Social Impact & Innovation Conference Wrap-Up (Fall 2017)

[We are continuing our series on the highlights and key takeaways from social impact and innovation conferences around the world. You can view our calendar of upcoming conferences, and let us know of others you’d like to share!]

As we moved into the last few months of the year, innovative thinkers and changemakers from around the world continued to come together to discuss the most pressing issues facing our communities. Storytelling and building effective communication were common themes across these conferences, encouraging us to take what we learned and use it to inspire our coworkers and those with similar dreams.

Chicago was the backdrop for this year’s Grant Professionals Association Annual Conference. Designed for professionals across all levels, workshops guided participants on leaving lasting impressions to win funding, crafting grant proposals and budgets, converting your grant writing experiences into capital to invest in your profession and becoming an effective advocate for your organization.

ComNet17 brought foundation and nonprofit professionals together to inspire each other to use strategic communications to spur positive social change. Breakout sessions discussed how to battle media scrutiny and criticism, how to create memorable, shareable and inspiring stories, and how to communicate with applicants, grantees, and board members in the grantmaking process. Grant Oliphant, President of The Heinz Endowments, gave an impactful keynote speech on how we can use our voices and speak up for our values at a time when none of us can afford to be silent.

At Stanford Social Innovation Review’s 12th Annual Nonprofit Management Institute, presenters addressed the theme, “Leading Social Change in Turbulent Times”, by sharing ideas on how to be effective leaders within your organizations and communities. Speakers, focusing their attention on Silicon Valley, asked why local community-based organizations were struggling to survive in an area where huge wealth is being generated. In fact, giving has doubled in Silicon Valley in recent years, but 90% of funding goes outside of the area. On fundraising, Darian Heyman reminds us, “Nonprofits shouldn’t think of getting funding as donors doing them a big favor, because nonprofit work benefits all.”

SEWF2017 in Christchurch hosted over 1600 delegates from 28 countries to identify and create solutions to incorporate social enterprise in building healthy communities. As social entrepreneurs, we share common values and missions, but what if acknowledging our differences is just as vital to achieving our goals? Workshops asked us what role social enterprise plays in planning for our futures.

Moving at the Speed of Innovation was the theme for SOCAP’s Annual Conference this year. Organizers aimed to explore effective strategies for companies to plan for the future, navigate consumer expectations, leverage technology to enhance the customer experience and use digital channels to manage innovation. Group breakouts included discussions over use of cellular technology and how to build responsive mobile-friendly websites that will engage and attract the attention of the largest generation in the US: Millennials. Additionally, session leaders from Context Partners discussed how communication between you and your stakeholders can help define your shared purpose and work toward a desired outcome.

As we wind down 2017, a key concept for us to remember and utilize is the art of storytelling. Our ability to communicate our ideas clearly and build upon those concepts enables us to find like-minded individuals for us to collaborate with. Those collaborators in turn inspire us to identify our business goals and work to make our communities healthy and happy. Well-known theologian Robert McAfee Brown said it best: “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”

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