Behind the Scenes of SOCAP23 with Fabienne Blanc, Community & Operations Manager
This is the fourth installment of our SOCAP Behind the Scenes interview series. In this series, members of the SOCAP team openly share how they are approaching this year’s event, building on its legacy to meet the current needs of the impact community — and see around corners to the future of the global impact movement. Fabienne Blanc joined SOCAP in 2011 to lend a hand as temporary support and, luckily, never left. Today, Fabienne is a key member of the SOCAP team thanks to her ability to keep her cool (she once managed SOCAP registration manually because of an internet outage!) and welcome every SOCAP attendee with a smile and open arms. Fabienne was born and raised in France, but after 30 years in the Bay Area, she considers herself a San Francisco local.
Can you share about your experience moving from France to San Francisco and how you came to SOCAP?
I’m French but have lived in San Fran for 30 years. I love the city. I came to SOCAP by accident and never left. Long before flexible hours were en vogue, this role allowed me to be flexible while my kids were little. And I stayed because I love the community. I believe we need to take care of the planet and be kinder to each other. The SOCAP community is doing just that. I could do this type of work for any organization or event, the difference is that the SOCAP community truly cares, and it’s a thrill to be able to support them.
The registration table at SOCAP gives you a unique vantage point to the event itself. What do you see when people arrive at SOCAP?
On the first day of SOCAP each year, people stand in line at registration and look around aimlessly. Then, there’s that moment when they spot someone they haven’t seen in so long, and I watch them fall into each other’s arms. It’s the best feeling in the world! In 2022, in particular, people hadn’t seen each other in three years. Watching them reconnect was the best!
What I’ve witnessed over the years is that there’s a true personal connection among attendees. Of course, it’s a business event; they come here as professionals, but many of them leave as friends. They might have nothing in common (geography, industry, role), but they can learn so much from each other about how to structure a deal, how to stack their capital, how to raise funding, or how to get into the room they want to be in. It’s a beautiful evolution to watch.
This year, SOCAP is introducing a new event app with a focus on networking. Can you share more about that?
We’re excited to partner with Brella for SOCAP23. The founders of Brella developed this app to make it easier for event attendees to connect with each other.
Brella has an incredible matchmaking feature that connects attendees based on the details they provide when setting up their profile in the app. Let’s say you’re an entrepreneur in food and agriculture raising capital. Once you fill out your profile, you’ll get matched with investors attending SOCAP who specialize in food and agriculture and are looking to invest.
SOCAP23 attendees can set up their profiles and start connecting with people ahead of the conference. Taking five to ten minutes to set up your profile ahead of the event will save you time at the actual convening. As soon as you’re in the app, you can start scheduling meetings right away. Fun fact: Every time a meeting is scheduled through the app, Brella plants a tree!
Another cool feature is that attendees can scan each other’s badges via a QR code in the app to connect more easily and keep track of their meetings. No more swapping of business cards and trying to remember what you discussed with whom once you get home! It’s all in the app when you’re ready to follow up.
The Brella app won’t replace in-person networking. The magic of SOCAP is — and always has been — the power of in-person connection and serendipity. That won’t change in 2023, but we hope that Brella makes networking and relationship-building a little easier and more efficient. The less time attendees spend trying to keep track of conversations and business cards, the more time they’ll have for meaningful conversations.
Why is San Francisco THE place for SOCAP?
San Francisco has gotten a bad rep lately. As someone who lives here, I can wholeheartedly say that the so-called demise of the city is widely exaggerated. San Francisco is vibrant. The neighborhoods are full of busy cafes, and you just might watch some self-driving cars heading down the street while you walk between our venues.
The location for this year’s SOCAP, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, are a testament to this vibrancy. We believe that being in the heart of so many different cultures is central to the conference experience. SOCAP23 takes place in the heart of downtown San Francisco, easily accessible to a variety of hotels, restaurants, and other cultural staples. The Museum of Modern Art is one block away. If you walk another block, you’ll get to the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD).
Yes, there are issues in San Francisco that are representative of greater crises in America: opioids, homelessness, and mental illness. But isn’t that why we’re convening in the first place? I like to think that we are gathering at SOCAP to solve these issues, and that means not looking away. It would be inauthentic to gather at some luxury resort or conference center that is far removed from the challenges that we are addressing.
What are you most looking forward to at SOCAP 2023?
We have a new on-site printing process for name tags this year, so I won’t have to print them ahead of time. That’s very exciting from an operations standpoint!
More importantly, I’m excited about expanding our conference to the Contemporary Jewish Museum. It reminds me of why we do this. Our founder, Rosa Lee Harden, was an Episcopal priest, and she wanted to figure out how to do good while making money as well as how to bring our faith and our values to the center of our business dealings. SOCAP is the natural extension of this mission, and I’m excited to be in community with other people who believe in what we do. We are all invested in this work because it is important to our souls.