More than 150 Echoing Green Fellows gathered in Joburg for the 2015 All Fellows Conference to refine and re-energize their leadership. Here's what we learned.
SOCAP 12 Highlights
Wow. SOCAP 12 really rocked this year. The annual event, founded by Kevin Jones almost five years ago, has grown in size and recognition to become the mainstay conference on impact investing as applied to social ventures and the general market landscape. Involving participants from all over the world, the conference brings together entrepreneurs, experts, industry leaders, fund managers and government/public policy experts for three days of intense, stimulating and inspiring discussion and debate. My first year there was 2010, and the progression of both the conference and the impact investing space in general since that time is astounding.
One of the thrills in attending this event is the chance to hear directly from luminaries such as Katherine Fulton (see above) of Monitor Group, who gave an excellent presentation on the future of impact investing from their recent report around the role of philanthropy in early-stage social investing, and Matt Bannick of Omidyar Network, who spoke about the need for a sector-based approach to impact investing, which is discussed in detail in their six-part blog series on SSIR. Halloran Philanthropies continued their tremendous support of the sector by creating the first ever Impact Accelerator to help entrepreneurs engage and network before SOCAP started—as part of Echoing Green’s continuing focus on hybrid organizations, I held a seminar as part of the Accelerator for over thirty of the entrepreneurs to discuss challenges in developing structural models. The week’s events were kicked off Monday by an all day meeting, “Capital Markets for Impact at Scale”, hosted by Rockefeller Foundation and held at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Dr Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, gave an excellent keynote speech citing the growing levels of capital being committed in the impact investing space.
SOCAP Entrepreneurs: The conference is about businesses that deliver impact and entrepreneurs are the fundamental ingredient. Panels and sessions highlight their creativity, commitment and drive to create innovative models that effect social change on a large scale using the power of business. Echoing Green Fellows always feature highly at these events, and we had brilliant presentations from Jason Aramburu (see video below) of re:char, Javier Lozano of Clinicas del Azucar and Ajaita Shah (see video below) of Frontier Markets. The sector of course holds many more exceptional entrepreneurs, and I was particularly impressed by Alexander Eaton of Sistema Biobolsa, Sheikh Turay of Liberation Chocolate and Veronica D’Souza of Ruby Cup both in their pitches and in direct conversation.
SOCAP Industry Leaders: I was lucky enough and honored to participate in a number of panel sessions, alongside some of our key partners such as Paula Goldman of Omidyar, Mark Beam of Halloran Philanthropies, Liz Luckett of Pershing Square Foundation, Ross Baird of Village Capital, and Andy Lower of Eleos Foundation. Spanning topics from design of our own Recoverable Grant, our recent partnership with The Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund, and to best principles of the world’s leading-edge incubators, I found our panel sessions to be hugely insightful with excellent participation from the audience. I was struck at how well attended each session was—clear indication of the important role early-stage ventures and funding infrastructure plays for the impact investing sector as a whole.
Overall, a fantastic and exhausting experience, demonstrating the continued growth of the impact investing as a critical approach in economic development and social change.
What were your favorite takeaways from the conference?
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