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The Next Generation of Impact: Student Reflections from SOCAP23

Among our chief commitments at Sorenson Impact Institute is the work to engage and prepare the next generation of impact leaders. As part of that commitment, the Institute sponsored a group of students who attended SOCAP23, SOCAP Global’s flagship convening in San Francisco. Attending the event offered these students valuable insights from leading voices across the impact ecosystem at a pivotal time in their careers.

In the Q&A below, the students reflect on their experiences and share key takeaways from SOCAP23. Continue reading for insights from Andrew Garrett, Impact Strategy Intern; Ben Ludlow, Student Associate; Cody Clifford, Student Sr. Associate; Kenyon Bentz, Student Analyst; and Nathan Glade, Impact Strategy Intern.

Why did you attend SOCAP23? What were you hoping to learn from the convening?

Andrew Garrett: I am a people person and an experiential learner, and I love to travel and immerse myself in new environments — especially conferences. As a tri-sector impact and innovation strategist specializing in culture, community, and consulting, I felt that SOCAP23 was the perfect place for me to meet new people, explore new companies, and learn about trends in the field of social impact, innovation, and investment. I hoped to learn how I fit into the sector and about companies where I can work following graduate school.

Cody Clifford: I wanted to expand my professional network, stay updated on social impact investing trends, and connect with thought leaders and entrepreneurs. I aimed to better understand startup challenges and explore innovative venture opportunities. Additionally, I saw this event as an excellent opportunity for team building and collaboration.

Nathan Glade: I see so much potential to make a positive impact in the world that I don’t know where I want to start! I was excited to attend SOCAP23 to hone in on how my skills can best be used to do good. I wanted to learn more about impact investing and hear examples of social entrepreneurship.

Which session at SOCAP23 was your favorite?

Ben Ludlow: The session “Rethinking Solutions to Homelessness” stood out because of Randy Shumway and Geoff Davis’ passion for such a difficult topic. Their unique blend of statistics, solutions, and personal stories, along with strong audience participation, made this session especially valuable.

Nathan Glade: I loved the session on Child-Lens Investing. Children are the most important stakeholders to consider as we make investment decisions. They are the future. So why are they almost always excluded from consideration in investment decisions? This simple idea blew my mind.

What was your biggest takeaway from SOCAP23?

Kenyon Bentz: There are so many brilliant minds tackling the challenges of social, environmental, and sustainable global solutions. But we still need greater collaboration to challenge conventional ideals of sustainability in environmental and social dilemmas. I hope in my career to continue to further inclusion in the impact space and to continue to advance underrepresented communities by offering increasingly inclusive solutions.

Andrew Garrett: Deeply passionate about belonging and the intersection of culture, convening, and consulting, I found the beautifully diverse people and professions at the conference incredibly inspiring. My favorite moments at SOCAP invited me to play, imagine, and connect. I offer you the advice my favorite facilitators offered me: unplug, move your body, open your heart, and listen when people open up to you.

Nathan Glade: There is so much happening. The problems of the world are big. The challenges in addressing them are real. But there are so many smart and driven people who are jumping in. We have every reason to be optimistic.

Can you describe the overall experience of attending SOCAP23?

Nathan Glade: Seeing how many defiant optimists are collaborating to tackle the challenges we’re facing made me hopeful for the future of impact. At SOCAP, I saw enthusiasm around partnering together; everyone seemed to recognize that we all have something that someone else needs, and someone else has what we need to drive impact.

Kenyon Bentz: SOCAP23 is the culmination of so many brilliant minds tackling global problems with sustainable solutions. It is amazing to see so many like-minded individuals all devoted to helping the world. But, the ever-increasing number of solutions also highlights the fact that there is still so much work to be done. The impact space must continue to develop and evolve by increasing collaborative efforts and maximizing solution efficacy. SOCAP23 has shown that the impact space should be working to provide solutions to end social and environmental dilemmas faced by underrepresented communities around the world.

Andrew Garrett: Human-centered participatory design, equity, diversity, and inclusion were a major focus of the conference. Unrestricted trust-based philanthropy is one tool we can use to more equitably allocate funds. Though it is uncertain how we can equitably share the cost of impact measurement and management, the organizations leading the way give me hope — hope that our impact will be transparent, accurate, and actionable while empowering the end-user. My hat is off to all of the social entrepreneurs. Thank you for tackling our greatest challenges. Without you, we have no impact or enterprises in which to invest. I applaud your innovation, leadership, and courage.

Photos submitted by Sorenson Impact Institute students.