SECON: A Conference that Changes the Narrative
By Brian Chiglinsky
When I first started with the Social Enterprise Leadership Team, I heard a story from last year’s conference that encapsulated for me the excitement and story-making potential of the Social Enterprise Conference. In one moment, a single revelation made headlines across the field of social enterprise.
Last year’s conference was fortunate enough to land Vikram Akula, an American who had founded SKS Microfinance in India. SKS had started like the famous Grameen Bank with a traditional nonprofit approach but in the late 2000s, it had taken a turn to a for-profit company. In 2010, SKS Microfinance made a public offering.
It was a difficult road. Reports in 2010 told of rising default rates and horrific stories of debt collection resulting in suicides among borrowers. Was the aggressive pursuit of private capital putting too much pressure on debt-collectors in microfinance institutions?
In the closing reception on Sunday at the 2012 Social Enterprise Conference, Akula stepped to the podium to offer his thoughts. He had stepped down from the leadership of SKS Microfinance in 2011.
Then, to the shock of the 500 attendees in the room, he said, “Professor Yunus was right.” He continued, “Bringing private capital into social enterprise was much harder than I realized.” And then, over the course of his remarks, he diagnosed the problems that SKS had faced and shared his lessons learned.
In the days and weeks ahead, we’ll be hard at work bringing in four amazing keynote speakers for SECON 2013, along with countless leaders in the field for over 30 panels and 10 workshops. Each one of them has the potential to shift the conversation in social enterprise at any moment, and that’s why we’re also reaching out to press – any reporters who cover social enterprise or are interested in how today’s leaders and tomorrow’s changemakers plan to solve social problems by breaking down the barriers between the public, private and nonprofit sectors. We’re working closely with national publications, local papers, bloggers, and student reporters to make sure they can be at these keynotes, panels and workshops. And we’ll be sure to post any news-making items here on our website, through @SEImpact on Twitter, and on our Facebook account. Make sure you follow all of these in the months ahead.
The field of social enterprise is engaged in a continuous, dynamic conversation. And we’re fortunate to have some of the best parts of that conversation at SECON 2013.