SOCAP16 will take place September 13 -16, 2016, at Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, California. Will you be there? SOCAP convenes social entrepreneurs, impact investors, business leaders, and innovators from around the world to accelerate the marketplace at the intersection of money and meaning.
More than 2,600 attendees from 60+ countries came to the sold-out SOCAP15 conference and it was our biggest and best event to date!
Join us for SOCAP16
As we officially launch SOCAP16, we are excited to offer a limited number of tickets at the lowest ticket price of $745. But hurry, the sale ends on December 31st.
All tickets include access to three full days of content, meals, evening parties, an online connection platform & much more.
If SOCAP16 is on your 2016 conference calendar or if you have money left in your 2015 professional development budget, take advantage of this great price. If you would like to pay for part of your ticket(s) using funds left over from your 2015 budget and then pay the rest in 2016, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Watch the SOCAP15 Sessions
Want to see, rewatch or share the SOCAP15 experience? The sessions are now available on the SOCAP YouTube channel.
Over 12,000 People Convened to Date
Find out for yourself why SOCAPand has drawn more than 12,000 people to date. Be a part of the conversation and get your SOCAP16 tickets today!
Here’s what people are saying about last year’s event:
“I’m at SOCAP because I believe we can use finance as a tool for social change.”~Melissa Pierce, Produce & Director of Born with Curiosity
“The most inspiring part of SOCAP15 was hearing that impact is outperforming conventional portfolios.” –Jim Fournier, Cofounder, Chairman & President of Planetwork
“After being in the field for two decades — so happy to see the phenomenal growth and interest of young people still trying to make the world a better place. Go SOCAP!” ~Gabriella Morris, US Fund for Unicef.
“I’ll reemphasize my three keywords: humility, relationship, and listening. We have to value the human element just as much as we value profit and, more importantly, understand that the two are so interrelated they can’t actually be detangled.” — Nikki Silvestri, Silvestri Strategies
As SOCAP15 came to a close, our final plenary reflected on how the conversations we have been having over the last three days are being influenced by the broader global context. What does it mean to build a marketplace at the intersection of money and meaning in a world facing growing economic inequality, racial injustice, ongoing humanitarian crises, and climate change? Our final plenary featured some inspiring and thought provoking discussions that spoke to that big question. The audience also joined in a celebration of some of the world’s most impactful social entrepreneurs as Randy Haykin and Paul Miller of the Gratitude Network announced the 2015 Gratitude Award winners.
The Gratitude Awards recognizes and the most promising and innovative early-stage social ventures in education, community development, and the environment and sustainability. More than 500 companies representing more than 30 countries were nominated. Nine Gratitude Award finalists presented their ventures to the audience at SOCAP15 last Thursday and the judges and voters have spoken. Winners were selected in each of the following categories: Education: The Reset Foundation Community Development:Vendedy Environment/Sustainability:Carbon Analytics SOCAP People’s Choice Award: CASSA All nine nominees will receive ongoing mentorship from the Gratitude Network over the next year, The four announced winners will receive an expense-paid trip to the Bay area meet one of the Gratitude Super Mentors: Ed Catmull, CEO of Pixar; Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO; George Zachary, VC at Charles River Ventures, Meg Garlinghouse with LinkedIn For Good and Super-angel Ron Conway. Congratulations to all of the Gratitude Awards finalists and winners!
We are so grateful to everyone who attended, presented, and spoke at SOCAP15. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, ideas, stories, and expertise. While the Blue Angels put on a spectacular show overhead, we appreciate the SOCAP15 community’s understanding and persevering on to have great conversations through the background noise. Thank you.
Let’s keep the conversations that started here at the Fort Mason Center going all year long! You can watch videos of content you may have missed at the SOCAP YouTube Channel or participate in SOCAP365 a new initiative from MissionHUB. We will also continue covering your stories through the SOCAP blog and on Facebook and Twitter.
Mark your calendar for SOCAP16, October 4 – 7, 2016 at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco.
Aleem Ahmed first got the inspiration for Love Grain while he was working with Ethiopia’s Agricultural Transformation Agency to improve the productivity of teff farmers. Prior to his teff sojourn, he worked with Innovations for Poverty Action in Kenya to scale-up a drinking water safety technology and chlorine supply chain to reach 500,000 people.
From the stage of SOCAP15, Aleem Ahmed reveals a secret Ethiopian supergrain that most Americans have never heard of. It’s called teff and its been grown in Ethiopia for thousands of years. Teff is considered a national treasure in Ethiopia, and is one of the main ingredients for the local bread, ingera. Not only is teff nutritious, high in fiber, gluten free, and packed with protein, but it tastes great.
“Way better than quinoa,” says Aleem, with laughs from the SOCAP audience.
So why don’t we know about this amazing supergrain?
A First for Teff
Aleem explains that teff is grown exclusively in Ethiopa, a country that was previously isolated from the rest of the world by the former military regime. Fortunately, under the current government, all that is changing. Ethiopia is opening up and the investments, Aleem says, are pouring in. Teff production is on the rise, and for the first time in 10 years Ethiopia will export teff flour in 2016.
A Grain for Social Change
Aleem’s interest in teff goes beyond the possibilities for a healthy grain–it represents potential, and opportunity, for millions of farmers in Ethiopia. As the son of a head start teacher and a world banker, Aleem’s been thinking about social change his whole life, and he believes the time is right for teff.
While working in Kenya on a drinking safety project, he joined the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency and got to meet some of the country’s 6 million teff farmers, including Tigist, whose name means patience.
Tigist waited for change for too long, says Aleem.
Tigist’s family had been farming teff for generations, but she, a widow, and the single caretaker of her children, was never been able to put food on the table for her family year round. At harvest, she would sell her grain to middlemen who would offer her cash immediately, but at low and unfair prices. Tigist would run out of food and have to borrow from friends and neighbors. There were days her family went hungry.
After lining up a buyer for Tigist’s grain at a fair price (25% higher than the middlemen), helping her get access to better seeds and to fertilizer, and after teaching her to plant in rows with fewer seeds for a higher yield, her harvest doubled. And as her grain price grew, and her harvest doubled, Tigit’s profits tripled. With this extra money, Tigist could feed her family year round, pay for medicine when her children fell sick, and send them to school.
The Lightbulb Moment
That’s when Aleem had his lightbulb moment. “I realized I was going to start Love Grain to improve the lives of millions of farmers, just like Tigist.”
Teff, he explains, is from a family of plants called “love grasses.”
Back in the US, Aleem entered an MBA program to help launch Love Grain, and rolled out a teff-based pancake mix.
“Because who doesn’t love brunch?” Aleem says to the SOCAP crowd.
The product ended up selling out, and he is currently working on bringing a healthy teff chip to market.
“By taking teff into the mainstream we can help create a global market for Ethiopia’s six million teff farmers,” says Aleem.
“Together, we can satisfy the huge demand for gluten free health foods and improve the lives of millions of farmers, just like Tigist.”
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Constance Yowell is the Director of Education at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. She oversees a $50 million program on Digital Media and Learning, one of the first philanthropic efforts in the US to systematically explore the effects of digital media on young people and its implications for the future of learning and education.
“So these are my boys,” says Constance Yowell to the audience at SOCAP15.
A photo flashes on the screen, showing three young, beaming brothers: Jake, 13; Journey; 17; and Sam, 16.
“And no, Sam has not cut his hair in three years,” says Constance with a smile.
“I want to tell you about my summer with my boys. My summer starts in January or March. I want my boys to have a really great summer where they explore their interests and they learn some skills for their future. I do my research. I spend hours online and talk to parents in the community, to friends, to my boys, and finally I find some great programs.”
By the end of the summer, Sam learned how to remix music and is becoming a DJ. Journey was in a design program and created a line of shoes, and Jake, the youngest of the three, learned anime.
Most kids in the United States don’t have this kind of opportunity. Even at the High School level, more than 60% of students report being disengaged. Constance points to the data: A 20% dropout rate and almost 7 million young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who aren’t in school or working–a 5 trillion dollar loss in opportunity that translates into a skills gap.
For the past 10 years, the MacArthur Foundation has spent almost 200 million dollars trying to understand and reimagine what learning can look like in the 21st century, within the roles of digital media and technology.
A Foundation for Learning
Here’s what Constance says they’ve figured out when it comes to engaging young people in learning.
Peers. Young people need to spend time with their peers to learn who they are and to learn together.
Passion. Kids are motivated to learn what they care the most about and they need time to engage and go deep.
Purpose. When we connect peers, with passion, with an opportunity to engage with something real in the world that matters to them, we see young people engaged in powerful learning and preparing for their future.
Together, Peers + Passion + Purpose lays a powerful foundation for learning.
However, these three things almost never come together for young people.
As Constance explains, LRNG creates new learning opportunities for young people that brings them together with their peers, to do the things they care the most about, and helps them find the information and connectors that they need in order to continue learning and move on the path to success.
LRNG taps into all of the learning opportunities that exist across a city: libraries, after school programs, museums, businesses. It brings them together into a seamless network that is open and inviting to young people and transforms how they access and participate in learning and their paths to success.
“At LRNG we like to say that learning is a lifestyle and it happens everywhere all of the time,” she says.
Like Spotify with its musical recommendations, LRNG can recommend a whole set of learning opportunities to young people in the program live, based on where they live, what they’re interested in, and their overall competency level, and then connects them to peers and mentors in their community. As they are guided through those learning opportunities, young people can demonstrate their competence, and earn digital “badges” to unlock new opportunities–a special program, an internship, or a possible job.
“We’ve been piloting this work in Dallas, Chicago, Washington DC and Pittsburgh,” says Constance. Through this work they have learned how to build an infrastructure that networks learning across a city.
One Million Youth by 2018
By 2018 she expects to have more than 1 million youth involved in LRNG across 70 communities. LRNG, she stresses, is a collaboration, and one where they welcome more partners to build a network ecosystem of learning across cities.
Her final slide shows 14 year old Ahmed Mohammed who recently made headlines for being arrested at his Texas school after bringing in a homemade clock that was mistaken for a bomb.
“Ahmed was punished for exactly the behavior we want to encourage,” said Constance.
“School is everywhere. Curiosity, creativity, engagement–it’s everywhere. We want all of our kids to be makers, creators, and inventors. It’s why we created LRNG. We want all kids to have the opportunity to turn learning into a lifestyle, and have a bright and balanced future.”
Changing the Framework: Three Overarching Conversations at SOCAP15
Governor Deval Patrick of Bain Capital brilliantly articulated the impetus of SOCAP during Thursday morning’s plenary panel when he said, “We need to proselytize. If the planet is to be saved, and if communities are to be uplifted, and frankly, if capital is to survive, we need the world to move into thinking about social and environmental return as part of the overall return for investing.”
So how do we change the framework of traditional investing? After listening to several panels and having one-on-one discussions with people from foundations, private equity groups, and impact investors, I have come up with 3 overarching themes:
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence as Carl Sagan said. All eyes are on us here at SOCAP15. Whether you are an entrepreneur, small impact investor, foundation or private equity group – traditional investors seem to be constantly scrutinized with a magnifying glass tediously waiting for a mistake. Proving them wrong or right is completely on our shoulders. You might say we have a “chip on the shoulder” attitude, or our toes are being held near the fire to create returns.
So how do we withstand the scrutiny? Simply by proving our claim. Offering quality work, sound financial models, and evidenced based work speaks for itself, and it’s only a matter of time before the traditional investors take a look, as long as our work is viable.
Top Down and Bottom Up
Who is the tip of the spear at SOCAP15? Foundations or impact investors? Entrepreneurs or analysts? Or is a breakthrough in impact investing completely in the hands of the investor? So far, the answer seems to be: all of the above.
Gil Crawford in a panel discussion on segmentation of impact investing suggests that it’s time for all SOCAP15 attendees to get “confident and confrontational” when speaking to investors, he also suggests that it’s up to smaller firms in the space to set the bar and make noise and not just the leave it to the “big names.” Clara Miller, president of the F.B Heron Foundation puts it this way: “there really is no shortcut to market acceptance” and that it’s going to take everyone to change the framework of investors to include social and environmental risk within their portfolio.
I was hesitant to add this last theme, but it’s practically impossible to avoid the word millennial when attending all panels. For example, Deborah Winshel from BlackRock Inc explained to the audience that the reason they have an impact investing unit is because a group of millennials in the firm wrote up the business model for Impact Investing independently, and presented it to management.
There is no doubt that there is a rising interest in making a positive change in the world across all demographics. Social Capital is riding this wave and should continue to ride the wave and capitalize on the young generation and their enthusiasm for impact.
Clark Brimhall is a Senior Associate at Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center, and previously a Finance Associate with Village Capital. Clark has worked on a variety of due diligence efforts covering: Peer to Peer market research, Ed-Tech in Brazil, Romania and Moldova impact assessment, clothing factories in Africa, Agriculture in east Africa, Voice of the Customer market research, Cookstoves in Africa, and healthcare in India.
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