In the impact space, there is a running joke that for the fall there is rainy season, hurricane season, and the equally powerful conference season. Typically folks in the impact space attend both SOCAP and Opportunity Collaboration back to back! ... I’ve even heard speculation about renting a cruise ship (hush hush). While SOCAP is more of the impact investing and social enterprise trade show, Opportunity Collaboration is an unique experience, unlike any other conference I've been to. I know this seems silly, but it’s true.
What is an Unconference?
Every year, Opportunity Collaboration convenes, at a ClubMed resort in Mexico, with over 400 global leaders who are building sustainable solutions to end poverty. The purpose of this gathering is to engage social entrepreneurs, nonprofit executives, grantmakers, impact investors, corporate & academic field-leaders, and aligned media who are working around the world to solve common challenges and spark new opportunities.
Opportunity Collaboration is founded on the powerful idea that there is no single outcome for collaboration and that just the synergy generated by gathering diverse, innovative folks of all backgrounds can lead to incredible innovation and social change. The only mandate is for delegates to approach the unconference with an open mind. The first question they ask participants to pose is, “What can I do to help you in your life’s work?”
Why you should go
I’ve known about Opportunity Collaboration since 2014, when a friend/colleague attended and couldn’t say enough good things about her experience. Increasingly, investors and entrepreneurs I’ve worked with and talked to stated that it was their favorite conference of the year had been multiple times.
Ability to Engage with Diverse People to Solve Social Problems - How often do you get a chance to engage in open discourse among founders, funders, and field builders? At Opportunity Collaboration, you get to engage with all different types of social changemakers from around the world, to share challenges and learnings, and to discover ways of working together to tackle sticky problems in unanticipated ways.
Tough Conversations - What is poverty, and what is your relationship with it? Why aren’t female entrepreneurs funded like their male peers? What does it mean to be a social changemaker? These are just a few of the issues addressed in conversations during my time with delegates in Mexico.
No Homework Required - Show up as you are, and be who you are. There are no pitch sessions or investor speed dates at Opportunity Collaboration. Often one meeting will lead to another or to a new connection. Because the format is open, opportunity presents itself.
Embrace Self Care - The only session required of delegates each day was the Colloquium. Otherwise, we were free to plan our day as we wished, usually with meetings and sessions. However, taking a meeting floating in the ocean was perfectly acceptable. I even met a colleague at the trapeze to try it out. Being present also means taking care of yourself. If you didn’t make it to the water at all; you weren’t doing it right.
What you’ll leave Mexico with
Renewed Sense of Purpose and Leadership - My experience at Opportunity Collaboration allowed me to reconnect with the reason I decided to dedicate my life and work to poverty alleviation and social change. In my day to day work, I often can get disconnected from this original purpose. Now, I understand more clearly how PeakChange plays a critical leadership role in the impact space - allowing others to connect to their purpose and creating a collaborative, joyful, and purposeful impact investing ecosystem.
Focus on Authentic Connections - People work with people. People invest in people. Often in our daily hustle and need to get things done, this simple notion gets lost. I was shocked to see the human disconnect between funders and entrepreneurs. Sometimes, having a conversation about something entirely unrelated to work is the best thing you can do for yourself and your organization. By gathering at an all-inclusive venue, money is taken out of the equation; and power dynamics are altered to create an environment where earnest connections can be built on authenticity.
It Takes a Village - No one can solve poverty or create social change alone. We need to vulnerably share our challenges, our hopes, and our needs in order to take our work to the next level. Prioritizing the time to learn from others, to be uncomfortable, and to forge new connections are hallmarks expected of the leadership we need in our community.
This year marks Opportunity Collaboration’s 9th annual gathering. In the Spring of 2018, Opportunity Collaboration organizers are launching Opportunity Collaboration USA at ClubMed in Florida. Colorado had a large presence at this year’s gathering - let’s make it larger next time! We hope we bump into you in the ocean in 2018.