Innovating a social innovation conference

Social innovation conferences can lead to high impact outcomes.

Innovating Social Innovation Conferences

I attend a social innovation conference with an expectation of various high impact outcomes such as developing key partnerships with new organizations, being exposed to innovative collaboration tools, establishing critical feedback loops, growing my center of influence, and a variety of other outcomes which may be unique to my particular organization.

Cooperative Impact has the potential to deliver on each of those outcomes, but we only began to scratch the surface during the first social innovation conference. One of the obstacles holding us back from realizing the full potential is time. Those who have been involved with two, three, or maybe ten other social innovation conferences will have a much different approach. Let’s streamline our process by listening to their advice.

Social Innovation Questions

What are we doing that has already been identified as the “long way home”? What parts of our process are soaking up time and resources which may be outdated, inefficient, and potentially not as important as we originally thought? How can we eliminate this excess waste? How can we innovate our social innovation conference?

Social Innovation Conference Thought Leaders

I had another call with Garance Choko today. While the call was only 16 minutes it contained, among other things, valuable insight, direct feedback, and it left me with a lingering sense of compassion. All ingredients that led to the inspiration to write this post. I rarely get to speak with people who have authority in this industry. I can feel the sensation of learning something new especially in this industry because it is an emerging field. When I recognize the feeling rush through my body I know how important the knowledge is to not only my own development, but for the developing field of social entrepreneurship and social innovation.

Lesson learned: Always document critical processes and learning experiences you go through. The most powerful time to tell those stories is in the moment. Otherwise, you have to try to think back to each little piece of the experience which is never accomplished as effectively as if it were in real time.

Open Channels for Centers of Influence

I asked Garance how she found me. I initially thought the contacts I made at Social Enterprise Greenhouse (SEG) had suggested to her that we should connect. I thought this because Garance was a keynote speaker at a conference SEG organized a few months ago. To my surprise, however, Garance said she reached out to me because I came up in search results for the phrase “social innovation conference”. Turns out Garance asked her assistant to search the internet and find every single social innovation conference that exists. That is what you would call “being on the cutting edge” of your field. If one of your goals is continuous innovation this is the level you should expect to play at.

Before moving on I want to point out the significance of how Garance found me: the only reason I am currently connected with Garance is because my website was search engine optimized for the phrase “social innovation conference”. The value she has created in my life only exists because of SEO I did months ago as part of my traditional best practices routine of setting up a website. My life, my projects, and my success rate has all been impacted because I took the time to built the proper search engine optimized infrastructure into the social innovation conference website. What happens if you search the phrase that defines your field? Is your organization’s website on the first page of results? What value are you losing out on by not getting found in search results for the phrase representing your industry?

After checking for myself I see that is on the first page of Google search results. It is at the bottom of the page, though. It is a good thing I built a successful internet marketing agency prior to the work I am doing today. I am going to push the ranking of Cooperative Impact closer to the middle of the first page of search results. Let’s track how long it takes me. As I notice increases in the search results I will share with you how much time passed since last measurement, what I did to increase the ranking of my website, and how much I impacted the ranking.

Lesson learned: ask people how they found you so that you can optimize those channels as well as establish surrounding channels which you may wish to open in order to get found by more people. Think about the persona of your donor – what channels do they already use to find people like you? Are you present on those channels?

Vertical Social Innovation

Aside from the specific tweaks and refinements I am about to make to my projects thanks to Garance’s feedback, I want to emphasize what exactly I am experiencing. I have spent thousands of hours working on Cooperative Impact, Action Horizon, iMakeSpace, Princeton Boutique, and socentMBA (shhh, don’t tell anyone…new project!). I do not necessarily think that time relates to quality or outcomes, but I do know my mind has reached a new level of focus in terms of drilling down on the important aspects of a particular project. I am feeling a push towards working vertically right now. I do not want to work horizontally on various projects at the same time. It prevents me from noticing the slight tweaks and insights similar to those Garance pointed out to me today.

Social Innovation Feedback Loops

Without this feedback loop with Garance I may have continued working thousands of hours, but I would not have seen the results (neither social impact nor financial return) necessary to justify the labor. Currently, I work more hours than are manageable because with so many things to do I have a hard time focusing on what the most important thing at that moment is. I find myself trying to cover all my bases, working on things not critical at the moment, etc.

Lesson learned: What exactly you worked on is more important than the number of total hours you worked. Finding this balance leads to an increase in quality of life.