Journey to the Conference

2017 President, Karen Sue, recounts how our young club started and how we got to a place where we could deliver our first conference. On the 5th of May 2018, we held our first Social Innovation Conference. This conference was a one-day event uniting all, to start a discussion on how to tackle today's most pressing challenges in creative and innovative ways. Our aim was to bring our attendees knowledge, inspiration, and skills to take action and build change.

My SINZ Journey

Yesterday, Saturday 5th May, Social Innovation New Zealand hosted our inaugural Social Innovation Conference. Over six and half hours, it was the culmination of hours of hard work, developing, planning and bringing together all the moving parts, to provide a platform for social entrepreneurs in our Auckland community to come together and get inspired to instigate social change. 

We were incredibly lucky to have Daniel Flynn, Managing Director and Founder of Australian social enterprise, Thankyou as our keynote. For three years, we dreamed about having Dan come and speak, knowing the power that the Thankyou story would have to encourage young social entrepreneurs to “get out and stay out” of their comfort zones. 

He had the audience captivated for over 40 minutes describing their journey and highlighting three pivotal learning points: the start, the setback and the next chapter. Inspired by this, I wanted to share the same three pivotal learning points in my journey with Social Innovation New Zealand. 

...I wanted to share the same three pivotal learning points in my journey with Social Innovation New Zealand.

The Beginning 

I joined the club as a naive first year back in 2014, when my good friend Hayley Yu had just founded the club. As a committee member, I wasn’t really part of the direction of the club so I’ll focus on 2015, my first year on the Executive. 

Dan in his keynote talked about shooting for the stars so maybe we could land on the moon. It’s a high risk mindset to take and I have no doubts that, that was the approach we took. I think a big part of that mindset is to believe in what we were trying to achieve as well. Three or four years ago, it was rare to have a business club offering that was socially based. Now we see the likes of Velocity with a social enterprise arm, the Management Consulting Club with their social business case. 

That year, we really learned the bounds of what we were trying to achieve. Businesses weren’t quite ready to heavily invest in social initiatives and social innovation weren’t large enough to support and back what we were doing. It left us in a little bit of a limbo and we had to rely on our belief that one day soon, whether it be the way we sold our ideas, or whether the tide was going to turn in society, that what we offered was going to attract people. 

...we could only rely on the power of our own belief in the idea to keep us going.

As a result, we could only rely on the power of our own belief in the idea to keep us going. Dan spoke about how many people had often said to him, “Love your passion, your commitment but…” and that’s how it felt many times. We’ve run events that had a strong social focus with only 10 people in the room (most of them probably on the Exec). It would have been easy to say it wasn’t working and we needed to retreat back along the scale towards the for profit business area - an area we knew worked because look at all the other clubs excelling. But as an Exec, we really believed in the power of the need we’d identified and the importance of it and proudly stuck at it. 

The Setback 

In my opinion, I don’t think we had one moment that I’d describe a setback. Rather, I think along the way, we realised that there was something that held us back. 

...​along the way, we realised that there was something that held us back. 

I touched on it briefly but expanding on it, as a club, we’ve always talked about this scale of social entrepreneurship. You’ve got large corporates exercising corporate social responsibility on one end, and NGO’s on another. We explained social entrepreneurship was anywhere in between. As individuals, we all placed ourselves on varying points, but as a club, we always struggled to define where we were. And this translated into events and offerings that sometimes seemed neither here or there. 

I still believe we have a long way to go with this one and we worked incredibly hard last year to define our value proposition more precisely. Thanks to Priya Singh and the awesome team at Deloitte, they helped us go through a framework to define our social impact. If anything, we left that session with our clear mission: We wanted students leaving university to have a social entrepreneurial mindset - one that would always put social impact on the priority list. It was applicable to anyone, whether they wanted to go into a corporate job, work in government, be a doctor, be in academia, start their own venture, the list goes on. 

Having defined that mission in real terms, we could then further explore how we could incorporate that into events and offerings. That was what prompted the serious consideration of developing the Social Innovation Conference. The day that would cater to all major points on the spectrum meant we could show everyone we were serious about all means of social entrepreneurship, and we could be a club for everyone.

The Next Chapter 

The conference also marked the first checkpoint of our next chapter. The idea for a conference was one I would liken to being our shot at the stars that somehow resulting us landing in the stars. Never in my wildest dreams, did I ever think SINZ could pull off a whole day event for over 120 people that would span across a keynote, 3 panel events, a mini hackfest and a roundtable. 

Of course, I could never take the credit. All I did was sit in a room one Saturday morning last September with my incredible Exec team and craft our key themes for the day. Seeing how the 2018 team have brought our ideas to life, has been incredible to watch from the sideline. Dan spoke about commitment and this club has no shortage of people willing to commit. I fielded many late night phone calls from the conference co-directors fretting about minor details and this was just one example of the passion and commitment the team continually demonstrates every day. 

​I’ve been told many times that our club culture is something to be proud of and I am so incredibly proud.

I’ve been told many times that our club culture is something to be proud of and I am so incredibly proud. We’ve built a club that really does exert the work hard play hard mentality and I have every ounce of faith, that this culture will be fostered for years to come.

With the last key idea I contributed to now brought to life, my chapter with SINZ closes. I am incredibly thankful for the experience and the learnings, and I wait with eager anticipation to see the incredible change the club can make in the future.

A massive congratulations must go to the Conference team: Hannah Chen, Lei Gu, Sasha Douglas, Jisoo Seok, Laith Saeed and Ojas Shukla, and to Co-Presidents for 2018, Nadya Fauzia and Dylan Dong! What an incredible effort for the inaugural event!

#conference #2018


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