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The Best Parts of SOCAP

SOCAP September 26, 2017

By Lindsay Smalling, Producer and Curator of SOCAP


To give the punchline up front, for me the best parts of SOCAP are the beginning and the end. Wednesday and Thursday are a blur–even after six years of working on SOCAP–but Tuesday and Friday always hold something special. This is my pro-tip: show up Tuesday, or stick around for Friday, or make it to both if you can.

Tuesday Highlights

The Impact Accelerator @SOCAP runs Tuesday morning, welcoming over 130 social entrepreneurs from around the world, and I always make sure to stop by and welcome these inspiring individuals. My first job at SOCAP was as the Entrepreneur Coordinator and I truly believe the scholarship entrepreneurs are the heart of this convening. Meeting them and watching them share stories and insights with their peers is the fuel that kickstarts my week.
The delight of seeing Fort Mason transformed into the SOCAP campus, and then populated by so many familiar faces and new, curious faces – poring over the massive program guide and wondering how to choose among twelve parallel breakout sessions – builds excitement over the course of Tuesday.
The newcomer session, now called “How to Get the Most Out of SOCAP,” usually gathers over 300 people and reminds me that we’ve created something unique. This is not just a conference to attend, but rather an unmatched global cross-sector convening of impact practitioners–where newcomers and old hands alike are still trying to figure how to maximize these few precious days together.

New Tuesday Programming for SOCAP17

We have added some new, interactive programming on Tuesday afternoon to help attendees jump right in and make new connections. Programming on Tuesday includes:

  • A variety of facilitated networking sessions by sector and geography, to help attendees meet others with similar interests and efforts right away, and then continue the conversation throughout the event.
  • Two workshops that build on the launch of the Good Capital Project in June and invite anyone interested to join the conversation around six Grand Challenges in a two-year initiative to catalyze the flow of capital to impact.
  • Conscious Company is hosting a workshop on conscious leadership to help attendees realize their full potential as values-aligned leaders and connect with peers. (This is a separately ticketed event, discounted for SOCAP attendees)
  • Context Partners has put together an interactive session identifying the various roles in movement building and helping attendees to identify their own role and the value of others.
  • ADAP (A Different Approach to Poverty) has selected a handful of entrepreneurs to present to potential investors and SOCAP attendees, to be followed up by ADAP’s signature rapid due diligence, with the goal of making investments by Friday.

And I haven’t even made it to the Tuesday pinnacle – the opening plenary, followed by the welcome party!

Don’t Miss the Tuesday Afternoon Plenary and Welcome Party

Though many may think of Wednesday morning as the opening, we started to kick off on Tuesday a few years ago. Since then, the Tuesday evening plenary has typically been our most creative and bold – incorporating musicians, artists, entrepreneurs to drive the conversation forward. We throw our mainstage A/V and stage production crew right into the deep end with the most challenging lineup and they handle it beautifully.
This year, the guest-curated Spotlight by CultureBank will play an anchor role in the Tuesday plenary, along with a feature on the history of human wellbeing, thoroughly researched and creatively presented by our longtime partners at Halloran Philanthropies. I don’t think we’ve properly promoted the Tuesday plenary in the past (which is part of the inspiration for this blog post!) and it’s too good to stay under the radar. And then we all take this first rush of energy and inspiration into a great party, and I really feel like SOCAP has begun.

My Typical Wednesday and Thursday

****Wednesday flies by****
****Where did Thursday go? Have I left the green room?****

Friday Highlights

Friday is when the magic happens. Walking around campus you can feel a shift, from adrenaline frenzy and scheduled meetings to deeper conversations and resolve. Due to travel plans and the half day schedule there are less people on campus (though still 1500+) but this seems to give people the opportunity to have that conversation they kept cutting short on previous days.
Important note: this year we have moved the Friday plenary from midday to the morning – 8:30 – 10:00am, so don’t sleep in! We intentionally keep the Friday plenary content a little open so we have space to reflect on and respond to highlights and themes that have emerged during the event. We really do build the plane while we’re flying it! It has become a tradition for Penelope Douglas to moderate our closing panel, with speakers selected during the week from across the event, and it is always a highlight for me.
The breakout sessions are more intimate and interactive, and this year we’ve scheduled a handful of two hour workshops on Friday; after so many panels and plenaries it feels good to dig in and apply the inspiration and insights to the work that will carry forward beyond the conference. If you need a vision boost, are ready for activist bootcamp, or want to dig deeper into what equity looks like in practice, you’ll be glad you stuck around for Friday.
And one more secret I’ll share – I usually get a little choked up at some point on Friday. I’m so proud to be part of this community and to have the honor of “setting the table” for amazing connections and conversations each year. On Friday I’m exhausted and happy, but also sad because it’s already over.
Tuesday and Friday are my favorite days of SOCAP, and I can guarantee you’ll be glad you’re there.

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