"What I Got Out of SOCAP": Boulder SOCAP RECAP

SOCAP Global September 17, 2009

It’s been exciting to see the ripple effects of SOCAP09.  All over the country SOCAP Recap events are sprouting up, ensuring that the movement that was started in San Francisco keeps reaching and spreading to new regions.
Just the other night Nuance Intellegence hosted a SOCAP Recap event and sent us a great report back.
Welcome to our report of what happened at the inaugural Sustainable Business Models Collective meetup in Boulder. Here’s what we set out to do:

The purpose of this meetup is to provide a place to discuss the specifics of funding, creating and running a sustainable social enterprise. This emerging sector, which spans the for-profit and non-profit worlds, is still taking shape, and there is no silver bullet solution for people who want to create socially- and environmentally-impactful organizations that can thrive for generations. So we need to create the framework in which we operate.
In addition to the typical aspects of a meetup — introductions, community announcements and a general give-and-take atmosphere — we expect to split each meetup into two sessions.
First Session — Metrics and Definitions
“Nothing can be managed if it cannot first be measured.” While I’m suspicious of this bromide on a visceral level, it seems to stand the test of time. At the very least, we need a common understanding at a technical level of what we’re talking about, so we need to develop a fraework within which we can have a meaningful conversation about what outcomes we want to achieve, and how to know we are getting there.
Together, we will review different metrics and frameworks, including but not limited to Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS) and related Investment Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS), Global Footprint, Blended Value, Genuine Progress Indicators (GPI), Whole Systems Risk Management (WSRM) and more.
We will invite thought leaders in the sustainability metrics space to join us each month for interactive dialog about their specific area of expertise.
Second Session — Behind The Scenes
We will invite organizational leaders who are operating within triple-bottom-line and/or sustainable principles to show us how they measure their performance. We expect this open dialog will both benefit the presenter, as well as the group, moving our collective practice forward.
We expect a mix of people to join us, including angel investors, fund managers, entrepreneurs, non-profit executives, thought leaders and the media, as well as anyone else who want to learn about running a transformative organization.
People from the Cleantech, Web 2.0, LOHAS, Non-Profit, Bio-Tech, Media and other related and unrelated fields will all share and gain new perspectives on this challenge.
1. The emphasis is on collective learning. We want everyone — especially the investing community — to feel that they are welcome to learn, and not be on the defensive.
2. Entrepreneurs seeking funding have many other avenues to pitch, and we will share resources for those activities during our sessions.
3. Service providers (lawyers, recruiters, accountants) who want to transform their business are welcome, but we are not interested in having you shill your business while we’re all learning.
Although the catalyst for this meetup is Greg Berry, it’s not a one-way flow of energy, capital and information from him to the group. In order for us to be successful, we will need the activities, support and engagement of a much broader group. You will see an ever-growing group of “sponsors” who are lending their ongoing support to this endeavor.

We started the series with a group report from the recent Social Capital Markets (SoCap) conference:

Social Capital Markets (SoCap) is the proverbial center of the universe for emerging metrics related to investing in for-profit and non-profit social enterprise. Their annual conference happens September 1-3 in San Francisco, and many people interested in this discussion are going to be attending.

Which SoCap Attendees Are Attending?
* Greg Berry, Benevolent Dictator, W1SD0M
* Rick Zwetch, Principal Partner, interSector Partners L3C
* Matt Nathan, Ashoka Youth Ventures
* Teju Ravilochan, Connection Strategist, Unreasonable Institute

What Will We Discuss?

Although it’s hard to know what we will each learn before we go, here are a few themes you can anticipate:

  • Who has investment capital, and where do they want to place it?
  • What is the impact of the new investing standards Global Impact Investment Reporting Standards (GIIRS) and Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) that get announced at SoCap?
  • How will the Federal Government, and specifically the Office of Social Innovation make an impact on social enterprise?
  • Trends and observations gleaned from our collective discussions at SoCap.

Why Should You Come?
This is the most relevant discussion to anyone who is raising money in the social purpose and triple-bottom-line domain. SoCap attendees will return home with new info, insights and inspiration on how the flow of capital in this field will allow social entrepreneurs to thrive for years and decades to come.We will also introduce the concept for the ongoing meetups, which draw on our collective experiences to help Colorado enterprises become more sustainable.

The best commentary on the session comes from the reports we’ve gotten on the meetup page today:

  • Startup Guru- Brian Tsuchiya This is a very informed group of socially minded thought leaders. Great questions and comments from the members. 

  • Eric Lombardi The conversation was a good start. Now the group needs to talk online between meetings so we can dig deeper. For example, the group needs to know about “CIC’s” in the U.K. They are “community interest companies” and there are many of them, and they are years ahead of us here in the USA. They have a new website at www.cicassociation.org.uk ,,, and, for example, one of the front page articles there this morning discusses “exit strategies” for social enterprises, a key issue that hasn’t been solved anywhere yet. So is there going to be a online discussion list? Eric Lombardi Eco-Cycle Inc 

YES.  Help us decide where.

  • Josh Clauss I think my tweet from the first session wraps up how I feel about this group: “I don’t know when the last time was that I was in a room in which I wanted to meet literally everyone, but I’m there now. #socapco Meetup” 

  • Greg Berry Exceeded my expectations. The discussion was generative and intellectually honest. Every comment added value, and there was virtually no posturing or arguing. I came away with the sincere sense that is a lot of shared energy in this space, and we have an opportunity to catalyze positive change in our community. Feedback and collaboration are not only encouraged, they are the underpinnings of our success. 

  • Cameron Burgess Think it’s important, in future, to consider the format. I appreciate that we were getting a ‘recap’ on SOCAP, but the challenge of having a panel-type situation is that people revert to a question and answer mode – denying the collective wisdom in the room. If each event is to have a panel, I see no issue with that, but would encourage a style of formatting with general moderation that provides more opportunity for contribution by all members. Otherwise, topics for discussion wind up getting short-changed due to the format. Instead of sharing directly with each other, we share with each other via the panel. Just a thought …. 

  • Ryan Martens Good topic and organization – will need facilitation in the future – wide views – good interest – tons of passion 

  • Kent McBride It was great hanging out with “kindred souls” who believe we don’t have to keep doing business the same old ways, but business can make a difference and make a profit. After hearing discussion of the SoCap event, I wish I had been there. 

  • John Thomas Pleasantly surprised at how many like hearts and minds are in the space–thrilled to be a part of it all…recommend considering meetings to combine open forum as part of the session and clear agenda/goals for another part with moderation to keep on topic and mini metrics to check-in on if/how well we accomplished the meeting goals. Perhaps a first step to consider with regard to setting metrics for the space is to set metrics around our own ability to methodically address the issues and begin to establish & capture a knowledge base to build upon going forward…just a few thoughts 

  • John Brockett Greg did a wonderful job of organizing and leading the meeting, thanks Greg! As with any discussion the topics addressed seemed to follow 3 basic themes: 1. the core philosophy of the subject 2. where we stand at the present moment 3. where do we go from here. I was very impressed with all of the participants and their level of expertise in their particular fields of endeavor. It is obvious to me that we are in the beginning stages of a great movement in sustainability, actually I liked the term “thrivability”. My core passion is in developing methods to shift from “consumer business” to “conscious commerce”. In particular I am working with Millennial age youth in opening their minds and hearts to a new definition of “prosperity”. Be that as it may, I felt like I was in the company of people who hold a shared vision of what is possible and the dedication to do whatever it takes to bring that vision into reality. Thanks and I look forward to our next gathering 

The only other summary is that we’ve already spoken to a few other groups keen to collaborate, and expect to keep community wisdom in this space.
Based on a series of discussions I’ve in person and on the web, it’s clear that there is a serious thread of innovation in the non-profit space, and in order to honor that, let’s change the name to Sustainable Enterprise in Colorado (SEC) meetup.  Thoughts?

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