Serendipity. That may be the greatest benefit of attending conferences and events where other leaders in social entrepreneurship, social enterprise, and social impact will be.
It’s the connections and conversations that you couldn’t possibly predict, or couldn’t possibly expect that leave you most enriched and fulfilled when hitting the conference trail.
Why We Convene
You may come for the titles, themes, and names attached to the keynotes or breakout sessions, but you stay, and undoubtedly enjoy most, for the chats you have over the unstructured receptions, *sometimes* open bars, and coffee lines before events begin.
If you, like me, set a quota for yourself for events to attend each year (mine is around 3-5, not counting smaller, more regional events/summits), it may be helpful to get every conference and summit in one place.
Whether it’s the networking opportunities you’re seeking with thought leaders and influencers in social entrepreneurship and social impact, or just the warm, fuzzy feeling you get being in the same room as hundreds (if not thousands) of others convening around social good, let’s right-size your social impact conference schedule for this year (and years to come).
12 Social Entrepreneurship & Social Innovation Conferences to Attend in 2021 and Beyond
Where: San Francisco, CA
Event Host: Social Capital Markets
The Social Capital Markets team describes themselves at the crossroads of “Money + Meaning” (also the name of their podcast), with their mission being to accelerate the evolution of a new, more equitable and equal, global market.
Their flagship annual event, SOCAP, is described as “the leading gathering of global changemakers addressing the world’s toughest challenges through market-based solutions.”
While this event draws plenty of impact investors, the organizers want it to be clear: this event, or impact investing in general, isn’t just for financial experts. With the event being a “big tent convening,” last year drawing 3,000 plus attendees from over 70 countries, the SOCAP team wants everyone in the room to contribute to the conversation of unlocking the potential of markets to drive positive impact.
With last year’s event taking a major theme of “cross-sector collaboration,” no matter if you are an impact investor primarily, a social entrepreneur yourself, or someone in between, there will be something for you here.
2. World-Changing Women’s Summit
Where: Sonoma, CA
Event Host: Conscious Company Media
The World-Changing Women’s Summit hosted by Conscious Company Media seems to be the pinnacle immersive event for women-identifying leaders of the purpose-driven business space.
An intimate event (under 300 attendees), the WCW’s Summit has drawn the likes of Eileen Fisher, Kim Jordan (from New Belgium Brewing), Tara-Nicholle Nelson (a former podcast guest!), and many more impressive female leaders and innovators in the space of using business to change the world.
I’ve had the pleasure of recording a podcast with Meghan French Dunbar, the Conscious Company’s CEO, and she opened up about the event, what to expect, etc.—thinking this event sounds like something you’d enjoy? Consider catching the podcast with Meghan.
3. Global Summit 2020: 1% for the Planet
Where: Los Angeles, CA
Event Host: 1% for the Planet
Are you a member of the 1% for the Planet community, like us? If so, you’ll more likely than not be joined by myself and other members of our Grow Ensemble team if you choose to attend the Global Summit.
The purpose of the Global Summit is to continue to propel the movement forward to save the planet. A gathering of members from all over the globe; keynotes, receptions, and breakouts should inspire and challenge you to think about what more can be done in our time of Climate Crisis.
This upcoming event should be a big one—with climate emergencies abundant, the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day ensuing, and the 2020 election that has many bridled with anxiety…plenty of ripe discussion and topics to convene around.
*Note* This event is for business and individual members of 1% for the Planet only. Maybe reason enough to join yourself! 🙂
4. Social Innovation Summit
Where: Washington, D.C.
Event Host: Landmark Ventures
The Social Innovation Summit brings together corporate executives to talk about using technology and innovation to affect positive social change.
A larger-scale event, attracting 1,000 plus attendees, the Summit attracts everyone from executive directors of well-established nonprofits, to venture capitalists, government leaders, and social entrepreneurs.
The themes seem to hover around corporate giving and philanthropy, attracting many folks (and speakers) from the likes of Starbucks, Google, and Nike.
Former speakers have included Mark Cuban, Heads of CSR & Impact from Wells Fargo, Uber, Tesla, and many more international corporations.
5. Sustainable Brands
Where: Long Beach, CA
Event Host: Sustainable Brands
Sustainable Brands offers a large scale gathering, with 2,500 plus attendees and 300 plus speakers all over 4 days.
The Sustainable Brands group now hosts 10 conferences over 6 countries, so, if the event we listed here doesn’t match up well with your geography, check out their list of global events.
The organizers promise, “you’ll meet an ecosystem of change-makers” at every level in some of the world’s most recognizable businesses and organizations. Whether it’s CSR and Sustainability you are looking for or Brand & Marketing it seems with such a large field of attendees and content, you’ll be able to find your angle.
6. Social Venture Circle 2020
Where: Berkeley, CA
Event Host: Social Venture Circle
The Social Venture Circle’s annual event brings together business leaders and impact investors to talk about building the “NEXT economy: one that is regenerative, equitable and prosperous for all.”
Oriented perhaps more towards impact investing, the annual Social Venture Circle’s conference connects early-stage social entrepreneurs seeking capital with investors who have the means.
Even still, the content and speakers fill a diverse set of interests and themes, as past speakers have included; Anand Giridharadas, Ben Cohen from Ben & Jerry’s, and many more. And, breakouts have themed everything from mindful leadership, to growth and sustainability for triple bottom line businesses, to climate change.
7. Buy Good Feel Good
Where: Toronto, On | Where: Los Angeles
Event Host: Buy Good. Feel Good.
Tap into the power of conscious consumerism by visiting the Buy Good. Feel Good. Expo to learn about a mass of emerging brands that are dedicated to standing up for sustainable practices and social issues.
This exposition is dedicated to connecting these brands with potential customers and retailers. With no limits to the industries represented, you’ll see folks from “fashion and beauty to lifestyle and travel.”
And don’t worry, there are two opportunities to take advantage of this trade show style event, one in Toronto and one in Los Angeles: Toronto in March and Los Angeles in July.
8. SXSW (Climate & Social Action Track)
Where: Austin, TX
Event Host: SXSW
SXSW is a multi-tracked event based in the capital city, Austin, of our great state of Texas. The SXSW Climate & Social Action “track” is relatively new, but will convene leaders and scientists to talk about climate change and “shaping the society of tomorrow.”
The great thing is that SXSW is loaded with free events and just by being in the city you’ll be able to take advantage of many of the other things the city-wide conference offers (free drinks and tacos will be easy to find).
9. B Corporation Champions Retreat, Global Summit
Where: Mexico (exact location TBD)
Event Host: B Lab
Traditionally an annual event (until a 2020 gap year), the B Lab has brought together the global community of Certified B Corporations (as well as nonprofit partners and the ‘B Curious’), to discuss the latest in their movement of using business as a force for good.
This event gathers some 500 or so attendees, from CEOs and Founders from mid to small-sized businesses to Sustainability and Impact Heads from major corporations in the movement like Danone.
High-quality food and drink, breakouts and side activities that connect you with other like-minded individuals, and a community that’s welcoming and endlessly inspirational, there’s little to dislike!
We at Grow Ensemble are big fans of this event. You can even read (or hear) more about our experience with the 2019 B Corp Champions Retreat in Los Angeles.
Given its distance into the future, specifics of time and place have yet to be released.
10. Engage for Good
Where: Austin, TX
Event Host: Engage for Good
Engage for Good brings together some of the top corporate social impact professionals and nonprofits to talk about the latest in corporate giving, social impact branding, and the cross-section of profit and purpose.
With keynotes, breakouts, and receptions, you’ll be able to catch all the best practices and successes from top cause-related brands and corporate giving programs of the last year.
And, once again! 👏👏👏👏. Deep in the heart of Texas.
11. Social Enterprise Conference (SECON 2020)
Where: Boston & Cambridge, MA
Event Host: Harvard Business School & Harvard Kennedy School
The Social Enterprise Conference, SECON, is hosted and organized by graduate students from Harvard’s Business School and Kennedy School.
Breakouts, keynotes, a showcase, and a pitch competition, the conference is jam-packed and welcomes well over 500 attendees.
The organizers with Harvard describe the event’s mission as “educating attendees about the potential for social enterprises to solve the world’s most pressing problems.”
Last year’s topics included; fixing nonprofit workplace culture, funding social ventures, activating youth for social change, and plenty more.
12. Frontiers of Social Innovation
Where: Stanford, CA
Event Host: Stanford Social Innovation Review
Hosted by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the Frontiers of Social Innovation will bring together social impact change-makers from all sectors.
From the nonprofit sector to academics and researchers, to social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and policymakers, the SSIR team will welcome everyone to Stanford’s campus to talk about the most present and pressing global challenges.
What Social Impact Conference(s) Will You Attend?
Of course, it’s always great to hear from our readers and listeners and we are interested in learning what events come up as your favorites on the conference and summit circuit.
Anything that missed our list that we should be aware of?
Let us know in the comments below!
Co-Founder & CEO, Grow Ensemble
Cory is the host of The Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation Podcast, where he’s interviewed well over 150 leaders in the space of better business, social impact, and innovation. Prior to Grow Ensemble, Cory was the CEO of a digital marketing agency, a position he earned at the age of 22. There, he became an expert on all things digital marketing & SEO.
Cory Co-Founded Grow Ensemble (with his partner, Annie Bright) as a vehicle to raise awareness of and inspire action around some of the world’s biggest problems and problem solvers.
He blogs, podcasts, and publishes video on all things leaving the world a better, more just, equitable, and habitable place for all.