I just got off the phone with Topher Wilkins, COO of Opportunity Collaboration. I always enjoy catching up with him and Jonathan Lewis, the event's founder, partly because they are hilarious, and partly because I love hearing what they have in the works. Not surprisingly, they are in the throes of developing the agenda for the 3rd annual Opportunity Collaboration, the ultimate unconference in business and poverty alleviation that takes place in Ixtapa, Mexico.
I have attended for two years and will head back for a third time this October. I participate in this event each year because, for me, it is the intellectual equivalent of a social entrepreneurship wedding. It brings together people and ideas to create one truly incredible unit. I asked Topher what would make this year different from past years.
Not surprisingly, he said that not everything will be different. The parts that make the gathering so effective will not be changed. And the fundamental sense that the delegates make the event is not going away. The mantra remains: "It's all about the delegate community."
But there will be more where that comes from this year. More foundations represented looking to support innovative poverty-ending solutions. More companies that are investing time and resources into social innovation; names you might know: eBay, Google, Mastercard. More media with folks from PBS, Social Edge and other outlets represented. This year's event will truly bring together the top echelons of the social sector.
I, for one, will be hosting a clinic on the tradeoffs between running a for-profit and nonprofit social venture. Having been through a major transition from a nonprofit model to a for-profit social enterprise, I am excited to share my experiences and hear from others about where they are and what they plan to do with their organizations.
The topics will run far deeper than my clinic. There will be more on technology in poverty alleviation, a convening of the greatest thinkers behind innovations in the delivery of education to the base of the pyramid, more on impact investing and, critically, extensive opportunities to engage in women's empowerment initiatives and the future of microfinance.
After attending this event (it happens in October) you might walk away with money for your social enterprise or a place to invest that could change the world. Millions of dollars change hands between people who have connected at this gathering. Beyond the money, however, the reconfiguration of core values that you will personally experience is worth the cost itself. From morning yoga sessions to the morning sessions that dig into varied and challenging readings to the evenings at the bar, you will be learning and breathing social entrepreneurship.
If you are a business person looking to change the world but feel that traditional philanthropy is not making the cut, join me for this event. You will not regret it.
This year my fiancé is coming, maybe we will get some ideas for the wedding... or perhaps the honeymoon!
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