Co-founder Kevin Jones on his vision for this year’s SOCAP conference
The Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) conference gets underway on Monday and the social enterprise community is coming from around the globe to participate, present, network, fundraise, and learn. We checked in with Good Capital founder and SOCAP co-founder, Kevin Jones, to learn how the conference has evolved over the past four years, what to expect this year, and where the potential long-term impact may lie.
Dowser: What led you and your colleagues to create the SOCAP conference?
Jones: There were too many convenings where the goal was to have the ‘right’ people in the room and no one else. And what’s worse, these convenings were not talking to each other. I suggested that we build a conversation map at some of the other conferences, a Rosetta stone to let groups know how others’ description of things and goals were different or similar. [I had some resistance to this idea] so I decided to launch my own conference. Markets are not about getting the right people in the room. You do that if you are a commodity cartel fixing the price on soybeans or if you’re the victors deciding how to distribute the spoils after a war. Markets thrive on difference or chance connections between people with ideas that you’ve never heard of. Markets are safe places for the barbarian and the byzantine to do business together. Neither one invites the other home, but they create value by sharing value. That big tent approach has made SOCAP thrive.
Can you explain how SOCAP is galvanizing changes in the social capital field?
We bring together nonprofits, foundations, development agencies, impact investors, entrepreneurs and crowd-sourced people-powered funders — and have them rub shoulders and work together. We are by and for the community of people driven by and finding joy and meaning in changing the world. The result has been lots of deals that got funded, lots of funds that have found an easier time raising money from investors, vastly shorter sales cycles because the market has been set into context. Our goal four years ago was to catalyze the market, prove to people that it was real, big and growing — and enable it to happen more quickly. I think we did that.
How do you think SOCAP 2010 will differ from past years?
The role of philanthropy is much more clearly outlined this year, particularly its partnership and collaboration opportunities with impact investors. The tactical philanthropy track is about a cross sectoral and cultural translation exercise that’s underway that will enable more money to flow to good more quickly and with less friction and higher impact. If the givers learn to see the market as something other than a deep error they need to fix, and if market folks can see where the market has limits and giving and subsidy for the common good make sense — it will be a big win.
If SOCAP hits a home run, what do you hope will come out of it?
Our two new products, the Hub-Village Capital Seed Fund and Lifechanger U, are designed to take advantage of our momentum in the market. The fund will put money to work to help people with ideas change the world, and Lifechanger U will identify cohorts to help people change their lives. People believe that the space between giving and investing is real now. They didn’t when we started. So we feel we have created a space for this market to emerge. We’ve never been sold out this early before. This morning we [stretched to] let in two Haitian entrepreneurs with airfare from friends and no money for a ticket who just knew they had to be here.
For suggestions on navigating the multi-day, jam-packed conference, check out Nathaniel Whittimore’s helpful guide.
Dowser is a media partner of SOCAP 2010.