The Conveners team believes it is critically important that people come together to address the greatest challenges facing the planet. Conveners host events, connect businesses to accelerators and gather technology tools to help impact companies navigate the changing economy.
We talk to Executive Director Avary Kent about their organization for catalyzing collaboration. In this episode, we talk about:
- What is Conveners.org and what are you set out to solve?
- Why are these different components important to an ecosystem?
- What are some of your favorite accelerators?
- How do you address Global Goal #17?
- Can you share the business model?
- How do you see the future of partnerships playing into getting these goals done?
- What’s next for Conveners.org?
See their top recommended accelerators, hear about their platform for finding accelerators, and experience a mindset-shift around collaboration for impact businesses.
What is Conveners.org and what are you set out to solve?
Well, I would say we’re the meta-meta. We are a global association of impact-focused conferences, accelerators, and mappers. So, anybody who is trying to build a more robust ecosystem, we love to build peer networks to serve them.
There are 3 major segments:
- Conveners Events
- Accelerators and Incubators
Why are these different components important to an ecosystem?
Group 1: Conveners Events
So when we see the conveners, these are the folks who aren’t doing conferences, they’re doing gatherings, they’re doing dinners, they’re doing meetings. But at the end of the day, they believe it is critically important that people come together, oftentimes in person to be able to address the greatest challenges facing the planet. And so, we think this is absolutely critical because every challenge we see from hunger to education, to poverty, to climate change, these are all really complex issues, which means that there’s a lot of pieces that are moving. You don’t know what they all are. And honestly you can only predict cause and effect in hindsight.
And so no one person, organization or even country is just going to fix these things overnight. It requires all of us to come together and to work together and to collaborate.
And so conveners believe that bringing people together is a critical ingredient to achieving their mission.
Group 2: Accelerators and Incubators
These are organizations that are enhancing the ability of enterprises and entrepreneurs to build organizations that are both doing well and doing good at the same time. Especially with social entrepreneurs, there’s a lot of help you need from your business model to your product market fit, how you’re going to run, how to grow your team and build your organization, and how to scale.
The incubators and accelerators have different curricula and most importantly relationships that they bring to the table with mentors and potential teammates and investors. We bring program managers together to learn from each other, share best practices, and hopefully identify ways that they can enhance one another’s programming and skills.
Group 3: Mappers
The third group are mappers, some of whom are incubators and accelerators themselves. Some are research institutions, some are conveners, but these are our people in organizations that are building tools and resources that help people navigate the impact ecosystem. It can be really hard to find your way around!
Can you share with us the background of how you got started?
I was working at SoCap at the time and co-founding what became Impact Alpha and impact space, the media site and was just really shocked by the number of accelerator program folks who didn’t already know each other.
I had been really inspired by Ian Fisk, the Executive Director of the Mentor Capital Network and the work he’d done on ecosystem building. I took the banner from him to help bring together program managers from incubators and accelerators around the world to help create a common application and create a cross promotion directory.
So when Topher (CEO of Opportunity Collaboration) and I teamed up after an Agora meeting, he was showing his new conversations with conveners. I was exploring my years of conversations with accelerators and we realize that we were serving different audiences who are doing the same thing, which was building peer circles and pure connection for communities that are oftentimes really isolated. At the time I was exploring what to do next and had left my last startup, but Topher really didn’t want to leave Opportunity Collaboration. So conveners.org was born a few months later.
We focused on what happens when you listen to the communities that need help and design your programming to be really responsive to that.
The Accelerator Selection Tool
An Accelerator Directory was one of the collective impact projects that came out of conversations with Ian Fisk of Mentor Capital Network and Andy Lieberman from Miller Center for social entrepreneurship. Uh, and I worked together to start to map out like what are the fields, what does the information that people actually need to make these kinds of decisions? And at the time enable impact, uh, actually was building an accelerator directory.
However, the problem was that the data was out of date all the time, and the platform would be expensive to run and offer it we kept it up to date. So The Accelerator Selection Tool works a little differently in two main ways:
- They don’t list individual programs, but list groups that have websites. That way, the company’s website will be adding updated information on its own.
- They offer an embed code for websites to offer for free, to outsource distribution.
What are some of your favorite accelerators?
I would say Miller Center for social entrepreneurship, as they have incredible longevity. They’ve been going for over 15 years. In terms of working in emerging markets, they’re amazing and they have a great mix of both virtual and in-person programming, especially around investment readiness.
Mentor Capital Network is also exceptional. Anyone who applies is going to get an incredible amount of feedback from hundreds of mentors from all over the world, if not thousands.
I would say Uncharted is also incredible. You may have known them as the unreasonable institute in Boulder back in the day, but they had a rebrand last year and they are really at representing the next iteration of impact accelerators. So they’re really focused on solving a specific problem.
Other accelerators Avary recommends:
What do you think the role of an impact ecosystem plays into a city?
I actually love the metaphor of ‘the roadies who make that awesome concert a reality.’
It’s the folks behind the scenes who are connecting the dots who are helping you see and meet the people that you might not otherwise have access to, and to gain the answers to your questions. I mean, Google is awesome. Obviously, they’re gonna rule the world one day, but at the end of the day that’s not necessarily how you’re going to find, not just the answer to your question, but the person behind it who you can really build a relationship with.
I think especially when you look at how silo-ed government is from everything else, how siloed corporations are from everything else, how siloed corporations are internally, how hard it is for universities to connect across things. These that were coordinators are the glue that’s holding things together, and they are the catalysts. From a true chemistry sense of the word, they are speeding up the reactions that are creating an impact because they’re connecting pieces more quickly.
How do you see Global Goal #17 going?
“So, partnerships for the goals (SDG #17) is obviously what we think we embody the most. There’s a lot of money and time and energy and focus going into ending hunger or improving education or fixing climate change and partnerships, many argue, is the most important ingredient.
You’re not going to achieve any of the other SDGs without it. And yet, there are very few funders and very few folks who are actually really prioritizing #17. It is overhead: it is salaries, it is people’s time. That is at the heart of the program that’s being delivered and it’s really hard to measure. You cannot attribute your impact nearly as easily as when you say, “Oh look, we, you know, sold x number of copies of this app serving x number of customers or we’ve delivered, why gallons of clean water to z communities.”
But there are metrics for it. They exist. They’re just much harder and take a lot more time to measure. We’ve been really focused on SDG 17 through our initiative convening 17 and this is bringing all of the parts of our work into one coherent strategy.”
Can you share the business model?
“We’re a 501C3 nonprofit, but it’s the first nonprofit I’ve run. Everything else has been for profit. So, no surprise, about 75% of our income is actually earned at revenue level.
We do a mix of a lot of training, a lot of capacity development, working with foundations to help improve the capability of their team to facilitate a very participant-focused design with many of these folks and over time we also designed and ran full events for them that use this methodology.”
How do you see the future of partnerships playing into getting these goals done?
“I think we need to get ego out of the way.
There is a lot when you look at collaboration, there are a lot of challenges that honestly emerge because people need the credit and they think they can do it better than anyone else. And I think to some extent that’s true. Kickstarter is always going to go faster and be able to do more because they don’t partner. They just know what they do, they do it well and that’s the thing that they’re going to do.
But when you are trying to tackle a complex challenge, you can’t go it alone because too often the intervention that you’re trying to have is going to have unintended consequences and you can’t predict what those are going to be in advance. Then, the only way to address them is through relationship.”
What’s next for Conveners.org?
Avary talks about partnerships and building their accelerator pipeline moving forward.
“I think doubling down on how to build collaboration between conveners and how to really catalyze action. On the collaboration side we are working on a number of core partnerships for 2019 and 2020 that will enable us to take on more SDGs like SDG 2, hunger, and SDG 5, gender equality, and start really building the playbook so more folks can leverage conversations or cost conflicts to achieve really specific and measurable outcomes.
We’re also really excited to be doing more to integrate the accelerator community into that process because they are such a valuable pipeline partner in this.
MIT solve has been doing incredible work for the last few years in identifying core challenges and connecting to a global network to find solvers from around the world, and we’re excited to be talking to them about ways we can connect into the accelerator network that we’ve built.”
OCTOBER 2019 PRESS RELEASE
SOCAP19 Livestreams Global Changemaker Sessions
Addressing Solutions to World’s Toughest Problems
~ Digital Pass Experience offers live community connections and insight into what is working in social impact today during Social Capital Markets influential annual conference ~
San Francisco, CA – Social Capital Markets (SOCAP), dedicated to accelerating a new global market at the intersection of money and meaning, will livestream all mainstage content from the 12th annual SOCAP19, October 22-25, 2019 at the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture in San Francisco. The influential four-day conference convenes more than 3,000 impact investors, social entrepreneurs and innovative cross-sector practitioners committed to increasing the flow of capital toward social good.
FEATURE IMAGE: Lindsay Smalling, CEO of Social Capital Markets, last year addressing audience at SOCAP’s annual impact investing conference at Fort Mason in San Francisco.
“Anyone from around the world can join the SOCAP19 Digital Experience and watch livestreamed sessions of leading perspectives from across the global impact ecosystem,”
said Lindsay Smalling, Chief Executive Officer of SOCAP. “Our mission is to unlock the potential of markets to accelerate impact. By offering free digital access we expand this community to those who are unable to make it to Fort Mason this year. It will take all of us exploring ideas and solutions, to solve the world’s toughest problems and participation shouldn’t be limited to only attendees.”
Signing up for the SOCAP19 Digital Experience will grant full access to online coverage of the conference including:
- All SOCAP19 livestreams – including all plenary sessions and main stage breakout sessions happening on the Cowell Theater stage at Fort Mason
- Exclusive interviews and coverage of the conference from our impact media partners including NextBillion, Devex and ImpactAlpha
- Curated recaps of conference sessions and major takeaways
- A digital SOCAP19 program book
- A list of all companies and organizations represented at SOCAP19
- Post-event, pass holders will receive an email with links to the full SOCAP19 video and online content library
To join in the SOCAP19 Digital Experience and sign up for a free digital pass, go to https://socialcapitalmarkets.net/socap19/digital-experience/. In addition, anyone can join in the online conversations during the conference on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn by using the hashtag #SOCAP19.
Here are more details of the livestreamed sessions during SOCAP19 plenary sessions from 4:00-6:00pm Pacific:
On Tuesday, October 22:
- “A Global Movement that Matters to Millions,” explores solutions to solve the world’s toughest problems from feeding 10 billion people by 2050 to pursuing equity and justice for all. Highlights include:
💥 Nick Glicher, COO of Thomson Reuters Foundation, reveals surprising results of second global survey of the “Best Countries for Social Entrepreneurs.”
💥 Roy Steiner and Sara Farley of The Rockefeller Foundation announce a new initiative on the future of food and host a panel with leading innovators in food systems and sustainable agriculture: Anna Lappé, Co-Director of Real Food Media, and Debra Eschmeyer, Senior Fellow and Head of Innovation at the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at the Arizona State University.
💥 Native Land Acknowledgement by Kanyon Sayers-Roods, CEO of Kanyon Konsulting
🔥 Jennifer Schorsch, President of Water.org, and Tom Ferguson, Vice President of Programming of Imagine H2O share their work on accelerating solutions in water and sanitation.
🔥 Rodrigo Villar, Founding Partner of New Ventures, and Raúl Pomares, Founder of Sonen Capital, discuss opportunities and challenges of the emerging impact investing landscape in Latin America.
🔥 Marcos Gonzalez, Founder of Vamos Ventures and Rod Robinson, Founder and CEO of ConnXus highlight the business case for leading with a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Lens, moderated by Andrew Brower, Program Officer, W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Wednesday, October 23:
- “New Approaches to Expand the Impact Economy,” brings a range of experts explaining new approaches to strengthen and expand the impact economy. Highlights include:
📈 Neville Crawley, CEO of Kiva, is interviewed by Helen Avery, Sustainable Finance Editor for Euromoney, on the expanded mission of Kiva and the Refugee Investment Fund.
📈 Mega-panel on the maturing landscape of Impact Measurement and Management with Ben Thornley of Tideline; Elizabeth Boggs Davidsen of UNDP; Diane Carol Damskey of IFC; Leticia Emme of IRIS; Sasha Dichter of 60 Decibels; Maria Mähl of Arabesque S-Ray; Cathy Clark of Duke University; Adam Heltzer of Partners Group; Lauren Booker of Jordan Park; Kate Cochran of Upaya Social Ventures and Andrew Lee of UBS.
🔥 Morgan Simon of Candide Group discusses building a movement with recently retired NFL player and impact investor Derrick Morgan of KNGDM Impact Fund.
🔥 Bonnie Glick, Deputy Administrator of USAID, and David Bohigian, CEO of OPIC in conversation on government agency-led efforts to catalyze economic development in emerging markets.
🔥 Tim Freundlich, CEO of ImpactAssets, discusses donor advised funds and the role of policy and regulation for guiding impact in financial services with Kat Taylor, CEO of Beneficial State Bank, and Christie George, Director of New Media Ventures.
Thursday, October 24:
- “The Numbers Matter,” offers leading researchers showing how data reveals hidden patterns and truths; evidence supporting what is working and the essential guideposts for directing the passion and persistence of this field. Highlights include:
📊Research on unconscious racial bias of investors led by Jennifer Eberhardt of Stanford SPARQ, Ashby Monk of Stanford Global Projects Center and Daryn Dodson of Illumen Capital, discussion moderated by Miljana Vujosevic of Prudential.
🔥 Rip Rapson, president of The Kresge Foundation, and Susan Taylor Batten, president and CEO of ABFE, talk about Kresge’s “25% by ’25” commitment to diverse managers.
Interviews and talks:
📣 Marjorie Kelly, Executive Vice President & Senior Fellow, and Ted Howard, President and Co-Founder of Democracy Collaborative, interviewed by Oscar Perry Abello, Senior Economics Correspondent at Next City, on their proposal for a new democratic economy to address deep, systemic economic inequality.
📣 Lynne Twist, Founder of The Soul of Money Institute and early pioneer of thinking differently about money, takes the SOCAP stage for the first time.
📣 Brent Kessel, CEO of Abacus Wealth Partners on eight financial archetypes that shape our relationship with money.
📣 Neil Buddy Shah, CEO and Founding Partner of IDinsight, on the appropriate role of rigorous impact measurement in the context of impact investing.
📣 Closing: Kate Byrne, President of Intentional Media, the purpose-driven media platform whose brands include SOCAP, Conscious Company Media and Total Impact, speaks to the future of the impact space and announces upcoming initiatives.
Overview of Social Capital Market’s SOCAP19
SOCAP19’s 12th annual conference of influential changemakers, which features over 500 speakers contributing to more than 150 sessions, is organized into 12 themes: Catalytic Capital, Future of Work, Impact Investing, Impact Tech, Indigenous Communities, LatAm, Meaning, Opportunity Zones, Power of Story, Racial Equity, Refugees and Sustainable Agriculture.
For details on the themes, visit https://socialcapitalmarkets.net/socap19/themes/; for information on the first 50 speakers announced, go to https://socialcapitalmarkets.net/socap19/speakers/. Full schedule is available at https://socap19.pathable.com/meetings
Conscious Company Media is also partnering with SOCAP to produce When Women Lead: A World-Changing Women Workshop, an exclusive gathering of female investors and entrepreneurs, as a separate pre-event at Fort Mason on October 22.
SOCAP19 is made possible with the support of the following partners in change: Bush Foundation (Success Partner); Prudential, The Rockefeller Foundation, Korean International Cooperation Agency (Investment Partners); MacArthur Foundation (Presentation Partner); Autodesk Foundation, Bain Capital Double Impact, e180, JB Media Group, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Tides, Walton Family Foundation (Innovation Partner); Big Path Capital, Capital Impact, Celo, Domini, ImpactAssets, Kate Spade, Korn Ferry, Korean Delegation, Powering Agriculture, REDF, SoPro CFO, Working Capital (Pitch Partner); Aeris, Avivar Capital, Blue Shield of California Foundation, Catholic Relief Services, Cooley, DAI, Oweesta, Fondo de Fondos, Schwab Charitable, Rockies Impact Fund, Seeding Sovereignty, Sonen Capital, Stasher (Idea Partner); Alliance Partners, Asian NGO, Conscious Company Media, Corporate Knights, Devex, Dumbo Feather, Impact Alpha, Karma, Next Billion, Stanford Social Innovation Review, The Plug, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Wharton Social Impact Initiative (Media Partner)*.
Tickets to SOCAP19 are $1,595 and to When Women Lead $199 (if purchased with the conference); $249 (workshop only). For more information and to register, please go to https://socialcapitalmarkets.net/register/
*List of sponsors as of press time
About SOCAP (Social Capital Markets):
SOCAP is the largest and most diverse impact investing community in the world. We convene a global ecosystem and marketplace – social entrepreneurs, investors, foundation and nonprofit leaders, government and policy leaders, creators, corporations, academics and beyond – through live and digital content experiences that educate, spur conversation, and inspire investment in positive impact. Our programming includes the annual SOCAP conference, SOCAP 365 regional events, SPECTRUM conference, and Money + Meaning podcasts. For more information, go to SocialCapitalMarkets.net; follow on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube; as well as #SOCAP19 for this year’s conference. SOCAP19 is an Intentional Media company, the purpose-driven media platform whose brands include SOCAP, Conscious Company Media and Total Impact.
About Intentional Media:
Intentional Media is a purpose-driven media and events platform, catalyzing our transition to an economy that ensures that social, environmental and economic systems thrive together. Home to properties including SOCAP, Conscious Company Media and Total Impact – through the power of storytelling and networks, we connect, educate, and inspire people, transforming moments to movements, thoughts to action. For more information, go to https://intentional.co/; follow on https://intentional.co/social/
About the Thomson Reuters Foundation:
We are the corporate foundation of Thomson Reuters, the global news and information services company. Established in 1982, the Foundation has 100 staff members in 17 locations around the world, and works to advance media freedom, raise awareness of human rights issues, and develop initiatives to support more inclusive economies. We believe in the power of information and collaboration to shape a more fair and equal world. Through global news coverage, media development, free legal assistance and our convening authority, we seek to inform, connect and empower people around the world. Our mission is to inspire collective leadership by building global awareness of the challenges facing humanity, and empowering others to shape free, fair and open societies.
Photos of SOCAP18 are by sreel photography, courtesy of Social Capital Markets (SOCAP)