If there is ever a frenzy similar to Chicken Little proclaiming “the sky is falling” that is 1) constructive and 2) applied to the social innovation community—it is that in preparation of the annual Social Capital Markets gathering in San Francisco. Affectionately abbreviated as “SOCAP”, add “#” at the front and appropriate two-digit year at the end for digital perfection, the conference brings together thousands upon thousands of thought leaders, movers & shakers, investors, and companies squarely in the social innovation sector.

SOCAP, the Holy Grail

So, you might ask, this must be your premier event of the year? I.e. your little blog on social innovation must erupt in rainbow colors and neon lights when this conference comes along—and you must gingerly pick out an appropriate consumer-conscious wardrobe, arrange your specially-ordered greenstock Moo business cards, and otherwise prepare yourself for a tsunami of information. Absolutely and kind of.

Welcome to SOCAP11
#SOCAP11: Go Big or Go Home

In 2011 after I found out about the event just months after I began my blog (and left my full-time job), I made the huge decision to pay the nearly $1K to attend the event. And so I did meticulously select a wardrobe–which paid homage to both the color green as well as the dangers of greenwashing–, I made arrangements to stay with a close friend in SF, I mapped out the public transport routes. And, I tried to meet anyone and everyone I could at the event by exchanging cards, LinkedIn-ing with impressive turnaround times, and creating #bff-level twitter friendships.
The event did hold muster. I interviewed a number of fascinating, driven individuals for Innov8Social—enabling me to launch a YouTube channel, wrote handfuls of posts, and otherwise tried to absorb as much of the event as I could. Not only that, having paid full sticker price, I wanted to make sure I continued my learning outside of the event. I used the conference info app to continue connecting with people after the event—meeting over coffee, Skype, or rollover minutes.
It was energizing, electric (concept further explained here, kindly scroll down), and eye-opening. But, as you may know, as a social innovator with an appetite for the future that can sometimes exceed resources in the wallet—paying to play without a fiscal sponsor was not necessarily a scalable solution. A blog is a tricky thing and while it has lent to some incredible interviews and consulting opportunities, it requires a discipline that is at times more aligned with “lean”, “bootstrap”, and “survival” than anything more lofty or luxurious.
(for your perusing pleasure, Innov8Social’s coverage of #SOCAP11 including interviews, session recaps, and photo essay.)



#SOCAP12: The Lost Year

In 2012, the timing and resource flow weren’t aligned to purchase another ticket. I did apply for other avenues such as a press pass or volunteer role but was not a lucky grasshopper on either count. #SOCAP2012 will remain the “lost SOCAP” for me as my work and study schedule didn’t permit online participation and my resources (or combined ingenuity) didn’t pave the path for actual participation.(Link to official #SOCAP12 webcasts is here)

#SOCAP13: Go Big, at Home

As SOCAP2013 rolled around I was again determined. I entertain innovation regularly and laugh in the face of closed doors and one-line rejection emails. Surely, this time around there would be some way to connect with the Holy Grail of social innovation events in the SF Bay Area.  Thinking about how my readership has grown (200K visitors have wittingly and unwittingly happened upon the site and  40+ amazing people have shared their time for an interviews), I tossed my name in the hat for a press pass once more. And, what the heck, for a volunteer role too.
This time, though, there was yet another avenue. Like a natural gas-powered organic food truck emerging from the SF fog, there was a new, accessible, potentially promising path to earn a golden ticket and contribute to the curriculum. And it was called SOCAP Open. We could pitch ideas for a session, gather support and buy-in via social media, and await determination from the SOCAP illuminati. Considering that co-author Shivani and I were in the concluding stages of finalizing our social innovation book idea and crowdfunding it, we pitched an idea that was forming the backbone of our book.  Maybe it could be a win-win-win and win for all. We could participate, gain access to the event, share some great learnings from writing the book, and engage in a meaningful dialogue that could in turn impact our content.
A few things added hairs of complication to the plan. Namely 1) we are still in the outlining phase of the book; 2) despite our humble yet valiant social media efforts, our session idea was not one of the 23 selected (out of 124); and 3) my volunteer and press pass queries must have lost in the proverbial metadata haystack, as I did not receive a response to either.
The SOCAP organizing team was magnanimous in offering a considerable discount for those who submitted idea. I think I lost track of both time and common sense, and did not act on the offer.
But this year I was determined not fall in the abyss and completely miss out. So I did what any #socent worth her salt would do—I looked for a quick and easy solution that would get me closer to the action at a fraction of the cost. I rigged my iPhone to my TV using the appropriate tethering Apple dongle and I streamed the sessions live online.
“What do you want to make absurd in your lifetime?”
social innovators Premal Shah (Kiva), Robert Gomez (filmmaker),
Donna Morton (Principium), and Bill McKibben (350 org)
“Accelerating the Good Economy”
Opening session – #SOCAP13

In 2011 I always grimaced when I was late to a plenary session—I hate missing keynotes, especially when they include jokes and funny anecdotes. This time, my strategy worked with true atomic watch precision. I sat directly in the center of the couch with my laptop poised in start position on my lap, and an appropriate array of remotes to my left. I had readied myself with plethora of open tabs—including Twitter, the official #SOCAP13 schedule, Wikipedia for unfamiliar concepts, and Linkedin & Facebook to share update and consult bios of the upcoming speakers. And then, I waited.

As soon as the plenary sessions launched, so did I. I tweeted, I facebooked, I even took handwritten notes. I would have thrown my business cards at the screen in hopes of networking, but that seemed excessive. I did email speakers who shared their addresses with the audience in hopes of following up. Moreover, I learned and absorbed.
I could let my mind wander around and through the concepts—and I myself could do the same in the kitchen and patio—as I listened. It was a much different experience than #SOCAP11 but it was a determined one. I learned much and truly appreciated the conference organizers’ efforts to let us simple humans connect with the grandeur taking place at the Holy Grail.

(to be sure I was actually tuning in and not just clicking on sponsored posts on FB, here are 5 resources I learned about from tuning in to #SOCAP13)

#SOCAP14: ________ ?

Stay tuned for a few concrete learnings about #SOCAP13—the home edition. And, know that you don’t have to take my word for it—those videos that I partook in are still available. As we wait for even newer ways to potentially participate in #SOCAP14, we can prepare ourselves by staging a viewing marathon of SOCAPs of years past. I can just imagine the happy tweeting of updates from the plenary sessions—nevermind that they took place months (or years) ago—and the throwing our business cards at the screen in gleeful appreciation.

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