SPECTRUM 2020

LET’S JOIN FORCES

The next innovation boom isn’t coming from New York or San Francisco — it’s radiating from cities like Atlanta, New Orleans, and Memphis, with a new wave of talented pioneers who are building game-changing socially conscious solutions across industries. The fastest-growing population of American entrepreneurs — people of color — are leading the charge, responding to the real needs of their communities and creating conscious companies that have a purpose beyond profit.

But while brilliant minds are plentiful, investment in and support for leaders of color is not. The racial equity gap persists, preventing great startups from scaling and thriving. Innovators and founders of color are systematically under-recognized and under-resourced. Now is the time for change.

At SOCAP and Conscious Company Media, we know the urgent need for access, inclusion, and impact. For over a decade, we’ve surfaced new solutions by gathering diverse perspectives to address the unique obstacles that we all face when markets fail. Together, we strive to better understand the challenges at hand and implement strategies to overcome those barriers. Let’s explore the full range of possibilities for creating equity and shared prosperity.

This June in Atlanta, GA, we’ll host SPECTRUM — a two-day immersive convening to bring together business leaders, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, cross-sector practitioners, and investors to identify ways to build an impact economy based on equity, diversity, and inclusion where everyone can thrive.

Join us in Atlanta, GA on June 9-11, 2020 to unlock the full range of possibilities.


Evolution of Grantmaking CIP Recap

Last May, Conveners.org began facilitating a group of funders, non-profits, technical and ecosystem partners in a Convening Circle we call The Evolution of Grantmaking. This post represents some of the key learnings from that process.    

Tellingly, this project started out under the banner of “A Common Application for Grantmaking”--a concept built on several conversations about whether a shared process and set of questions could change the funding landscape like the University Common Application changed getting into college. We weren’t half an hour into our first gathering before the name changed. Our purpose was to explore how all the stakeholders in the grantmaking process might come together to change the relationships and routines of matching resources and recipients such that the process itself creates a positive impact. We wanted to avoid the “hammer in search of a nail” phenomenon. 

PRIOR ART

One of our first tasks was to seek out lessons learned from previous and concurrent efforts addressing this issue. We looked at a 30-year old common application developed by Philanthropy New York (and still in use by some of the funding partners there today). We learned of a coalition of Jewish foundations who streamlined operations and cut costs through a shared application when they discovered the extent of the overlap in their grantees. And we heard rumors of an effort led by Fluxx to help major foundations standardize the financial reporting they require from potential and current grantees.  

Within the group, one of our foundation partners shared how their Grants Management team was empowered to undertake an 18-month redesign process that reduced the number of applications used by the foundation from 30+ to 3. While a clear indication that this truly is a pressing issue that may be rising to its “moment,” the number of independent efforts (and particularly the lack of awareness and transparency, let alone collaboration, between them) is also one of its greatest challenges. As one participant put it, “there are people out there who would want to be part of this--lots of them--but every one of them is already involved in 5 other groups.”

Here are some of the existing efforts we collected and learned from: 

GETTING TO THE ROOT(S)

Some of the issues were structural. In the opinion of many foundation representatives, the practical and emotional distance between the program officers and grants managers (who actually run the process and interact with grantees) and the senior management and boards of directors (who make decisions about how resources are allocated and the organization is run) explains why an issue that causes acute pain “on the ground” seldom gets prioritized on an organizational, let alone an ecosystem-wide level. When they do, and the process is poorly managed or results don’t deliver as hoped, organizations can become even more resistant to future efforts. “Folks on our board who have seen this process before might have a bit of a PTSD reaction around it,” one of our participants noted.

The group also highlighted that sometimes our creative solutions to dealing with very real constraints of time and resources land us with “worst of both worlds” solutions. Open calls result in too many applications for many foundations to handle effectively, so they end up with hybrid systems of “arbitrary shortlisting and favoritism” as one participant put it, which severely compromises the equity of the process, without any real efficiency gains for either party.  

Interestingly, though, most core issues identified by the group were more philosophical in nature.

Gatekeepers or Gateways?

It’s easy to see that many organizations take the duty of care around the funds entrusted to them very seriously. As well they should. One of the insights for our group, however, was how easily and often the weight of that duty of care gets distorted by power dynamics, implicit bias, and expedience to create problematic or even toxic relationships. Consider what could change if the grantmaking process clearly communicated that the funder recognized the same care and meticulousness in the grantseekers’ work as they feel in the management of their own resources.  As one participant observed, “the current maze of application and reporting requirements doesn’t leave much room for thought partnership and deeper discussion about the work.”

Ecosystem or Egosystem?

But some of the issue, our group asserts, comes down to ego. It’s about how funders see themselves.  “When it comes down to it, almost everyone is convinced that they just wouldn’t quite fit any of these schemes,” said one participant. “All of the really technical, academic work we’ve done on our theories of change and our logic models, our evidence-based approaches and the incredibly nuanced questions we ask based on them, does it really get us to higher impact work? Does it do that better than an authentic, trusting process of co-creation?” Or is it fundamentally about control? Grantees and funders alike assert that the best funders they know actively create systems and culture to counter the message (and the underlying subconscious assumption) that they’re smarter than the people they’re funding. 

SO, WHAT ABOUT A COMMON APPLICATION?

Here are our recommendations to other groups exploring this possibility:

  1. Focus on the “back end.” As one participant concluded; “you’re never going to be able to develop one platform that everyone wants to use. And you shouldn’t try.” Successful efforts, our group asserts, will prioritize interoperability. They’ll likely rely heavily on robust APIs and leverage the work (and business interests) of technology companies serving the space. They’ll focus on a smart, flexible taxonomy that moves customization to the ‘front end.’ And they will be crystal clear, explaining in plain English, how data is collected, stored, used, and shared. 
  2. Start small. Choose one aspect of the application process to focus on and test a solution just for that. Consider the value of a “stub;” all the basics about an organization that end up on (nearly) every application, or the structure of budgets and financial reports, another nearly ubiquitous feature. Learn from grants management providers in the marketplace who are trying to be all things to all people and--so far--disappointing most of them. 
  3. Consider impacting a different point in the grants-cycle. Perhaps the due diligence or reporting stages of grantmaking offer equal (or greater) opportunity for impact while dealing with smaller stakeholder groups. In the words of one program officer; “Imagine if I could share the information I’ve gathered through a site visit with other organizations currently funding a project, and rely on them to provide similar information from their site visit down the line. That starts to get game-changing.”
  4. Beware of silver bullets and unintended consequences. Even the much-lauded University Common Application had profound unintended consequences for students and schools. Small experiments create relatively safe environments to discover what we don’t know we don’t know. 
  5. Target innovative, influential funders first. Don’t try to boil the ocean. There’s a powerful precedent effect in this field. Highlighting successes, even small ones like the ‘manual’ data-sharing experiment undertaken by two of our foundation participants, will go a long way toward broader acceptance.
  6. Get creative about capital. Resist the temptation to think of this ‘solution’ as a product, or an organization, by default. Our group came up with possibilities like staff positions funded piecemeal by a coalition of foundations. Who knows where you could take it.  
  7. Different innovations are needed for large institutions and smaller foundations. Check out “10 Things You Can Change Today to Make Your Grantmaking Process More Equitable”--another collection of learnings from the Evolution of Grantmaking group. 

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, Conveners.org, 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.  

Conveners.org 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.


SRI Conference 2019

The SRI Conference is the premier annual gathering of sustainability professionals, financial advisors, investment managers, members of mission-driven organizations, researchers, and private- and public- sector professionals who share a common goal of deploying capital as a change agent.

The SRI Conference: About Breakout Session Tracks

To provide an inspiring, engaging, and quality conference experience for all, The SRI Conference features a wide variety of breakout sessions in addition to our plenary sessions. They are organized along five separate tracks identified by icons throughout. Although not guaranteed, many sessions typically qualify for continuing education (CE) credits for CFP, CFA, and CIMA designees.

 Professional Education – Sessions in this track are designed to help SRI professionals sharpen their skills and deepen their SRI knowledge base around practice building, portfolio management strategies, and other trending topics. Although not guaranteed, these sessions often qualify for continuing education (CE) credits for CFP, CFA, and CIMA designees.

 ESG integration – Fixed income and equity portfolio managers will share their frameworks for the application of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics in their investment analysis, providing important insights and data for asset managers, advisors, and corporate sustainability professionals.

 Impact – Participants will gain a thorough understanding of direct impact investing in mission-driven organizations, its additive role in diversifying investment portfolios, as well as best practices for impact investment issuers.

 Advocacy – Asset managers will discuss challenges, successes, and trending topics in shareowner advocacy initiatives. Participants will gain a better understanding of the overall process, what it means for publicly traded corporations, and how advisors can become more active shareholders on behalf of their clients.

 Introduction to SRI/ESG/Impact – Participants will learn the fundamentals of SRI/ESG/Impact investing including its history and evolution, the role shareowner advocacy plays in advancing the movement, various SRI/ESG screening methods, and tips and tools for establishing and growing an SRI/ESG/Impact advisory practice. This track, along with all others, is relevant for advisors, investment managers, and professionals in the corporate space who are new to SRI and desire a better understanding how to communicate and incorporate SRI into their professional roles.


Opportunity Collaboration

What To Expect

All-inclusive 5 nights lodging & meals, full access to leadership programs, capacity building clinics, working discussion groups, agenda roles, organizational showcasing opportunities, pre- and post-event networking concierge services, transportation to and from Cancun International  Airport (CUN), internet fees, onsite recreation and resort fees. Airfare is not included.

The entire purpose of the Opportunity Collaboration is to connect you with new people and new ideas. Come prepared to share best practices, illuminate partnership opportunities or reveal a current passion or innovative idea. Engage your fellow Delegates with your mission.


Be a Money Magnet - Step Into Your Power and Get Funded

This retreat is for you IF...

You know you have a game-changing business that has the potential to make a BIG difference in the world. But how do you go about getting that influx of cash you need?

As a CEO, you know your job is to capitalize your company, but the funding strategies and sources you’ve encountered up until now don’t feel aligned with what you value most.

It's hard to get excited about all those angel groups, pitch competitions, accelerator programs, and investment funds that you hear about as potential funding sources.

Deep down, you know there must be a better way to raise funding—one that feels aligned with your values.

Guess What? You’re Right!

As a heart-centered woman entrepreneur, the advice you’re hearing about how to raise money is probably wrong for you.

There is a way to raise money that allows you to grow your business on your terms and stay true to what made you start your business in the first place.

Your fundraising strategy CAN be an expression of what makes you and your company unique.

You CAN be part of a tribe of other women who are also breaking the mold and raising investment capital on their terms.

What To Expect

For the first time ever, we are excited to open up the Jenny Kassan Consulting Retreat beyond our current clients to any mission-driven business owners who identify as female.

At this intimate retreat in beautiful downtown Oakland, we will roll up our sleeves and dig in to do the work of designing and beginning to implement your ideal capital raising strategy.

In Preparation

To help you prepare for the retreat, we are offering a 5-week virtual course in which Jenny will guide you through the steps in her book, Raise Capital on Your Own Terms

This course will allow you to come to the retreat with a draft capital raising plan in place, so you can dive right in to addressing your biggest questions and challenges with our expert support.


SPECTRUM 2019

LET’S JOIN FORCES

The next innovation boom isn’t coming from New York or San Francisco — it’s radiating from cities like Atlanta, New Orleans, and Memphis, with a new wave of talented pioneers who are building game-changing socially conscious solutions across industries. The fastest-growing population of American entrepreneurs — people of color — are leading the charge, responding to the real needs of their communities and creating conscious companies that have a purpose beyond profit.

But while brilliant minds are plentiful, investment in and support for leaders of color is not. The racial equity gap persists, preventing great startups from scaling and thriving. Innovators and founders of color are systematically under-recognized and under-resourced. Now is the time for change.

At SOCAP and Conscious Company Media, we know the urgent need for access, inclusion, and impact. For over a decade, we’ve surfaced new solutions by gathering diverse perspectives to address the unique obstacles that we all face when markets fail. Together, we strive to better understand the challenges at hand and implement strategies to overcome those barriers. Let’s explore the full range of possibilities for creating equity and shared prosperity.

This June in Atlanta, GA, we’ll host SPECTRUM — a two-day immersive convening to bring together business leaders, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, cross-sector practitioners, and investors to identify ways to build an impact economy based on equity, diversity, and inclusion where everyone can thrive.

Join us in Atlanta, GA on June 12-13, 2019 to unlock the full range of possibilities.


Impact Fellowships Summit

The Impact Fellowships Summit is a forum for leaders and managers of fellowship programs. The summit facilitates learning, sharing, and networking to support leaders and drive positive change in communities.

The 2019 Impact Fellowships Summit will be held on April 25 and 26 in Washington, DC. The theme will be Dynamic Leadership for a Changing World.

The 2019 Impact Fellowships Summit

The summit will have three technical tracks:

  • Connections Matter: Fostering community and networks among fellows during and after programming, and within and across fellowship programs
  • The Diversity Dividend: Building programs and strengthening leaders to promote equity and inclusivity
  • Answering the “So What?”: Adapting and modeling a learning mindset within programs for greater effectiveness and impact

More about the technical tracks »

Participants and facilitators will learn from each other, share tools and ideas, and build a community of fellowship program innovators.

Attend the Summit

Register to attend the 2019 Impact Fellowships Summit or submit an idea for a session that you would like to design:

HOW TO ATTEND

About the Organizers

The Impact Fellowships Summit was founded in 2016 by Atlas Corps, ProInspire, and Public Allies. Building on the founding organizations’ great work, IREX took on the convening role for the IFS in 2018. We are grateful to the IFS Steering Committee for their invaluable guidance and support.

IREX has managed fellowship programs with participants from more than 100 countries and promoted leadership development for nearly 50 years. We look forward to leveraging this experience while maintaining the summit’s spirit of collaboration, flexibility, and learning.


Moving the Dial: Spring Activator Releases Inaugural Impact Report

At Spring Activator, impact means fostering social, environmental, and financial sustainability into all of the businesses we work with. Since 2014, we’ve supported 700+ entrepreneurs, helped created more than 300 companies and jobs and enabled early-stage funding of over $16 million to be raised.

Today, we are thrilled to release our inaugural impact report, as part of our mission of making impact entrepreneurship mainstream and changing the world.

How Have we Measured our Impact?

For our internal impact as an organisation, we highlight our certification as a B Corporation® and B Impact Score of 94, which we achieved in 2017. Being a Certified B Corp™ is essentially the business equivalent of Fairtrade and Organic products, showing how we adopt successful and sustainable business practices. We also aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) that are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. We primarily contribute towards SDG4: Quality Education, and then towards SDG10: Reduced Inequality, SDG1: No Poverty, SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth and SDG5: Gender Equality.

In addition, we share some metrics of impact that stem from our core offerings:

What about our Wider Community’s Impact?

For the companies we support, we built on the UN SDG framework and developed our Impact Theme Framework, by canvassing out 75 Impact Themes. This helped us capture the spectrum of impact areas undertaken by our community. The chart below shows the SDG scope of our current portfolio of roundtable companies. In general, each of the companies in our roundtables are supporting at least 2 or more of the SDGs. We also share select alumni stories, which illuminate the deeper impact (business and personal growth, as well as lifelong skills) experienced by our community members.

 

Spring was founded in January 2014 with the mission of making impact entrepreneurship mainstream. While traditional incubators and accelerators tend to focus on technology ventures, we work with leaders and innovators solving today’s biggest societal challenges. The common thread behind all the ideas and ventures that we help support is their commitment to changing the world for better.

 

Sana Kapadia – Chief Impact Officer at Spring

Sana has transitioned her career from investment banking and corporate finance to social impact, mission venture capital and entrepreneurship. She believes that by aligning purpose with business and working collaboratively alongside other stakeholders, we can solve real societal challenges. At Spring, Sana guides entrepreneurs in their capital raising journeys. As the the driving force on all things impact at Spring, she led Spring’s B Corp™ certification process and spearheads all impact related programming and reporting. She is committed to fostering an innovative impact entrepreneurship ecosystem as we change the world for the better. (photo credit: Chung Chow)


GEO: National Conference

GEO's National Conference offers a great opportunity for grantmakers to come together to find more efficient and effective ways to grow their impact, make connections with their peers, hear fresh ideas, and ask questions related to shared challenges. Through highly interactive and informative sessions, ample and varied opportunities for networking and peer learning, and the chance to experience the local nonprofit community, the 2018 National Conference will provide participants with the information, connections and experiences to continue improving and pursuing smarter grantmaking practices that positively impact nonprofit effectiveness.