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Valuable Strangers, Unlikely Allies—and Braindates

SOCAP Global November 14, 2019

A SOCAP Guest Post by e180
Unlikely allies are created by bringing together valuable strangers. And, if you’re a member of the SOCAP community, you’ve seen the power of unexpected connections come to life at the annual flagship convening.
SOCAP19 wrapped just a few weeks ago and proved to be fertile ground for serendipitous collaborations. To help this leading global community of changemakers come together and tackle some of our planet’s most pressing challenges, the SOCAP team brought in event education experts e180.
A certified B Corporation, e180’s mission is to unlock human greatness by transforming the way people learn from one another through their knowledge-sharing platform, Braindate. At SOCAP19, participants used Braindate to meet one another for better, targeted conversations about the topics that mattered most to them, and to leave with lasting connections.
“It was important for us to facilitate conversations amongst SOCAP attendees who we recognize as leading actors in global change,” explained Christine Renaud, e180’s co-founder and CEO. “Those conversations are crucial not only for us, but also for the world because when social innovators and impact investors are stronger, we can stand taller for the people we serve.”

Peer Learning as a Transformative Experience

Increasingly, event organizers understand that their role is rooted as much in facilitating connections as it is in curating learning opportunities. Since participant education needs vary, it can be difficult to develop event content for an audience of thousands in a way that responds to individual desires for specific knowledge.
SOCAP19 leveraged braindates to help participants self-manage their own content and tap into their peers as sources of additional expertise. Every participant was able to build upon the already diverse event content and dig deeper into conversations with new people about the subjects most important to them.
Participants welcomed this opportunity to share their knowledge, posting close to 100 braindate topics that were as varied as, Impact strategies in community health and Wellness inclusive of an indigenous perspective and Let’s talk about music, concerts, music education!

A Deeper Connection

Braindates are unique in that groups of two or more people meet for conversations about topics that are pre-determined. By extension, braindating participants built closer connections with peers who often shared many of their interests.
Mandy Gardner, senior content writer and blogger for SOCAP, hosted several braindates on the subject of storytelling. “I learned that meeting to discuss a specific, pre-set topic helps two strangers with mutual interests quickly move past the shallows and into real depth.”

Discovering inspiration in helping others

For some, the Braindate platform provided the opportunity to share their expertise with their community. Lindsay LaShell, Founder of Diamond + Branch Marketing Group hosted a braindate on the topic Get your launch marketing sh!t together. What is the MVP for marketing your social enterprise?
While her intention was to simply offer her expertise, Lindsay found that, when it came to her braindates, she got as much as she gave: “My braindates were so inspiring! I had interesting and surprising conversations that I know will now help move the needle on all of my work.”

The joy of finding a needle in the haystack

Greg Fitzgerald, the Director of Innovation at Future of Fish went on a braindate on Innovations in the conservation entrepreneurship space, where he “was able to learn more about what drives conservation investors, and share some innovative work happening in fisheries.”
Through his braindate, Greg discovered an ally in his pursuit of finding better models to invest in the environment. “What a great way to find a needle in a haystack!”

Finding common purpose across sectors:

Margaret VanDeusen, Senior Manager of Operations and Finance at Feedback Labs, made an unlikely connection with a design thinking group. “Through our braindate, we realized that we were doing collaboration-worthy work,” she shared. “We would’ve never discovered this connection, because we work in such different sectors!”

A fresh perspective

Lindsay Smalling, the CEO of SOCAP hosted her own group braindate on How can we create a bigger tent and grow #impinv #socent conversations on money and meaning? where she connected with four first-time SOCAP attendees, all from different parts of the world and industries.  “As a CEO, it was great to meet first-time attendees. Not only did I get to share some of the things I’m working on with the conference, I was also able to hear their ideas and get real time feedback. It was wonderful to get fresh perspective on our work.”
The Braindate Lounge revealed a picture of a SOCAP community that is generous with its time and resources. Best of all, it was an affirmation of something we’ve always known to be true: the first step towards transforming valuable strangers into allies is a conversation.
By Smriti Bansal and Sophie Silkes of e180. 
e180 is a social business with a mission is to unlock human greatness by helping people learn from one another. They launched Braindate in 2013 to bring experiential peer learning to events, companies, and communities.

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