Sustainatopia Boulder, CO 2020

Founded in 2009, SUSTAINATOPIA remains one of the leading events in the world for social, financial and environmental sustainability & impact. Attendees have participated from more than 60 countries.

Consisting of both a mega-conference and a broad-ranging Festival, SUSTAINATOPIA brings together the global ecosystem of social, financial and environmental sustainability & impact like no other singular event.

Sustainatopia New York 2020

Founded in 2009, SUSTAINATOPIA remains one of the leading events in the world for social, financial and environmental sustainability & impact. Attendees have participated from more than 60 countries.

Consisting of both a mega-conference and a broad-ranging Festival, SUSTAINATOPIA brings together the global ecosystem of social, financial and environmental sustainability & impact like no other singular event.

The Klosters Forum 2020


The Klosters Forum (TKF) takes place over 2.5 days in the Swiss Alps. At TKF monologues are replaced with dialogues, card swaps with workshops and the corporate flair with mountain air.

We bring together a diverse group of 100 hand-picked innovators and decision-makers to focus on one chosen environmental challenge. Our objective is to come up with actionable solutions in order to help accelerate change, avoid duplication of effort and make a positive contribution to our planet.

The global food industry offers a huge opportunity to combat climate change and to tackle some of the root causes behind biodiversity loss by managing landscapes where crops are grown more sustainably. We all use and even depend on commodities – that may cost the Earth its future. Rainforests are destroyed by palm oil, soy and beef, cocoa and coffee. Is it time for restaurants and retailers to close their doors to unsustainable food?

Sustainatopia Los Angeles 2020

Founded in 2009, SUSTAINATOPIA remains one of the leading events in the world for social, financial and environmental sustainability & impact. Attendees have participated from more than 60 countries.

Consisting of both a mega-conference and a broad-ranging Festival, SUSTAINATOPIA brings together the global ecosystem of social, financial and environmental sustainability & impact like no other singular event.

The Responsible Business Summit NY 2020

We’ve been taking from the environmental future for the economic present and we’re now on the cusp of a decade of consequences. A climate emergency, global social inequalities, biodiversity loss and increased investor and consumer pressure for business to act. Business needs to step up ambitions to tackle and adapt to the changing climate.

We need action. New ways of collaborating. New business models. New forms of investments.

But just how do you go about designing for this level of ambitious change? At The Responsible Business Summit New York 2020 we will convene 750+ CEOs, Chief Sustainability Officers, ESG investors and leading NGOs from across the globe to share their latest strategies, and more importantly, tangible insights into how they are helping deliver the required transformation of business. How they’re delivering a sustainable economy. This is the only forum bringing together senior brand leaders in an intimate setting for two days of honest, frank and open discussion on how to deliver the required change.

Will this be the terrible 20s or the transformative 20s? That’s up to you. Lead the decade of action, starting at the Responsible Business Summit New York 2020

SBSI 2020

2020 marks the 15th year that Duke University's Fuqua School of Business will hold the annual Sustainable Business and Social Impact conference. As companies and organizations set ambitious social and environmental goals, innovation has emerged as a key way to drive impact at scale. Whether it is using tech for good, identifying new financial mechanisms to drive progress, or embedding new ideas into the value chain, innovation is shaping the next ten years of impact. Come join us to hear from leaders in the private, public, and non-profit sectors about some of today's most salient social and environmental issues, and what their respective organizations are doing to tackle them.

SBSI has since grown to be the largest conference of its kind in the Southeast, with over 800 people registering in 2018. Prominent leaders in the social impact and sustainability fields share their insights with inspiring talks and engaging panel conversations. Come to SBSI 2020 and see how people are making an impact, everywhere.

Evaluating the Impact of Convening Series: Part IV: Understanding Your Intended Impact

One of the main questions that sparked the conversation about measuring the impact of convenings was, “is convening the highest impact way for us to be spending our time and money?”  This is a difficult question to grapple with as there are so many avenues for how an organization, especially well-resourced Foundations like Skoll, Rockefeller, Hewlett, Obama, and Gates can use to achieve their desired impact including grantmaking, technical assistance, and policy advocacy.  

Recently,, Skoll Foundation, and TCC Group engaged leading conveners in the impact ecosystem to discuss the evaluation of convenings.  The engagement included leading conveners in the impact ecosystem including Concordia, Gates Foundation, Intentional Media, Obama Foundation, Opportunity Collaboration, Rockefeller Foundation, Social Venture Circle, and Synergos.  The event surfaced a lot of ideas and insights, which are being captured in this blog series.   Our first and second blog posts in this series have laid the foundation for what to evaluate.  Our third post focused on how we measure what convenings can achieve. This next article looks at when and why convening is the correct tool to address your intended impact.  

Know your intended impact

One of the greatest insights from the conversation is that it starts with an organization being clear on what the intended outcome and impact is that they are trying to achieve.  Convening is one tool that can be deployed to help achieve that impact, but it has to be used at the right time, with the right audience, and utilize experience design frameworks that can actually achieve that outcome.

One of the most thoughtful and foundational resources on convening design is Gather: The Art and Science of Effective Convening produced by Rockefeller Foundation and the Monitor Institute.  In this resource, you can find a number of worksheets and guides to help you narrow in on the purpose of convening.  However, the purpose from that perspective differs from understanding the intended impact.













Image Credit: Gather The Art & Science of Effective Convening

When evaluating the impact of convening one framework you can use to identify your intended impact is the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  There are three ways that a convening can utilize the UN SDG framework to organize it’s intended impact:

  1. Have a single SDG as the core focus for your convening year after year 
  2. Each year (or for a period of 2-3 years) select a new SDG as the core focus for your convening like the Mavericks Impact events or the Klosters Forum.
  3. Intentionally create a cross SDG convening space with tracks or sessions that engage across the SDGs (though if this is your focus, then it is possible that SDG 17 Partnerships for the Goals is actually your core focus.

Once you have the UN SDG framework identified you may find that you can track the impact of your convening by tracking the impact metrics for the particular SDGs on which you focused.

Another framework for understanding your intended impact is to look at the outcomes you seek to create for your participants.  Some of these outcomes may include:

    1. Financial Impact - like the Skoll World Forum or SOCAP, are you seeking to connect participants in a way that will drive financial transactions (including grants, client relationships, or investments)
    2. Human Capital Impact - Obama Foundation is looking to significantly increase and improve social relationships during their convenings.  In this case, the desired impact is in developing networks of civic leaders in different cities, countries, or continents so they can learn from each other, collaborate, and feel part of a movement. 
      • Fostering Collaboration- Partnerships for the goals is one of the most critical enabling elements to achieve the rest of the UN SDGs.  As a result our participants identified a core impact around catalyzing cross-sector or multi-stakeholder partnerships that includes elements of financial and human capital impact. Almost all of our participants including Concordia, Rockefeller Foundation, Gates Foundation, Skoll World Forum, and Opportunity Collaboration named that catalyzing partnerships was central to their reason for convening, and one of the most difficult areas of impact to measure or attribute to the convening.  Part of this is due to the nature of partnerships, and that they often form over time and where participants initiate, define, refine, and celebrate results and outcomes from their partnerships at a variety of convenings over time - making it very difficult for any one convening to attribute the outcomes of a partnership to their convening efforts.
      • Shared Understanding - Gates Foundation’s Giving Pledge convenings have an emphasis on “making connections and learning in order to achieve more informed and intentional giving” according to Marylou Brannan.  When the focus is on shared learning, formats that favor building awareness between participants and clearer understanding of the why and how behind their work becomes a primary focus.
    3. Environmental Impact - Social Venture Circle and other conveners are leading the way in modeling positive environmental impacts from their convenings.  There is a trend now to have carbon neutral or zero waste events that deliver a positive environmental impact directly from the event in addition to supporting participants in identifying, supporting, and adopting more environmentally beneficial habits and practices.



Unlike Gather’s framework that encourages the selection of a single convening objective to help clarify and focus the design process for your convening, we believe that a convening can have multiple impact objectives.  Having clarity about your objectives can help to direct the design decisions you make as well as the evaluation frameworks you adopt.  

Private Equity Investment Example

Each of the categories above has an implication in terms of the design decisions you must make when crafting your convening.  If your objective is to drive financial transactions - specifically private equity, then the implication is that you must build spaces and opportunities for participants to not only be aware of each other’s businesses and investment thesis, you also must create spaces for building trust.  Rarely are investments made purely from a pitch competition. There are additional questions that are raised as to if your objective is to drive additional co-investment which would imply that it would be helpful to create investor only spaces for conversations about alignment and addressing barriers to moving forward on specific deal opportunities.  Within each of these design decisions, there are lenses you can apply around accessibility, gender, geographic, socio-economic, or racial diversity.

Building Effective Partnerships

It is helpful to understand where in the lifecycle of the development of partnerships your convening wants to focus.  If it is in initiating new partnerships, then design elements that support participants in gaining awareness of one another's work, impact, area of focus are critical.  If your goal is to help refine or solidify new partnerships, models like Concordia work well with facilitated closed-door sessions that support participants in clarifying their shared purpose, identifying gaps in their understanding or knowledge, designing prototypes or tests for the relationships, or reflecting and integrating lessons learned. has worked on this model through our Convening Circles framework as we’ve also identified that frequently a large convening is very helpful at the beginning and end of this process - for identifying the shared alignment and interest as well as reflecting and celebrating outcomes and lessons learned.  However the work of addressing gaps in knowledge or running pilots/tests can be best supported through small group working sessions held between the convening. Amanda Broun of Convergence has shared the powerful outcomes of their Dialogue to Action framework from healthcare reform to building a better budgeting process on the Hill.  This process takes a similar approach to make sure that the group is grounded in research on what else has already been attempted, and network coordination to support the participants in staying focused and taking action together.

In the next blog in our series, we will be exploring Convening in a Complex World and the importance of building strong relationships across silos to achieve the UN SDGs by 2030.

Sixteenth International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic & Social Sustainability 2020

The Sixteenth International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic & Social Sustainability will be held at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Santiago, Chile, 29-31 January 2020.

Founded in 2005, the On Sustainability Research Network is brought together by a common concern for sustainability in a holistic perspective, where environmental, cultural, economic, and social concerns intersect.

Submit your proposal to the 2020 conference here.

2020 Special Focus - Sustainability Lessons in the "Global South": Priorities, Opportunities, and Risks

Much of the sustainability literature focuses on the Global North and on issues salient to policy makers in developed countries, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and ozone depletion. By contrast, comparatively little is written on environmental issues in the Global South, which is rich in sustainability experiences and lessons learned in natural resource conservation, and where many of the challenges are being faced on a daily basis with limited financial and human capital resources. In Latin America, Africa, and much of Asia, communities struggle on a daily basis with environmental hazards as varied as land degradation, drought, salinization, and lack of access to fresh drinking water. ‘Land grabs’ drive deforestation and biodiversity loss, while across the Global South, conflicts between communities, firms, and the state for resource rights and access present risks to livelihoods and life, which in turn are highly uneven according to localities, socio-economic groups, ethnicity, and gender.

A variety of creative thinking and imaginative responses to such challenges can be found across the Global South. Communities are organizing to defend their neighborhoods, forests, and land from incursions by property developers, poachers, and business corporations. A plurality of different visions of environmental justice and social justice have flourished based on gender rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, and rights of nature. Within Latin America, the Andean notions of buen vivir (good living) has found expression in the constitutions of Ecuador and Bolivia.

The question of how the sustainability lessons garnered in the Global South can contribute to the transformative social changes necessary to promote sustainability on a global scale, and define short-, medium-, and longer-term priorities, will be considered at the Sixteenth International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic & Social Sustainability in Santiago, Chile. We warmly welcome proposals for papers, workshops, interactive sessions, posters, and exhibits on this theme and on all dimensions of sustainability. The conference will appeal to scholars, social activists, business people, and policy makers.

Moving Toward a Zero-Waste Convening

It’s the unspoken elephant in the room at most social impact convenings; how can we justify the environmental impact of bringing people together to convene around creating positive social impact? During our call this month, our members gathered to share challenges, ideas, and opportunities around moving toward a zero-waste convening (without breaking the bank). 

We kicked off with a wonderful presentation by Andrea MacNeil (Fit On Tour), an independent consultant in the music industry. One of her clients, the Corona Sunset Tour, put on a zero plastic waste festival last year, and she shared some of the keys to their success:

    • Minor Changes in Materials Make a Huge Difference - You need to focus on every single detail of production when it comes to waste; .signage, plastic cups, and straws, etc can add up to a lot of plastic waste. 
    • Create Instagrammable Sustainability Moments. - get attendees actively involved in learning about the campaign you are driving and sharing it out to the rest of the world.  At the Corona Sunsets tour, they created a large glass wall filled with water and microplastic bits so people could actually see what plastic waste looks like in the ocean. 
    • Go Local Whenever Possible - Think about the materials you have to ship to your event, the caterers/vendors you use, as well as minimizing staff travel by using local staff. 
    • Be Prepared to Pay More - being plastic-waste free means paying a little more (unless you want to up the ticket price for your attendees) but the payoff is worth it, both in terms of your environmental impact and marketing. 

At the Pavillion, festival-goers can learn more about this increasing environmental threat and then make their own plastic-free commitments (Corona Sunsets Tour) 

During our smaller group discussions, we spoke to some of the challenges and opportunities around reducing waste at our convenings. The topics ranged from food waste to paper waste, to messaging to attendees. Here are some of the main takeaways:

    • Manage Your Venue - whether it’s specifically looking for a venue that meets your needs and requirements or working with a well-known corporate vendor, don’t compromise on the things that are most important to you. Even larger chains will work with you on issues like plastic bottle waste (and your influence might even spark changes throughout their line of venues.) 
    • Go Paperless - reducing the amount of paper waste at your convening is an easy step toward reducing overall waste. Perhaps you use an app instead of printing a program book or let your attendees know they should bring a notebook to the event instead of providing one for them. Using recycled materials for signage,  or creating reusable signage, also makes an impact. 
    • Calculate Your Carbon Footprint - and Offset! - Some venues can actually help to calculate the carbon footprint of your event and there are many offset tools and programs. Make sure to find one that uses the proper calculations for air travel (which is 3x the carbon created at sea level)--yikes! 
    • Rethink single-use Materials - whether this is signage for your event or decorations for a creative happy hour, try and reduce the amount of materials that can only be used once. Reusable lanyards and nametag holders are an easy fix in this department 
    • Get Everyone on Board - for more efficient change across your organization, make sure all team members are aware of the changes you wish to make and get their input! 
    • Consider a Digital Option -  thereby reducing the number of physical attendees, and eliminating their air travel carbon altogether (Skoll World Forum & SOCAP both have digital passes)

Additional Resources/Links:


The Klosters Forum: Opening Minds

About Us

The Klosters Forum is a new platform that brings together disruptive and inspirational minds to tackle some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. We offer a neutral platform to foster and encourage more innovative and outcome orientated collaborations in an intimate setting.

Our Mission

Our mission is to convene and connect relevant, impactful and committed stakeholders, raise awareness of each defined issue, inform participants and inspire them to solve each specific challenge.

We aim to focus on solutions. The purpose of the Forum is to provide time and space for participants to retreat as a focused working group. By promoting the sharing and discussion of insights and challenges from participants’ respective fields, the Forum will enable the collaboration between organizations needed to create innovative solutions and partnerships and to avoid duplication of work.

Furthermore, our platform helps bridge communities of impact investment and social entrepreneurship for dialogue and collaborative problem-solving.