SOCAP17 Recap

I was lucky enough to attend SOCAP17 in October 2017 in San Francisco, CA at Fort Mason, thanks to a local funder, the Bush Foundation. This was my first time attending this conference, although I've wanted to attend since the beginning (2007). 

Attending SOCAP for the first time? Read this recap of SOCAP17!

Many attendees arrive at SOCAP with one mission in mind: "Find impact investors who will fund my social enterprise." I had different goals. I had strong intent to meet as many of the 3,000 attendees as possible, attend workshops and networking events for 10+ hours each day, and share the stories of social entrepreneurs through #SocEntMoment videos on social media. But I failed miserably at this. Best laid plans, right?

The morning I got on the airplane to SFO, was the morning the wildfires started in Napa and Sonoma, CA. I received text messages and calls from concerned friends and family about our safety. Arriving at SFO that afternoon, I could already see the smoke in the sky, and feel the heaviness in my lungs. 

SOCAP17 started the next day. If you follow Social Good Impact on Instagram, you'll remember my not-so-great start to the day. I couldn't find the building for my day-long session. I tried to check-in at registration and was yelled at by a SOCAP staff member. I was already feeling ill from the smoke and my mood was dampened. 

I'd reviewed the conference sessions and had a few in mind that sounded interesting. After all, I'd heard from people who had attended SOCAP before, that the best way to approach the conference is to have a plan.

But for the rest of the conference, I decided to have no plan. I attended sessions randomly that I thought might be interesting, but not necessarily the ones I'd planned on. I met people who happened to be around, but not necessarily anyone I PLANNED on meeting. I hopped on to do some live video when the WiFi was stable, but didn't get to accomplish my goal of showcasing social enterprise stories through #SocEntMoment clips. 

And this was ok. I didn't get to do what I'd set out to do, and I was ok. 

I didn't meet 3,000 people, but the few dozen I did meet were high-quality, and I got to reconnect in person with a few people I haven't seen in a few years (see: Jonathan Lewis). I didn't attend every session I wanted to, but of the sessions I did attend, I found value:

Jed Emerson's talk on the Purpose of Capital and Focusing on the Why. I've seen Jed speak before at the Social Enterprise Alliance Summit, and this was a new side of Jed. Heartfelt, strong, straight-forward. Worth the 15 minute watch. You can read the full transcript here, but this section in particular stood out:

"The Purpose of Capital is to advance a more progressively free and just experience of life for all;

The Purpose of Capital is to negate, resist and challenge the present economic, social, environmental and political realities within which we now find ourselves;

The Purpose of Capital is to advance the fulfillment of our potential as a thriving planet and valued people;

The Purpose of Capital is to serve as a fuel for freedom and the attainment of the greatest potential for each person, in every community." - Jed Emerson

(Also, you can find the full SOCAP17 video playlist here.)

James Higa's keynote on 10 things he learned working for Steve Jobs at Apple. I won't list all 10 verbatim but will summarize with this: 

  • Simplicity = Clarity. There is no such thing as a small project. Projects distract you from focusing on the simple clarity of one main project. 
  • Hire people smarter than you. Build a team of A players at every level.
  • Excellence is a habit; practice it every day in every thing. Mistakes are a slide to mediocrity. 
  • Vision + Execution = Success. Do the critical thinking, research and analysis before you create your MVP and iterations. 

Most of the sessions seemed to include a "show and tell" component, and reflections over the past 10 years. (This was the 10th year of SOCAP, so that may have been why.) And while reflection time is good, I was hoping for more action-oriented, forward-focused, metrics-driven content. 

Overall, I came up with a TON of ideas for new free resources for the #socent toolkit. Stay tuned for new social enterprise tools and resources coming soon. If you don't already have access to the free #socent toolkit, you can sign up here.

If I'm lucky enough to attend SOCAP again, there are a couple things I'd do differently. 

  • I would spend WAY MORE time at the picnic tables outside the Festival Pavilion. You'll see these in every photo of SOCAP. I made more connections, had deeper conversations, and learned more from informal conversations near the picnic tables than I did anywhere else at SOCAP. 
  • I would attend every evening dinner, happy hour, networking event possible. This seemed to be the "secret menu" of SOCAP - finding house parties, dine-arounds and other networking opportunities to REALLY get to know people. 

So let me know in the comments below - what did you think of SOCAP17? Or other years you've attended SOCAP? 

Plus - if you attended SOCAP or not, and you're looking to connect with like-minded people year-round, join our private Facebook group called SocEntChat - Social Enterprise Chat