Post by Prateeksha Singh, Business & Operations Manager SSE Ontario
There is a sense of clarity that arises from quite introspection, at least for me. No different is the case as I think of my experience in Calgary, Alberta attending the Social Enterprise World Forum in October. I think instantly of the light hearted but sincere opening by Peter Holbrook, CEO of Social Enterprise UK and the poignant closing remarks shared by Pamela Hartigan, Director of the Skoll Centre of Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University’s Said Business School. These moments are important, at least for me, because they capture of the range of emotions and thoughts evoked by the conference. A quick glance around the room during sessions and I knew I wasn’t the only one- the feelings were pretty unanimous. As expected, the other speakers were also the crème de la crème, but I would be lying if I did not add that I was even more impressed by those attending and here are two reasons what I think that tells us about the state of this sector:
First of all, I was blown away by participants’ level of candour and presence of mind to ask the difficult questions while respectfully challenging the usual status quo of conference diplomacy. Diplomacy jiu-jitsu at its finest! That is so positively refreshing and invigorating because I recognize that is a necessary quality this sector needs in order to thrive. In one of my sessions, that focused on borderless cross-cultural collaboration efforts, a fellow participant (who also happened to be an Ontarian) asked the panellists and moderator point blank how they could explain and justify the very ironic lack of diversity (of perspectives) in the selected panel. There was no formality after that- it set the tone for a very honest and candid exchange between participants and panellists. We need more of that!
There was undoubtedly a higher sense of camaraderie and a reassuring lack of ego’s in the crowd. That affirmed the general value system of those present and vested in the work we do or seek to do. From the big to small, examples were everywhere. I met Neil McLean, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise Academy, tying my shoelaces next the elevator (we were apparently hotel room neighbours) and then found myself walking with him to the conference and having a completely engaging conversation the whole way over. That conversation ended with an exchange of positive messages at the end reaffirming we are partners not competitors in our larger mission. No ego. Just genuineness. Other participants were befriended as we found ourselves charging our phones or mulling in the common areas on what sessions to attend followed by agreements to divide and conquer and compare notes at the end over a drink!
No doubt that speakers need to be great, but in a conference of this nature, it’s the participants that are playing an even greater role in giving each other the confidence and hope we need to continue going down this path we have all individually chosen to taken but collectively joined forces to address.