connecting with the shared experience and resources of our community.  Most of this post is a review of the conversation we had on January 17, 2018, however some additional elements were added from follow-up conversations with our community.  We selected this topic, because of the timeliness of the subject matter as well as the opportunity that this presents for social impact conveners to engage new frameworks around consent to do more than simply prevent bad things from happening.  I am also passionate about this subject because of personal experiences I’ve had with harassment and the hope I have for the power of convening to engage in a productive narrative that can support members of our communities living these experiences day to day.

Language

Let’s start with the language we use as the root of understanding how the conversation is framed is one of the most powerful tools we can bring to bear to shape the dialog around #MeToo.

 

Consent vs. Harassment

Many people are speaking of harassment - while some forms of harassment are fundamentally sexual in nature, many of them are derived from a fundamental imbalance of power.  Our guest for the virtual conversation Ayla Schlosser founder of Resonate and author of a recent post Fundraising while Female spoke to the fundamental imbalance of power at play when people connect at a convening with the goal of fundraising.  As Jessica Fleuti from the team at the Skoll World Forum shared, “conferences represent a gray area between personal and professional.  There are standards of behavior in the workplace that are more clear cut.  When you are at a conference, and some conferences are less overtly professional than others, it’s not always clear what the rules of engagement are, especially when there are late-night elements.”

 

Harassment makes one party feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or otherwise unable to speak about their authentic experience.  Many of our conferences bring people together from all over the world, and the variety of cultural backgrounds and assumptions of what normal behavior looks like can be a recipe for miss-understanding that might lead to some feeling sexually harassed.  Unfortunately rooted in this language is also a loss of agency and power. To be harassed is to be the recipient of action.  It is to not have agency or power.  It also makes it exceptionally difficult to speak up in a situation that is uncomfortable.

 

When we shift to a culture of of enthusiastic consent in our convenings we shift the power and agency to the participant.  

 

If participants understand the importance of asking before touching, asking before making assumptions, then it gives everyone the inherent power to say yes or no before an action is taken that would result in harm.  This reduces risk and enables the community - especially a cross-cultural community - to navigate their interactions from a healthy grounding in affirmative consent.  

 

Harmed Party vs. Victim, Responsible Party vs. Perpetrator

Another key language shift is one that can unseat the implicit shame that has been unleashed through the #MeToo movement.  As someone who has experienced harassment or worse, the identity of victim can be difficult to grapple with.  When someone identifies as a victim, there is an implicit loss of power.  A victim becomes a frame for your identity - not just someone who has experienced something negative or traumatic.  

 

Common Justice is a restorative justice nonprofit that advance solutions to violence that transform the lives of those harmed and foster racial equity without relying on incarceration.  They’ve introduced language of “harmed party” and “responsible party” that participants on our call found helpful in reframing the people who are at the heart of an incident where there is discomfort, violation, or other harm.

 

By shifting from “victim” to “harmed party” the emphasis is placed on the action that took place rather than an inherent quality of the person while also restoring agency to the person who was harmed to have the power to heal. According to Common Justice, “this term recognizes someone’s role in a given event and acknowledges that that role does not constitute the person’s entire identity. A harmed party is owed certain things by the responsible party and others as a result of the harm he or she endured.”

 

When we shift to using “responsible party” rather than “perpetrator”, there is a similar frameshift that enables the person to reflect on their action and find a way to break the cycle of violence or abuse of power.

 

When we use terms like perpetrator we jump to a frame where the person who has done harm is “a bad person” rather than someone who has “done a bad thing.”  As Brené Brown shares in Daring Greatly - this frame of shame at its core is damaging as it ultimately prevents behavior change.  When someone is “a bad person” then it is far more difficult for them to look at, address, or change their behavior.  However, when someone has “done a bad thing” then there is hope for shifting and correcting the behavior at fault in the first place. If change is possible, it is most likely to occur within our own communities of values-aligned changemakers, and we don’t want to inhibit that possibility through immediate ostracization.

 

It is also important for us to consider ways to provide support, comfort, and re-affirm the sense of belonging a harmed party has in the community.  For too long those who spoke out about harassment were mocked, shamed, or otherwise disbelieved.  As social impact conveners, we have an opportunity to ensure that harmed parties feel heard and that their experience is acknowledged and respected.

Policies

There were a number of better practices that emerged when crafting harassment policies.  Opportunity Collaboration provided an extensive policy with their Guidelines for Success that were crafted to be aligned with the unique culture and context for their convening, where beach side conversations and swimming meetings are a frequent occurrence.  This is an opportunity to shift from prevention of harm to active consent.  Imagine if instead of an automatic assumption of a meeting by the beach in bathing suits (or late night in a hotel room or at a bar), delegates had normalized behavior of making clear that an alternate meeting location would be equally acceptable.

 

We seek to live our values in community, as demonstrated through our words and actions. We seek to create a space where everyone feels supported to show up as their best self and share their unique contributions with one another. We believe that we create our best work in the world in an environment where everyone can thrive. We seek to support our Delegates in being present with one another in a way that dismantles oppressive systems present in society at large.”

 

This policy went far beyond the structures of harm and harassment to also speak to the positive vision for the community and culture for delegates.  Many conveners are just now seeking to implement formal policies for their participants and are incorporating a consent process into their registration forms.

 

Jessica asked an important question when thinking about crafting your policy, “should we enumerate what harassment means?” As we discussed this question, we realized that many of the existing tools to help explain what harassment is - like video resources, have some inherent challenges. While we were unable to name any specific videos, Ayla shared Double Union’s harassment policy which includes a significant series of definitions that can help inform the creation of a policy.  One key phrase that is worth considering is “The Double Union community prioritizes marginalized people’s safety over privileged people’s comfort.”  When we can recognize and explicitly address that at the root of harassment is an imbalance of power - then it becomes easier to acknowledge the importance of supporting marginalized people.  Consent is about connecting with people across a difference in power in a way that gives them agency.

 

"In many ways, OC is a microcosm of the world. Power, race, culture, gender, language, ableism and many other dynamics are, and will continue to be, present. Yet, at OC we have the unique opportunity to build the world we want, and to act in a way that models that world. We can decide how to minimize these dynamics from creating harm and choose how to respond when they do."  

                               ~quoting a wise group of 2017 Delegates

 

Consistency is key

One better practice that emerged was the importance of consistent messaging to the community if you want to integrate these practices as norms of behavior.  Summit Series provides a standardized onboarding process for all new participants that makes clear all of the norms of the community - not just those on harassment.   Now as #MeToo gains prevalency and encourages us to speak about the gray areas we are coming to terms with the importance of having consistent messages to our community about harm and harassment emerges?  as well.

 

  • Have a clear policy on your website.
  • Require consent from all registrants that they understand the policy when they register
  • Have an opportunity for participants to ask questions and gain clarification both before the event and on-site.
  • Provide a reminder and materials when participants arrive at the event - as they may have registered months ago and not remember the policy.
  • Provide multiple channels for reporting including access to anonymous forms like google forms, typeform, or surveymonkey.
  • Be clear on who a harmed party can turn to should something happen.
  • Understand in advance how you will respond should an incident happen.
    • Being clear that in the case of rape and physical assault the authorities will be brought in, and ensuring all parties know this in advance.
    • In the case of a violation of the community's norms of harassment, it helps to understand if you will be providing support to the harmed party, and if so what that will look like.
    • It is also key to make clear to the community who they can go to, and when, to share an their experience of discomfort or harassment.

 

As Ayla shared, “we know that we are preaching to the choir, and yet we are always steeped in societal power dynamics -- we wanted to make it clear at Opportunity Collaboration that we had an opportunity to create the world that we want to see at the event.  While we were at the conference is when #MeToo came out.  What has been interesting is that regardless of if you like it or not people are talking about it.  Having a policy is not enough, there needs to be guidance and training on what happens when an incident occurs.”

 

Conveners should be justifiably concerned about maintaining the culture of our convenings, and we don’t want implementation of anti-harassment policies to seem punitive and spark a negative reaction.  In a recent story on sexual harassment training by Jena McGregor of the Washington Post found, “a training that’s treated like a ‘bureaucratic necessity’ can actually serve to reinforce gender biases.” However, given the much wider #MeToo movement, there is a window of opportunity to use the national dialogue to catalyze and internal discussion. This is the exact right moment in time to be proactive about fostering safer, more inclusive communities within our convenings.

The Role of Justice

Speaking for myself, I’ve struggled deeply with the ongoing stories emerging from the public discourse around #MeToo.  The public discourse now includes the full spectrum of experience from the obvious where there has been repeated patterns of physical violation, harm, and intimidation all the way to simple unwanted advances and awkward social interactions.  The recent discussions around Aziz Ansari have brought this to the forefront.  Yet what we have seen is that in the court of public opinion all men are being subjected to the same punishment.  As we see in the court trial of Larry Nassar, it is critical to not look away and be able to face when there are clear patterns of predatory behavior that must be addressed.

 

Even in our social impact community, ostracization has become the universal result of being on the receiving end of an accusation of harassment.  As an individual who has experienced sexual harassment from the benign to the violent - and even dyed my hair red because as a blonde attending SOCAP back in 2009 I mostly received requests for dates rather than serious consideration of my venture - I hope that we can evolve our response beyond the knee jerk punitive justice reaction.

 

Most of the culture in the United States is framed around punitive justice.  You do something bad and you are punished for it - frequently through incarceration (should you belong to a minority as African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of Whites).  This is a framework we are comfortable with and understand - and thus apply it to our policies of zero tolerance in the hopes that we can protect the culture we have created in our convenings.

 

However, I hope that we could do more.  As social impact conveners we are using convening as a tool to address the most critical challenges facing our planet.  From poverty alleviation to climate change to gender inequality - conveners around the world are building spaces that can be a model for the world that we want to create.  If we are to do this then there is a responsibility to shift our model of justice to one that may be more challenging and more rewarding at the same time.

 

“Restorative Justice repairs the harm caused by crime.  When [harmed and responsible parties] and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results can be transformational.” - Center for Justice and Reconciliation

 

With Restorative Justice the focus is on healing the harmed party.  To do this the harmed party is provided with a circle of support.  As a convener these can be staff or volunteers who have been trained in supporting people harmed by harassment.  The harmed party is given voice - rather than hiding the incident (which can breed rumors and cause great harm to the core of the culture).  The harmed party then has power and agency to name what they would need to feel healed from the experience.  While this may be that they want the responsible party removed from the community - this is more likely to be a last resort (versus the first response).  This process creates the space and opportunity for reconciliation that is more appropriate to the nuance and specific context of the violation - which may be as simple as requesting an apology and that the responsible party spends some time reflecting on their behavior.  Through this process we can have responses that are more in line with the actual violation that occurred.  IMPORTANT NOTE - I am not speaking here about violent crimes like rape or physical assault that fall under the category of offenses that can and should be handled by the appropriate legal authorities.

 

Should you seek to go one step further and engage in Transformative Justice - as a convener you are putting the culture of your community at the center of the process.  Through radical transparency, transformative justice engages the community as a whole so that all know what occurred, and have a chance to hear from both sides.  While the core focus is still on the healing and support of the harmed party, the responsible party is also given a chance to share their experience through a circle of reflection and accountability.  The people who volunteer to hear the experience of the responsible party are not serving as an advocate, rather, they are reporting back to the community and to the harmed party what could have been done differently so that the community has the opportunity to reflect and integrate new norms of behavior.  The ultimate goal being to transform the community to stop the behavior that happened from happening again.

 

Session Design

We as conveners have the opportunity to design a wide range of conversation platforms and formats.  We found that many conveners planning for their 2018 agenda including Net Impact, Skoll World Forum, Greenermind Summit, Opportunity Collaboration, and more are planning to incorporate some element of content about #MeToo, Harassment, or Power Imbalances.  As we design these conversations Ayla shared, “men and boys don’t know how to engage and respond [in these conversations].  [In the public domain of #MeToo,] some tried and were praised, some tried and were chastised.  It’s such a cultural movement that having an explicit conversation [is critical].  Also as a funder - how do you talk about acknowledging your power or ways that people use your power against you.”  Ayla shared that they recently hosted a “He for She” conversation, yet still the majority of people who showed up were women.

 

We need to be thoughtful in designing conversations to create spaces that are safe for all genders.

 

At Greenermind Summit 2017, before the #MeToo movement had sparked broader dialog, a few participants hosted parallel conversations, one of all men, and another of all women.  In the context of these two separate conversations the participants were able to more safely explore concepts like shame, power, female pleasure, numbing, and more.  They found that for men, it was equally important to have all-male spaces to talk about vulnerability, sexuality, and shame - and that this needed to be explicitly designed and facilitated.

 

Net Impact is also grappling with how to incorporate these conversations into their design as for many students their conference is the first conference they are attending - and there is a unique opportunity to help create cultural norms and expectations of participants.

 

There were a few design ideas that emerged where conveners can create more explicit safe spaces for this dialog:

  • Peer conversations, cis-male, and non-cis male conversations, funder only, and founder only to discuss the role of power, privilege, and consent.
  • Circle of chairs or similar physical setups that encourage egalitarian conversation rather than panels or classroom style seating.
  • Setting agreements for conversation norms up front including:
    • Speak from personal experience
    • Lead with believing the person sharing their story
    • Pause when someone shares something authentic
    • Listen - without thinking about what you want to say next
    • Oops/Ouch - give tools to the group to name in the moment when someone feels an “ouch” from another’s comment and give space for the other party to say “oops” and clarify their intention.
    • Ask permission - not forgiveness.  This is especially true in the social impact sector where we may assume that contact like hugs are always ok and welcome, and may not be.
    • Confidentiality is an important tool for authentic dialogue.
    • Refrain from shaming language where someone is bad, messy, stupid, etc. and shift to nonviolent communication (NVC) language where we are comfortable stating feeling, needs, and requests from an “I” statement. For example, when you hug me I feel uncomfortable.  I need to feel respected and safe.  Could you please give me your hand instead of a hug?
  • Provide enough time for the session.  When holding space for a conversation that is likely to create discomfort or spark deep emotions, proactively prevent abrupt endings.
  • Design for active inclusion - this can mean adding preferred pronouns to all nametags, ensuring there are gender neutral bathrooms for all participants, and providing materials in languages native to your participants when possible.
  • When designing your session, seek out a skilled facilitator who is experienced in navigating potentially charged conversations with training in gender/diversity studies, NVC, conflict mediation, and other relevant subjects.

 

Closing Out

Thank you to all that participated in this discussion, both in the virtual call and afterwards to share your thoughts, feelings, and ideas about how we can step up to create spaces for dialog around #MeToo at social impact convenings.  This is a broad and ongoing conversation, and for conveners who are designing their conferences for 2018 is going to be highly relevant.  The intention in this summary is to provide concrete tools and ideas that can support conveners as they enter the 2018 design process. Including the language we use, and shifting to harmed party and responsible party, to the policies we create, to how we share those policies with the community in a way that is consistent and clear - these better practices provide a starting point for exploring the topic of #MeToo and are not intended to be comprehensive or absolute.


Until there is a shift in participant priorities, the panel will never die.

Late last year Duncan Green published Conference rage: How did something as truly awful as panel discussions become the default format? Green makes some very compelling points about how “‘Manels’ (male only panels) are an outrage, but why not go for complete abolition, rather than mere gender balance?” Rage against the machine - great band - ineffective life strategy. Rather than spark your Conference Rage, we hope to help participants understand the incentives that drive the traditional panel structure.

There have been a flurry of blogs published in 2017 questioning why panels are still a commonly used format for conferences, and challenging the industry to change the fundamental structure of how we run events. Kristin Hull of Nia Community recently published on the importance of abolishing ‘manels’ for impact investing, though her arguments could apply to conferences more broadly.  There is a strong difference between failing to integrate diversity - of gender, race, age, etc. - and simply defaulting to using panels as your go to design format.  We’ve explored in previous blogs strategies for increasing participant diversity which you can read more about here and here.

At Conveners.org, we believe that the most effective convenings bring the valuable conversations that are usually relegated to the hallways into the center of the event. We’ve explored with our members how to integrate unconferences, workshops, world cafes, ignite talks, debates, and other facilitation frameworks to create more of those magical or memorable moments that come from transforming your attendees into participants.

In a recent interview with Andy Stoll of the Kauffman Foundation, he shared their design principles for the ESHIP Summit. “While panels and learning through speakers can be valuable - the internet exists and people can do typical one way learning online, but it is difficult to replicate the opportunity to connect one on one and build relationships that happens in person.”

Unfortunately until participants shift their decision making behavior for why they attend a conference nothing is going to change in the industry.  

People currently choose the conferences they attend for one (or all) of three factors:

  1. Will I be speaking on stage?
  2. Who else is speaking that I want to meet?
  3. Have I gone to this event before?

When the audience makes it’s purchasing decision based on speaking and speakers, then the system of panels is perpetuated as most conveners cannot risk low attendance.  

It is also very expensive to run convenings that are participatory and highly facilitated.

When organizing a conference panels provide a relatively easy to manage and low cost structure for your event. There are a number of incentives driving the inclusion of panels as the most prominent format used at conferences.  

  1. They enable a large number of speakers who draw ticket sales on the website
  2. They are easy to keep to a set schedule
  3. Panels highlight the topics that will be relevant at the event
  4. They are predictable (even if predictably bad)

When a convener integrates participant focused design elements it usually requires a high capacity for facilitators to navigate those conversations. The Kauffman Foundation with their ESHIP conference represented the best in class delivery of a collaborative convening where participants were able to work together towards a common purpose. As Andy shared, “There is someone in the room with half of a great idea and somewhere in the conference another person has the other half of that great idea.  Getting them to connect - creating an environment where 500 people can talk to 500 people - then two halves of an idea can come together.”

We find that those conveners who take the risk and utilize participant led design structures like Opportunity Collaboration, The ColliderFRANK, and Greenermind Summit, tend to build deep and lasting community. Though they start small, they tend to grow through word of mouth and participant referrals.  The online “speaker list” - showing incredible people that you will likely never get to talk to unless you swarm them after their talk (and thus are lost in the maddening daze that happens right after a speaker gets off stage) can be transformed. Unconferences can use their participant list as a draw - and those who attend these events know that they will ACTUALLY get to connect with the people they see on the website.  

This gets to the other key barrier to shifting away from panels - which is cost.

Opportunity Collaboration has successfully built a model where they have volunteers who pay to attend the event and also give their time to be trained as moderators and serve for the Colloquium for the Common Good - an experience at the heart of what it means to address power, poverty, and privilege. For most conveners accessing that capacity for a skilled facilitator or moderator is prohibitively expensive - and thus restricts the ability to put highly interactive formats at the forefront of the design.  

“I’ve come to learn that in a decade of doing this work that events are the single best way to create and propagate culture” - Andy Stoll

The opportunity conveners have to create lasting community, connections, and trust comes down to the culture you create at your event. It can be challenging to spark ongoing collaborations or commitments from your participants.  Recreating virtually the magic that happens when people connect in person is exceptionally hard. Andy also shared that “when two people meet at a later point after the conference - they will behave under the culture of that event because they don’t know any other way to interact.” We find this to be almost obvious for convenings with a long standing cultural norm - Opportunity Collaboration, Renaissance Weekend, Social Venture Network, and Skoll World Forum all create a powerful culture for their community. Though, even new events like Katapult Future Festival, ESHIP, and ConnectUP MN are working hard to integrate intentionality into their convening experience with an emphasis on building the cultural underpinnings necessary to build lasting community.

World Affairs Council has innovated on ways to explore a topic in-depth, with a curated group of participants through their Conversation Starter Series. Not only are they able to engage their community year round, they are also able to build a vibrant participatory conversation.   

As a final thought:

If you are designing an event, and your goal is to build strong community, facilitate shared learning, build trust, or foster relationships that lead to collaboration - we encourage you to explore other facilitation formats rather than the traditional panel.  

If you frequently attend conferences - use your power to shift the model!  Register for events that speak to the culture they are building - take a chance on an unconference. Provide feedback to any event you attend and let them know what experiences you find most valuable and what will secure your participation in future events.  

Both conveners and attendees share the responsibility for shifting us away from panels and towards participant centric experiences.

Convening for Impact: Latino Policy Summit 'Day of Action'

This May the Latino Community Foundation (LCF) convened 300 Latino community leaders, advocates, and elected officials at its fourth annual Latino Policy Summit to discuss policy solutions that will positively impact Latino communities in California. The Summit showcased an array of impact-focused convening best practices, including an inspirational keynote from Xavier Beccera, the first Latino Attorney General of California, and a march to the State Capitol. As the largest network of Latino philanthropists in the country, LCF is a connector and convener who knows a thing or two about the power of convening for impact. Conveners.org's Nayelli Gonzalez spoke with Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, CEO of LCF, about the role that convening plays to LCF's growing network, and how the organization convenes for impact.

1. What role does your annual Latino Policy Summit—and convening in general—play in advancing the Latino Community Foundation's mission?

LATINOS are a force. The Latino Community Foundation (LCF) exists to unleash the power of Latinos in California. LCF fulfills its mission by building political power for Latino communities, creating a movement of Latino philanthropists, and investing in Latino-led organizations that are advancing opportunities for youth and families to thrive.

LCF serves as a connector, convener, and advocate of Latino-led organizations to advance policy and system level changes. The California Latino Agenda, one of our initiatives, amplifies the Latino voice and facilitates participation in public policy. LCF works to ensure that Latino leaders have the tools, resources, and information they need to effectively advocate for change. Our annual Latino Policy Summit has become one of the most sought-after events in Sacramento and has brought together more than 1,000 Latino leaders—from emerging youth leaders and nonprofit executives to seasoned advocates and corporate executives—to our state’s capitol.

We strongly believe that our community partners working on the frontlines of social change have the talent, skills, and wisdom to create opportunities for Latino families to thrive—we want to bring their solutions to our decision makers.

2. A focal point of this year's summit was an organized march to the California State Capital, which was a few blocks away from the meeting location. Once there, summit attendees were organized into groups for a "Day of Action" of special visits with state legislators at the State Capitol. This is a unique example of convening for impact—can you please share more about why LCF includes this "Day of Action" as part of its annual summit, and what you have learned from doing this? 

We organize the legislative visits immediately following the Summit because we want to move from discussion to action. LCF organized 66 legislative visits for community partners to meet with their representatives and staffers to share specific recommendations on policy changes they want to see happen to address the issues discussed at the Summit. Many of the participants of the Summit have not had the opportunity to participate in advocacy or even visit their local representatives at the State Capitol. We are determined to build a culture of political participation and action. Most Latino nonprofit leaders intimately understand the issues as well as the solutions that will transform the lives of youth and families. We want to provide the space and platform for our Latino leaders to build relationships with decision makers and work together to make the necessary policy changes that will increase opportunities for Latinos to excel—especially in education, economic mobility, and civic engagement.

Through the Afternoon of Action, we have learned that community leaders need more opportunities for relationship-building and direct advocacy with their policymakers. The people serving on the frontlines of social change have the talent, skills, and wisdom to achieve community transformation. They just have rarely been offered a seat at the decision-making table. These legislative visits help to instill a culture of advocacy and accountability so that our leaders on the ground get accustomed to speaking directly with their legislators on tough issues, while legislators get accustomed to hearing directly from Latino community leaders.

3. One might assume that the vast majority of attendees at a Latino-focused summit would be Latino; however the speakers and audience at this year's summit were fairly diverse. What does diversity mean to LCF, and why do you think it's important to include diverse voices at your convening? 

A strong and vibrant Latino community will result in a stronger California and a thriving democracy. To achieve a robust state, we need to engage people of all ethnicities and races and across all generations. Latinos are 39% of California’s population. We need to build bridges across other racial/ethnic groups and work together to advance the hopes and dreams of all Californians. In the end, residents in our progressive State share similar hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Our work is about getting those who have historically not been part of the decision-making table, to the table, making sure we all have a voice in how we move our community forward.

We also know that the issues that impact millions of Latinos also affects the lives of African Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, immigrants and refugees, Native Americans, Muslims, and other persecuted and marginalized populations. We need and must work together to create the changes we hope to see in our communities and families.

4. Hosting an annual summit is often par for the course for many foundations and nonprofit organizations. Why does LCF host its annual summit—and how do you keep content fresh each year?

Positioned at the intersection of corporate, political, and grassroots power, LCF creates and champions relationships designed to amplify and accelerate impact in unprecedented ways. We host the annual Latino Policy Summit to educate community leaders on significant policy and budget issues, to inspire thought partnership among California leaders, and to spark regional collaborative efforts to create policy change.

We are committed to building political power and advancing economic mobility for Latinos throughout California. To accomplish this we will remain focused on pressing issues like higher education, voter turnout, environmental justice, civic leadership, and community organizing—until we achieve breakthroughs in these areas. During the Summit, we are able to dive deeper into one or two of these issues each year exploring opportunities to advance policy changes across the issues.

We also keep the Summit’s content fresh through our robust relationships with our community partners on the ground and our strategic partners in the public policy sector. These partnerships allow LCF to stay current on both the needs in the community and the opportunities in the legislature.

5. Aside from your annual summit, how do you engage your community year-round? What are some best practices that you could share with the Conveners.org community about year-round community engagement?

LCF’s Community Conversaciones bring together our community partners, donors, advocates, and community members to discuss vital issues and timely solutions that will move the needle on topics impacting the Latino community. Held several times a year across the state, these convenings elevate Latino leadership and community rooted solutions. We also regularly post articles on our Nuestra Voz blog and share them along with news stories about Latino issues and key policy updates on social media. LCF’s monthly newsletters keep our champions and stakeholders informed and engaged in our work.

LCF has made building trust and authentic relationships a priority. We see ourselves as a justice-focused grantmaker, convener, and advocate. Our work and achievements depend on having genuine relationships with a broad range of partners. You have to know their hopes and dreams. You have to ask, then you have to show up for them as well.


18 Social Innovation and Impact Conferences You Can Attend Each Year

As the impact ecosystem grows, impact-focused events are springing up around the nation and world. Our friends at Causeartist, a blog that covers brands, startups, and social entrepreneurs impacting the world through social enterprise, put together this list of leading social impact conferences hosted in North America. Want to learn more about other upcoming social impact conferences? Check out our online global calendar to find an event near you.

Social Innovation Summit

Chicago, IL

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The Social Innovation Summit is an annual event that is taking place in Chicago and centers on bringing together technology, investment, philanthropy, international development, and business. Some of the world’s most visionary leaders are represented at the Social Good Summit, and they speak to investigate solutions to some of the greatest problems of our time. See dates and Learn more

 

The Heart Series Conference

Los Angeles, CA

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The Heart Series is hosted in Southern California, and is a two— day event that facilitates discussions with leaders from the world’s most innovative companies. The event encourages entrepreneurs, as well as organization and brand leaders, to share how business can create a socially good impact in society. See dates and Learn more

 

Harvard Social Enterprise Conference

Boston, MA

Social Impact Conferences_3

The Harvard Social Enterprise Conference is one of the largest student— run conferences on Harvard’s campus, and one of the leading forums of dialogue in America. The conference strives to unite students, academics, and professionals to discuss the topic of social enterprise. The 2018 conference theme is, “What is the Bottom Line?” with an emphasis on social and political turmoil in order to promote civic engagement through social enterprise. The tracks at this year’s conference include: Startup Society, Unleashing Human Potential, Reimagining Capitalism, and Disruptive Potential. See dates and Learn more

 

The Impact Conference at Sustainatopia

Different Cities

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Sustainatopia is an annual, world— renowned, business conference and celebration for social, financial, and environmental sustainability. This year the conference will be take place in Boston and will have roughly 300 speakers from around the world discussing topics of global sustainability and unity. See dates and learn more

 

Net Impact Conference

Atlanta, GA

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The Net Impact Conference is based in Atlanta, and for 25 years has given attendees skills, experiences, and connections to create tangible social impact through their careers. The Net Impact Conference hosts a range of individuals, from small to corporate companies, students to professionals, in order to take on social challenges, protect the environment, and invent new products. This year’s Net Impact Conference will go a step further and help attendees map out a “Path to Purpose”, and experience unlike any conference has hosted. See dates and Learn more

 

Slow Money Conference

Boulder, CO

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Slow Money is a non— profit organization, and the Slow Money Conference will be held in Boulder, Colorado. The organization strives to bring new sources of capital to small food enterprises in order to support the usage of healthy soil. Soil fertility is vital to human health and this conference fuels profit and conversation towards entrepreneurial finance supporting soil fertility, carrying capacity, sense of place, cultural and ecological diversity, and nonviolence. See dates and Learn more

 

Agents of Change Summit

San Diego, CA

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The Agents of Change Summit explores the science of behavior change through the best research and compelling case studies. The Summit, based in San Diego, engages innovators from the community of professionals using marketing and technology to change people’s health behaviors for social good. Attendees participate in keynote speeches, interactive workshops, and breakout sessions that help strengthen behavioral change strategies. See dates and Learn more

 

IMPACT National Conference

Multiple Cities

The IMPACT Conference, historically, is the largest nation — wide gathering of students, administration, and non— profit staff, and is essential to the national student service movement. Attendees engage in a variety of workshops that target subjects such as activism, politics, and advocacy. Every year the conference is held at a different host campus in order to captivate a variety of students spanning the country, and this year it will be held at the University of Dayton in Ohio! See dates and Learn more

 

Nonprofit Technology Conference

Different Cities

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The Nonprofit Technology Conference is an annual membership organization conference that explores technology and technology strategies. Members of this conference are dedicated to technological advancement, sharing knowledge, vigorous research, and constant industry analysis. The next conference will take place in New Orleans, with over 2,000 professionals from around the world represented and over 100 sessions of technology based exercises and talks. See dates and Learn more

 

Nexus Global Youth Summit

Different Cities

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Nexus is an international non— profit organization, and the Nexus Global Youth Summit is a gathering of young entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and impact investors who come together to accelerate solutions to global issues. The next summit will be hosted in New York City and will mobilize over 500 of the leading gen philanthropists and social innovators to celebrate sustainability, diversity, and global unity. See dates and Learn more

 

Social Capital Markets

San Francisco, CA

Social Impact Conferences

The Social Capital Market Conference is an event that explores solving global issues through market— based solutions. Every year the conference is held in San Francisco, and brings together a variety of impact investors, social entrepreneurs, foundations, governments, and institutions to increasing the flow of capital toward social good. See dates and Learn more

 

The Fast Company Innovation Festival

New York, NY

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The Fast Company Innovation Festival is held annually in New York City and is a mega— assembly that highlights a wide range of occupations including design, entrepreneurship, technology, and social good. Attendees attain exclusive access to some of the leading companies in New York City and develop their networking and personal experience. Over 10,000 attendants frequent this event and experience a variety of workshops, over 100 tracks, and 200 speakers. See dates and Learn more

 

SXSW Good

Austin, TX

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The goals of SXSW Good are to bring a diverse group of individuals to explore advancements in the world of entertainment and create networking opportunities for these innovators. The conference is annually hosted in Austin Texas, and is a celebration of film, music, design, and interactive industries. Every year the event spans 24 tracks of programming, showcases, screenings, and exhibitions. See dates and Learn more

 

The SRI Conference

San Diego, CA

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The SRI conference (Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing) takes place in San Diego, and highlights how long-term future value is intertwined with the health of people and the planet. The conference is for investors who enjoy the financial benefits of stock ownership but also want to make a difference in the world. Attendees take responsibilities for investments, and learn strategies such as how to direct investment capital towards enterprises that contribute to the environment, how to treat people fairly, and produce healthy products. See dates and Learn more

 

DMA Nonprofit Conferences

Different cities

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The latest DMA Nonprofit Conference will take place in Chicago, and offers networking opportunities and insight for nonprofit marketers and fundraisers professionals. This conference is considered the platform for exchanging information on fundraising ideas and innovative philanthropy. The event will have 110 speakers, 35 sessions, 10 hours of networking. See dates and Learn more

 

Collaborative Conference

Boston, MA

Social Impact Conferences_14

The Collaborative Conference is held in Boston annually, and strives to aid social progress by encouraging collaboration between nonprofit professionals, social entrepreneurs, institutional investors, philanthropists, and academics to solve the worlds most pressing problems. The socially conscious elite are represented as speakers and panelist at this event, and the conference concludes with the Classy Awards to honor the world’s most innovative social programs. See dates and learn more

 

Sustainable Brands Conference

Different Cities

At Sustainable Brands, you’ll find news and views from thought and practice leaders, online and live events, a robust resource library, peer-to-peer learning groups, E-learning, a terrific set of solutions providers and more — all designed to help corporate brand and sustainability professionals, social entrepreneurs and the eco-system of value partners who support them uncover, and successfully execute on new opportunities to profitably innovate for sustainability. Our promise is to inspire, engage and equip today’s business and brand leaders to grow revenues and enhance brand value, reputation and loyalty, while helping lead us to a healthy and sustainable future for all. See dates and Learn more

 

Buy Good. Feel Good Expo

Toronto, CA

"Buy Good. Feel Good.” is dedicated to building a community of people and organizations who believe that business should have a positive impact on the world. The “Buy Good. Feel Good” Expo is North America’s largest Expo dedicated to social enterprises. Discover products that make a positive impact, from jewelry and apparel to investment and travel opportunities. Every purchase we make has an impact. Buy Good. Feel Good. connects consumers with the brands that make a difference. Join our Movement and let us change the world, one purchase at a time. See dates and Learn more

This post first appeared in Causeartist and is republished here with permission.


Top 5 Tips to Host an Eco-Friendly Convening Abroad

In honor of Earth Day this month, Conveners.org has crowd-sourced a list of best practices for hosting eco-friendly convenings abroad from our new member Elevate Destinations. Experts in socially responsible luxury travel, Elevate Destinations is a social enterprise that designs sustainable travel experiences for teams, families, and individuals that support conservation and local communities. The organization has received numerous awards and recognition for its innovative programs in this arena, and we are pleased to share some of their eco-friendly convening tips here.

Whether you’re a corporate team embarking on a retreat or soon-to-be honeymooners in search of a sustainable travel option that will create space for connecting, learning, sharing, giving back, and relaxing, aligning your choices on where to travel and how to travel with your values will enrich your travel experience.

    1. Location, Location, Location: The first major decision is choosing a geographic region or country where your tourism dollars will support conservation efforts and elevate the livelihood of local communities. Today, countries such as Kenya, Costa Rica, Belize, Peru, Brazil and the Galapagos are exemplars of responsible tourism and have pioneered innovative tourism models.
    2. Where To Stay: Selecting an environmentally and socially responsible hotel or lodge is also of top importance. These hotels are often built using sustainable or repurposed materials, refrain from using plastic water bottles, and use renewable energy sources. Many eco-friendly hotels also partner with organizations such as Clean the World, which recycles soap and hygiene products discarded every day by the hospitality industry and donates and delivers products to domestic homeless shelters and developing countries.
    3. Going Neutral: Another option is to offset the carbon emissions that are created by your travel footprint. Because travel to a foreign land always means getting on an airplane, going carbon neutral often means purchasing carbon offset credits to balance the greenhouse gasses emitted by your travel with compensating carbon positive projects. All of Elevate Destinations’ trips are carbon neutral.
    4. Responsible Consumerism: Ethical travelers sometimes bring product donations, such as school supplies, when they volunteer with local centers or visit local communities. One tip here is to buy supplies locally, rather than bring products from your home country, to support the local economy. You may also wish to work closely with ground partners to make sure that any activities you partake in while abroad are run by companies that implement fair wage practices.
    5. Buy A Trip, Give A Trip: Another option to consider while planning your next trip is to support an organization that enables local youthmany of who have never traveled out of their own villagesto visit historical sites, see conservation projects, and get up close with wildlife in their home country. As one example, through its Buy a Trip, Give a Trip program, every trip organized through Elevate Destinations allows a group of local children to visit tourist sites in their own country.

Travelers looking to design an eco-friendly convening abroad have many more options today than was the case in the past. The field of responsible tourism has grown in the past 20 years, and continues to evolve.

“It’s not just about environmental practices, [sustainable tourism] is about trying to bring communities, wildlife, and the environment into harmony,” shared Dominique Callimanopulos, Founder and President of Elevate Destinations. “One of the things we see is people wanting authenticity and experiential travel. People are craving to step out of the transactional, commodified way of travel, and get connected to something that is more raw and sincere.”

Whether you’re planning your next corporate retreat or want to take a personal learning journey abroad, we hope these tips provide a starting point to make your next trip a sustainable one.


How We Gather

America is changing.

Millennials are less religiously afiliated than ever before. Churches are just one of many institutional casualties of the internet age, in which young people are both more globally connected and more locally isolated than ever before.

Against this bleak backdrop, a hopeful landscape is emerging. Millennials are flocking to a host of new organizations that deepen community in ways that are powerful, surprising, and perhaps even religious.

After two years of noticing this happen, we’re sharing our findings in order to start a conversation. Primarily, we’re speaking to three groups of people:

    • Those leading the organizations mentioned in this report and others like them
    • Those interested in supporting such organizations and their growth
    • Those interested in America’s changing religious landscape

There are dozens of organizations from which we could choose to illustrate what’s happening. We’ve chosen ten. Each epitomizes a combination of six themes that we see again and again:

These organizations have a shared ethos. To try to understand it, we map out their ancestry, sibling projects, and cousins in corporate America. Lastly, because we care about the eficacy and longevity of this work, we close the report with a few considerations for the organizations and others invested in their success:

  • Who are we serving?
  • How are we leading?
  • What about God?

We hope that these organizations begin to see themselves as part of a broader cultural shift toward deeper community. By consciously coming together, we think they could form the DNA of a fruitful movement for personal spiritual growth and social transformation. We invite you to join us in considering how millennials are changing the way we gather.

This is an excerpt from the report How We Gather, written by Angie Thurston and Casper ter Kuile; it is republished here with permission. Read the full report here


Webinar Recap: The Power of Convening in Changing Times

What is our role and responsibility as impact conveners in a rapidly shifting socio-political landscape? From travel visas to new areas of rapidly developing content, impact conveners are faced with the growing task of responding to the micro and macro implications of the new U.S. administration and growing populist movement across the globe.

Creating a space for dialogue, Conveners.org co-hosted a webinar on March 15 with Liz Maxwell, SOCAP 365 Product Manager, during which fellow impact conveners shared how they are addressing issues that are arising during these changing times.

Webinar participants explored the following questions: how do we understand the function of our work at this moment in history? What types of local, national, and global contexts might we (reactively) integrate and (proactively) shape through our convenings? In the most ambitious and hopeful scenarios, what sort of strategic alliances might we build as a field to rise to the challenge of these changing times?

As fellow network builders, system thinkers, and professionals dedicated to positive social change, participants shared the following strategies during the webinar:

  • Ensure diversity of thought: One webinar participant shared the importance of recognizing the value of diverse thinking at convenings, and that everyone should have a seat at the table. 
  • Set norms for communication: Another participant mentioned that to case a wider net, conveners must learn to moderate language to bring others into the fold. One participant also mentioned the need to have patience with other point of views and refrain from categorization, recognizing that everyone has their own unique experience, and being mindful of words we use to describe groups or ideas.
  • Inviting people into the fold: One webinar participant shared that it's important to make sure that we’re bringing people together that would normally not be together, and that we’re pulling in people who would not normally go to impact conferences. For example, NGOs may have never thought about attending an impact investing meeting, though could learn much and add much value to such meeting. 
  • Take risks: Another participant shared the importance of not being afraid to take risks in terms of audiences reached and formats that are tried.

In addition, participants shared the following resources that may enable leaders to be better equipped with dealing with current events:

  • The New Grand Strategy, great new book on vast road ahead with or without Washington, particularly all that can be led by private sector investment and businesses
  • Strangers in Their Own Land, the renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country—a stronghold of the conservative right—and gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she famously champions. Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and finds lives ripped apart by stagnant wages, a loss of home, an elusive American dream—and political choices and views that make sense in the context of their lives.

If you have additional resources you'd like to share with the community, email us at info@conveners.org.

Image Source: meedanphotos


Convening for Change: Core Ingredients for Success

Perhaps nowhere in modern history has the need for authentic, cross-community dialogue about our values, goals, fears, and what we care most about, ever been greater. The tool of convening — industry code for the act of bringing people together to meaningfully listen and learn from each other — can be critical in encouraging this. Unfortunately, most conference models are not designed to encourage participant-driven conversation. Instead, many event organizers still opt for the antiquated “sage on stage” or “marathon of panels” approach, forcing attendees to be passive receipts of information, rather than engaged peer learners and co-creators of solutions. As conveners, we must help this model evolve because quite frankly, the stakes for not doing so in today’s environment are too high.

What follows is a preliminary list of recommendations on where we can begin, with an open invitation to have you add to this list…

Core Ingredients for Success

  1. Be clear on your convening’s core purpose.

As an organizer, you must understand what you hope to accomplish through your event. This requires honest reflection about your true objectives and decision-making about what you can effectively achieve through one event.

Most impact conveners are working to advance critical change, innovation, and collaboration. This requires thoughtful planning. One of the biggest mistakes organizers can make is packing too many objectives into one agenda. In general, less is more — especially when it means participants have increased opportunities to connect with each other.

On a related note, conveners should be crystal clear on what their participants’ goals are for attending their conference. Participant goals are just as important, if not more than the organizers. The design of your event needs to be structured to prioritize these objectives.

2. Understand your most valuable role is to connect people and networks with each other.

As a convener — there is a direct correlation between your ability to effect change — and the strength of your community’s relationships with each other. Your #1 job is to grow your community members’ networks in thoughtful ways.

The emphasis here is on thoughtful — meaning both introducing participants to valuable strangers and seeking ways to enable network members to deepen their existing relationships with each other. You would be doing your community a huge favor by providing them an environment where they can authentically meet each other as genuine people, instead of sterile representatives of institutions with fancy titles. This includes encouraging participants to learn about each other first on a personal level, before jumping to the professional level. This approach is well worth it in the long run, as it is those connections with personal roots that translate into strong working relationships.

3. It is your job to ensure that diverse voices are included.

As the organizers of well-known and respected conferences, you have unique agency. However, this comes with the responsibility of ensuring the necessary voices are in room, which absolutely includes ensuring diversity.

It is not simply enough to engage those participants who knew about your event, could afford it, and registered. You need to understand who is not currently part of the conversation and needs to be, and make it your job to get them there. An easy way to assess how well you are currently doing is to look around the room at your next gathering, if the majority of people already know each other or look alike, you are in trouble.

4. Your convening should drive learning, reflection, and collaboration. Your event’s agenda should be designed to reflect this.

As dedicated change agents, the answers your community members seek to solve to the world’s most critical challenges will not come from attending a panel. True solutions will come from engaging diverse communities in courageous conversations with each other.

Our job as conveners, is to create spaces that enables this type of interaction and advances peer-learning, reflection, and collaboration. This means we need to push everyone (including ourselves) out of our comfort zones and be willing to try new approaches to session structures. [Warning: This will likely result in foregoing your brand name keynote speaker.]

Convening for impact, when done right, has the potential to change the world. We hope that sharing these core ingredients will help you design a more successful convening. What other ideas do you have?