Every year an impressive set of conferences launches globally, with a lot packed into October - November, and this year was no exception. Pomona Impact had an unprecedented attendance at events this year, so much so that we can’t begin to highlight all of the events we were able to attend and will have to focus on the top four conferences: Opportunity Collaboration Global, SOCAP, the Gender Smart Investing Summit, and FLII CA&C 2018. Central American Donors Forum 2018
We want to thank all of the organizations and people who made it possible for us to attend these conferences, especially to Topher Wilkins of Opportunity Collaboration as well as Linked Foundation who sponsored us to participate in the Gender Smart Investing Summit. These experiences and the connections made during the conferences cannot be overstated.
Opportunity Collaboration Global
October 14 - 19
This was our first year at OC Global and we weren’t sure what to expect. We had heard that it was the “unconference” of conferences with a relaxed atmosphere and were told to leave our work titles at the door. It was so much more than an “unconference” in the end. OC is specifically designed and curated to create an atmosphere conducive to deep and meaningful conversations and really getting to know your fellow conference participants. The schedule itself is flexible and leaves a lot of time open for meeting people or doing things on your own time. People are encouraged to go outside of their comfort zones in terms of opening up and sharing about challenges and celebrations both personal and professional and all sessions are set up to be active, working groups, without a panel to be seen throughout the entire conference.
Some of the most memorable connections that we made at the conference were with partner organizations that are working or looking to work in Latin America. We met both with larger NGOs as well as social entrepreneurs that we have been following up with since the conference. Pomona representatives, Sarah and Rich, were asked to lead two sessions: one on impact investment and innovative tools we are using to invest in social entrepreneurs in the region, as well as a session on impact measurement tools and resources.
Central American Donors Forum
San Salvador, El Salvador
October 23 - 25
Pomona partner Daniel Granada and analyst Emerson North had the opportunity to participate in the Central American Donors Forum in San Salvador this October, where they led a workshop on Impact Investing in Central America along with Rodolfo Sagahon and Evelyn Hernandez from ANDE. With a theme of curbing migration, participants discussed the importance of utilizing both donations and investments to create compelling jobs within Central America that allow communities to grow and prosper. The conference brought together diverse individuals and organizations from business, philanthropy, government, and civil society working throughout the region, and gave Pomona the opportunity to connect with existing and new partners in the impact space. A special thanks to Seattle International Foundation for having Pomona participate for the third consecutive year at this fantastic event!
San Francisco, CA
October 23 - 26
We are definitely veterans of SOCAP and know the conference and participants there well, but the conference has been steadily growing with a record 3,200 participants in attendance this year. The increasing number of participants presents the challenge of balancing making new connections, and attending different sessions. This year there were interesting themes that struck home with the current news and atmosphere especially in the United States with a focus on the #MeToo movement, circular economy, refugees and indigenous communities, and opportunity zones.
Rich Ambrose was asked to speak on a panel “promoting impact investing in smaller markets” along with IMPAQTO and NESst. The panel focused on how to build local ecosystems in smaller countries in Latin America to attract the investment capital needed for growth. We were also able to reinforce connections with a lot of current/future partners and funders at the event including but not limited to Heifer International, Grand Challenges Canada, GSBI/Miller Center, and Agora Partnerships as well as meet many inspiring and innovative social entrepreneurs.
Gender Smart Investing Summit
November 1 - 2
This year marked the first year of the Gender Smart Investing Summit, an initiative launched and piloted by Suzanne Biegel and Darian Rodriguez-Heyman. The purpose of the summit was to bring together funders and entrepreneurs in the space of gender-focused issues, whether that be gender-lens investing or approaching solutions to gender-based violence in new and innovative ways. The most interesting takeaway was the caliber and diversity of attendees from DFIs (Development Finance Institutions) like OPIC and IDB Invest, to research institutions like Criterion Institute, as well as more traditional nonprofits and for-profit entities. We were asked to actively participate in the sessions as well as bring our knowledge and tools to the table especially with the Latin America lens. Surprisingly, there were a lot of announcements such as IDB Invest, who are launching gender-lens focused funds in Latin America next year.
One of the things Pomona will now be diving deeper into after attending this conference is how we can make our gender-lens investment strategy more integrated into our operations and practices. We have a lot research to review and tools to learn in order to see which can be used for our local context and are excited to engage in the many new partnerships we created at the Summit.
FLII CA&C 2018
Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala
November 7 - 8
Last but not least, we wrapped up our conference cycle back at our home base with FLII CA&C, which takes place every year in November in Guatemala and is focused on showcasing initiatives, projects, leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs operating in Central America and the Caribbean. We have been attending FLII since its inception and have been pleased to see how it has grown from a small gathering of a couple hundred to over 600 participants this year. At FLII we can reconnect with partners and entrepreneurs from the region and dive deeper in challenges that affect our main area of focus. We were also able to speak more to the progress of our Fund and Rich Ambrose was invited to speak on a panel focused on impact investing in the region. We were also given a spot for our AgTech Accelerator entrepreneurs to pitch to the community, which was a huge opportunity for them to share what they are doing to innovate in the agricultural sector.
One of the most interesting working group sessions we attended was a review of how to use a new tool, the Impact Management Project, which focuses on how we can become more intentional in the impact we are striving towards and evaluate both as entrepreneurs and investment funds.
Overall, the conference cycle can be long, tiring, and with different time changes, flights, and hotel rooms but when we look back at all the new connections, resources, and knowledge that we have acquired from each and every conference we can’t help but be grateful for the opportunities these conferences created and we look forward to repeating the conference tour again next year!