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.
This blog promises to explore social innovation. And at SOCAP 2011, there was a unique opportunity to do so by talking with individuals coming from diverse sectors of the field.

If you have been following recent posts and interviews on Innov8Social, you will have seen a few of these perspectives represented.  The interviews (or perhaps more aptly, interview-ettes) are 1-2 minute introductions that provide simple insight into the missions, goals, and structure of the various organizations represented. Enough to give a you a feel, with info on where to go to find out more.
Waiting for the punchline
And, just as no human is an island–social innovation does work in a vacuum. More often than not, you need the dialogue, the critical ‘buy-in’ from different sectors, to make an idea take off or continue.
So, in case you missed the individual posts, here they are compiled in one place. Four unique individuals representing four fascinating ventures. You can click the link associated with each video to read the full article where you will learn more about the organization and find related resources.
4 Perspectives at SOCAP 11, in Video

Impact Investing at SOCAP11: An Interview with Absolute Impact Partners

One World Youth Project’s Executive Director at SOCAP11

Namaste Solar’s Co-Founder Talks About Being a B Corp at SOCAP11

DayOne Response Waterbags Deliver Clean Water After a Crisis, SOCAP11

More on SOCAP11 from Innov8Social

You can follow our coverage of this year’s conference by clicking on the SOCAP11 tag on Innov8Social. You can also catch up on tweets from SOCAP11 (Sept 7-9 2011) @innov8social on Twitter and can search #SOCAP11 on Twitter for related tweets.

An Increasing Need for Clean Water, Demands Solutions

Sometimes a need can be so necessary and apparent, that a innovation is a welcome sight, rather than a big surprise. Access to clean water after a disaster is one such need that has affected global superpowers as well as countries deep in their development stages. Whether the need for clean water comes after natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes or from man-made scenarios such as war, explosion, or delayed government response—it is essential, and often unmet.

Meet DayOne Response

DayOne Response is a social venture aiming to answer the call for clean water. DayOne Response’s V.P. of Business Development, Amy Cagle, was on hand at the SOCAP11 Innovation Showcase on the second day of SOCAP11.Below she shows us the DayOne Waterbag that can sanitize any water and make it potable by utilizing the technology of PUR purifier packets (that purify using chlorination-flocculation technology) along with a specially-designed waterbag for easy water collection, filtration, and delivery.

Watch the Interview

How can a waterbag do that? 

DayOne Response demonstrates in this short training video taken in Haiti. Water filtered using DayOne Waterbags and PUR packets meet the World Health Organization guidelines for drinking water.

The DayOne Waterbags may be a scaleable solution, since they take up little space when empty, can turn almost any water into clean drinking water, and can be distributed quickly after a disaster, which can free up resources, and can give affected individuals quicker access to safe water.

B Corporations In Different Forms

SOCAP11 (Social Capital Markets 2011) brought together a confluence of people, ideas, and dialogues from around the social innovation sphere. It was especially interesting to hear about various corporate forms that social ventures had decided on.I had a chance to talk with Blake Jones towards the end of Day 2 of SOCAP11. We had both attended the same breakout session on benefit corporations earlier in the day.

His company, a b corporation, is also a cooperative.

Meet Blake

Blake co-founded, Namaste Solar, a B corporation based in Colorado. (Reminder: B corporation is a voluntary certification, benefit corporation is a new corporate form for social innovation that has passed/is being introduced in various states. You can read more about the differences between B corporation and benefit corporation)

Here is a quick interview with Blake explaining what Namaste Solar does and why and how they decided to pursue the B corporation certification.

Watch the Interview


More About Namaste Solar

Namaste Solar is an employee-owned cooperative that installs solar systems in homes and businesses.

Namaste Solar is proud to be a B corporation and exists to benefit all of its stakeholders, including community and environment.

They may be looking for impact investors in the future.

Follow SOCAP11 Coverage

You can read posts about this year’s conference by clicking on the SOCAP11 tag on Innov8Social. Following up on tweets from from SOCAP11 is also possible by following @innov8social on Twitter and searching #SOCAP11 for all related tweets.

SOCAP11 (Social Capital Markets Conference 2011) featured a number of social businesses and non-profits. Representing the

photo: LinkedIn

photo: LinkedIn

non-profit organization, One World Youth Project (OWYP), was the organization’s Executive Director, Jess Rimington.We had a chance to catch up with Jess, who was in town from the OWYP’s headquarters in Washington D.C.Below is a quick interview, where she explains what OWYP is, its current locations, and how and why the organization decided to incorporate as a non-profit.

One World Youth Project (OWYP) is an initiative to raise global awareness by offering a 3-semester leadership program for university students who prepare and lead global competence curriculum to secondary school students.

It is structured as a non-profit. Executive Director Jess Rimington calls it a “social profit” because the organization could have been incorporated as a for-profit entity since universities pay for the training course.

It has recently expanded to multiple locations worldwide.

Additional SOCAP11 Coverage

You can read posts about this year’s conference by checking out the SOCAP11 tag on Innov8Social. You can also catch up on tweets from SOCAP11 @innov8social on Twitter and can search #SOCAP11 on Twitter for related tweets.

SOCAP11 logoThe 2011 Social Capital Markets Conference (SOCAP11) parsed out a number of issues surrounding social capital and clarified an important point. Impact investing is not just about money.In an insightful panel discussion, “Investing With Impact: A Partnership-Based Approach to Social and Environmental Innovation” moderated by Jeff Hamaoui, Founder and President of the Cazneau Group, representatives from 3 sectors–non-profit, government, and financial–talked about what brought them together to support a social capital initiative in Brazil and how building partnerships is a key component of impact investing.A few memorable quotes from moderator Jeff Hamaoui set the scene for the session:

“Collaboration is the process, innovation is the product.”

“Social technologies effectively bring people together to co-invest successfully & innovate together.”

“Opportunity leads, design follows.”

The Partnership Mindset

The session traced the path of how 3 distinct sectors could align on the same initiative. Hamaoui framed the discussion with the concept of the “partnership mindset”, i.e. social entrepreneurs looking beyond only a monetary ask when approaching investors, and engaging in multiple value conversations, marketplaces, and landscapes…that could in turn lead to capital investment.

So, what does that mean?

Luckily, to break down the concept of “partnership mindset”, Hamaoui outlined the 4 types of commodities (i.e. the 4 C’s) that can be traded by social entrepreneurs, investors, government, non-profits, thought-leaders, banks, etc.

4 Commodities Exchanged Under the Partnership Mindset

1. Capital is monetary investment, and is often the primary commodity sought.
2. Capacity is the ability to do something on the ground such as product design, product delivery, product assessment. Groups that are familiar with an area, region, or community may be able to offer capacity commodity to another group.
3. Credibility is name/brand recognition that can lend expertise or experience. This could be helpful in building networks, getting meetings with decision-makers, and building a presence in a new region or field.
4. Creativity is the out-of-the-box solutions that can result from connecting with another group in the same space/geography and leveraging each group’s experience and resources.

Key Points from Each Panelist

The 3 panelists were dynamic and enthused to tell the story of Imago, the joint project aimed to address 2 business challenges in Brazil: consumer financial education and packaging and recycling.

Lala Faiz, Partnerships Advisor in the U.S. Secretary of State’s Office of Global Partnership Initiatives (government)

  • one of the Secretary of State’s new initiatives is investing with impact, and the office sought to create a new partnership in Brazil to unlock opportunities for business and society
  • identified 2 targeted business challenges which had high market demand, for which there was a sizeable market opportunity, and which would yield significant social and environmental impact
  • but they needed partners to both invest in the initiative and provide intellectual capital through capacity-building, credibility, and creativity to create sustainable market-based solution

Cameron Peake, Mercy Corps Social Innovations Officer (non-profit)

  • social investment is a critical catalyst to longer term sustainable social change
  • mitigating risk, and seeding longer term commercial opportunities that can impact society …that’s why they (as a non-profit) got involved and provided seed funding for new ideas (innovation)
  • Mercy Corps was able to offer capacity, credibility, and capital via global best practices, knowledge of needs on the ground, and use of strategic subsidy

Michelle ViegasOffice of Outreach & Partnerships at Inter-American Development Bank (financial)

  • did not provide funding, but did provide intellectual capital and credibility via contacts (banks, investors, VC/private investors, govt, corporations)

Impact Investing Lens on Social Entrepreneurship

SOCAP11 (Social Capital Markets Conference 2011) may have ended last Friday, but its concepts and topics are coming to life as they are retweeted, blogged about, and discussed in articles, message boards, and through various social and professional networks.

One topic that I was eager to learn about through attending SOCAP11 was impact investing. As a concept it is a source of intrigue and fascination, but in practice I wanted to chat with investors dedicated to impact investing to learn about this niche, its need, and what criteria impact investors base their investments upon. And, I was equally curious about how impact investing works abroad.

Meet Absolute Impact Partners, Impact Investment Firm

So it was serendipitous to run into the Director of a new impact investing firm based in Singapore, called Absolute Impact Partners. In the video below, Lynna Chandra explains the concept behind their entry into the impact investment field, what they hope to achieve, and she outlines the criteria they use before making an impact investment or assisting a local social entrepreneur with mentorship resources.

Watch the Interview

Key Points

Absolute Impact Partners was started alleviate poverty through a multi-level approach, with a focus on addressing the lack of access to global markets faced by many local social entrepreneurs.

Lynna spoke about connecting local manufacturers to international markets, through creating distribution streams for products so that entrepreneurs have multiple distributors for their products.

She mentioned that her firm looks to identify businesses or projects seeking impact investment are socially aware, environmentally conscious, generate profit, and create change in the community.

Follow SOCAP11 Coverage

You can read posts about this year’s conference by clicking on the SOCAP11 tag on Innov8Social. You can also catch tweets from SOCAP11 @innov8social on Twitter and can search #SOCAP11 on Twitter for related tweets.

Human rights activist, leader in green energy reform, and Yale law school graduate Van Jones, spoke to Jeff Leifer of Circadian Media Lab on Day 1 of SOCAP11.Van Jones at SOCAP11Who is Van Jones?

On paper, Van Jones is paradigm of success in social innovation.

A well-educated professional, he has leveraged his Yale law degree to causes such as human rights and environmental reform, and has founded 3 non-profit organizations. A celebrated thinker,  he has been recognized as a creative mind and environmental hero by TIME magazine, Fast Company and others, and was appointed to serve as Special Advisor for Green Jobs in the Obama Administration in 2008.

In person, he is dynamic.

His conversational rapport and ability to be honest about his coursing journey in politics, policy, and life make him instantly accessible to an audience of strangers. His passion for social innovation, environmental policy, and social movement is inspiring. He is a generous interviewee, with a compelling story to tell.

In the media, he is debated.

Depending on whether you are left of center or right, you will find different platforms of media informing you of different elements of his life, his allegiances, his beliefs, and his loyalties. The controversy surrounds a petition he signed in 2004 regarding the 9/11 attacks. The cloud of question was fanned until he ultimately resigned from the Obama White House. He has since founded a grass roots movement called Rebuild the Dream supporting job creation, affordable higher education, benefits for retirees.

Memorable Van Jones’ Quotations from SOCAP11

Van Jones had much to share in his hour-long arm-chair conversation with Circadian Media Labs CEO Jeff Leifer as part of the “Leveraging New Media Currency” Track of SOCAP11. Here are a few memorable quotes. You can see the full interview online through LiveStream.

“You can build a super movement just based on super good ideas.”

“The American Dream has to be reinvented. You have to have an American Dream 2.0.” 

“We have to have some platforms for disruptive innovation in both politics and economics….people-powered, economy-smart innovation.”

“Democracies work well when we do what we do well. What we do well is innovate.”

“If anyone ever gets an opportunity to work in the White House. And if it’s written into the contract that you’re going have exactly the same kind of experience that I had…six months, and then two weeks of all that, take the job. Take the job. It’s that mind-blowing, it’s that important.”

“This movement has to figure out who we are, now…it’s when you have a big dream and it gets smashed, you have to make a decision. Do you just lay down, or do you stand back up with a bigger dream.”

“It’s become just as fashionable now to be cynical as it is to be hopeful. I don’t trust either one of them. I trust work and innovation, and values and commitments.”

How do you synthesize 3 full days of social innovation topics, events, interviews, meetings, and experiences at SOCAP11? One blog post at a time.And what better way to kick off the synthesis than with an essay of photos. Here are images taken over the course of the 3-day conference, that together, begin to tell the story of a conference featuring thought-provoking topics by social innovation thought-leaders. To learn about what we gleaned from the conference, you can follow posts with the SOCAP11 tag on Innov8Social.You can click on the photos for more information.

Innov8Social at SOCAP11: The Photo Essay

SOCAP11 light projection logo

Social innovation incubator & accelerator programs (SOCAP11)

Senda Athletics at SOCAP11

Filling the Gaps, SOCAP11

Keeping Meaning in the Market

Craig Newmark and Kevin Jones at SOCAP11

Art at SOCAP11

Nokero Solar Lights at SOCAP11

Market Dynamics of New Media Landscape

Van Jones at SOCAP11

Socap11 tweet up

Off the Grid at Fort Mason (SOCAP11)

One way of getting to SOCAP11 this year at the Fort Mason Center was via the Bus 30 stop in San Francisco. Veering right, then left, and hiking a mini super hill would lead you to this view of what would become your new home campus for the next few days:

SOCAP11 at Fort Mason Center

SOCAP11: Money + Meaning = ?

September 6-9th 2011 marked the 4th annual Social Capital Markets Conference (SOCAP). SOCAP connects social innovators including investors, social entrepreneurs, foundations, non-profit institutions, designers, ‘social’ media, and thought leaders.

As the best attended SOCAP to date—with well over 1500 attendees—this year’s conference focused on impact investing and featured a number of sessions that explored the financial angle of investing in social ventures. It also took a look at the big why—why it matters to invest in projects that have meaning or create some material positive impact. And it delved in to the big how’s—how to design for social innovation, how to build audience, and how to secure seed funding and investment.

Outside Insider

SOCAP11 was an insider’s conference—with plenty of financial-speak, legalese, design lingo, and social innovation buzzwords to tire out your Twitter fingertips.

And SOCAP11 was a place for newbies too, providing a guided path into the world of social impact investing through a broad variety of session tracks, ‘open space’ time for impromptu sessions, and plenary group sessions to bring everyone together and to help distill the deluge of useful information.

In fact, there was a balanced buffet of tracks an attendee could choose from to explore their interest in the field, and even partake in a few “Wild Card” sessions that didn’t squarely fall into a track but were topics of interest. And you could mix, match, sample, and float in and out of tracks based on your preferences.

SOCAP11 Tracks

Doing Well By Doing Good

A huge focus of the conference was exploring the meaning behind social innovation. And time and again individuals from various niches mentioned this phrase…”doing well by doing good.” It seems to be the call that social entrepreneurs, designers, socially-inspired professionals and impact investors alike are determined to answer.


After tweeting live from Dreamforce and appreciating the experience as a way to share and learn from various perspectives, I joined a number of other regulars tweeting live from #SOCAP11. It was a great way to connect in real-time. There was even a “tweet-up” to meet the fellow tweeters live.

Parse, Share, Repeat

I met a number of interesting innovation start-ups, learned even more about the benefit corporation movement, and was introduced to a plethora of new keywords. I look forward to parsing out the ripe picks and sharing them with Innov8Social readers. So, don’t change that dial—I will be sharing my experience through photos, video, informative posts, buzzword drilldowns, and reflections on Innov8Social in the upcoming days. To stay connected, just click the SOCAP11 tag to see all Innov8Social coverage of the event.

Catch Up on SOCAP11

There are a number of ways to get your fill on the conference and individual sessions.  Here are a few: