Monday, October 13, 2008

SoCap 08

What does it mean if you throw a conference and twice as many people show up as were originally registered?

Well that is what happened at SoCap08. The rooms were so full it made sense to join twitter so I could find out what was happening on the other side of the door - there were no available seats!

Perhaps this means that Social Capital Markets have finally made it? I don't think so. Partly this is why I was on a panel with Will Rosenzweig and John Goldstein in which the bulk of the discussion was about 1) pitching funds with market returns and never mentioning the phrase "social capital," 2) making sure enterprises deliver financial returns and social returns (not an either/or, not a tradeoff, not a proxy) and 3) the importance of focusing on the spaces between silos while also referring to the silos, or as John put it, "Sometimes it is better to not be new or different. Help investors understand what you are similiar to, describe yourself in terms of the familiar, and don't reinvent the wheel."

Was the conference oversold because of the credit crisis? Perhaps everyone who was going into investment banking is now looking for work in social enterprise or the social capital markets (if they are not applying to business school?)

Perhaps the crowd was so big because the conference is new and still invites both those with funds and those seeking funds?

Or perhaps the timing was just truly perfect - social capital markets are "here" enough to have surpassed their longer-term conference venues (SVN, Investors Circle, BSR) while still being "new" enough to be hot.

Whatever it was that attracted the crowds, the folks at GoodCapital and other organizers/sponsors are to be congratulated on getting such a response and responding to it as best they could. I saw several familiar faces, talked with U.S. foundations, entrepreneurs in traditional fields like healthcare, entrepreneurs from emerging economies, representatives of national governments, nonprofit leaders, lots of students (mba and otherwise), citizen media folks, social sector analysts, endowment advisors, family foundations, and several others. You can follow it all here.

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