Unleashed: The Social Innovation Summit Expands into a Bigger, Broader Platform for Change
By Rahim Kanani
The national and global landscapes look starkly different today than they did a year ago, as does the promise and prospect of innovative, collaborative problem-solving to address the world’s toughest challenges. Tackling climate change, responding to the flow of refugees fleeing from the harshest of conditions, creating jobs for youth and for those replaced by automation, among many more issues, all seem heavier and harder to resolve. With trust in government, international institutions and the media at all-time lows, coupled with the social and political realities of a new U.S. administration, it would seem the deck is stacked against those working in the trenches on healthcare, education, climate, human rights, sustainability and beyond. But a groundswell is forming.
For the past seven years, the Social Innovation Summit (SIS) convened two meetings per year of the world’s most powerful voices in an attempt to build an exceptional network of committed, passionate individuals from across the public and private sectors taking on the most important issues of our time. The model welcomed thousands of participants over the years, including titans of the tech industry, leading entrepreneurs, social innovators, business leaders, investors, philanthropic partners, powerhouse activists and public officials—magnetically drawn together to exchange ideas, forge new partnerships and create lasting change. But as time went on, and as new realities surfaced both domestically and internationally, Zeev Klein, founder and curator of the Summit, realized that there was an opportunity to generate even greater impact.
“Now more than ever, social action matters. The Social Innovation Summit reflects our collective and growing responsibility in the community, and it became clear to us that we needed to broaden our reach in order to make an even deeper dent in the issues we as global citizens care so deeply about.”
“Now more than ever, social action matters. The Social Innovation Summit reflects our collective and growing responsibility in the community, and it became clear to us that we needed to broaden our reach in order to make an even deeper dent in the issues we as global citizens care so deeply about,” explained Klein. “Deep-dive, strategic discussions that lead to breakthrough partnerships and exponential change can also be fruitful in smaller, more intimate venues. We want to think differently, act differently, and expand and disrupt the model by adding new innovation through a series of salons across the country.”
Moving forward, SIS will update their bi-coastal convening into one new and larger flagship global event in the spring—beginning with Chicago from June 6-8th, 2017. The event, as with previous Summits, gives voice to and magnifies the most innovative nonprofits, activists and entrepreneurs, and connects them with like-minded peers and partners across business, government and philanthropy. This year, the backdrop of the current political and economic climate will not be lost, with change-makers across sectors partnering around potent solutions as they rethink where to focus their efforts and resources while serving the most vulnerable.
Beyond the flagship event where a spectrum of issues and ideas splash across the agenda, SIS will pursue more strategic, focused convenings throughout the year on specific issues such as immigration, diversity and inclusion, or a UN Sustainable Development Goal. The idea is to bring the same rigor and discipline found when curating the larger Summit and laser-focus the effort on one specific challenge. Atlanta, Brooklyn, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York, Seattle and Hong Kong, among other locales, are all on the radar for upcoming meetings. Each of these smaller gatherings, whether in the form of a dinner exchange, a half-day salon, or a city-specific learning journey matching national thought leaders with local innovators, emphasizes a practical focus on what works, partnerships for scale, and the building of expert networks across sectors and borders.
This growth into a Social Innovation Summit “platform” is rooted in the realization that more flexible, nimble engagements are critical when reacting and responding to real-time, urgent challenges. They allow for the opportunity to galvanize immediate action and build the kind of long-term, connective tissue necessary to push for even greater progress.
In an era marked by fragmentation and division, the Summit’s expansion to organize events at the local level, in local communities, with local innovators, allows attendees to not lose sight of those they serve and to understand the true realities in which they operate. The ambitious reach for social innovation and impact should be inclusive—politically, economically, culturally and socially. In other words, when change-makers move forward, they must move forward together.