Why I'm Going to SOCAP09

By Shital Shah|10th Aug 2009
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A few months ago, Ashni Mohnot wrote a post on the Pop!Tech blog that really struck a chord with me, on why the field of social entrepreneurship is so hard to break into. She outlines three reasons– the preference for MBAs, lack of opportunities for those who do not have years of experience, and the exclusion of the developing world in the conversation. I found myself nodding along – why can finance types tack on a social bent to their job, but those well-versed in development find it difficult to add a business aspect? Why do we have to wait until we’re well into our 30s to be qualified for certain positions? Why is there even an “in crowd” in a field that, ironically, is really trying to expand opportunities for all?

The reason it hit so close to home is that I am not an MBA, I don’t have 10+ years of experience under my belt, and although I currently live in the US, I strongly affiliate myself with India (through obvious outlets like this blog). As an editor for ThinkChange India, I find myself reading, writing, and talking to those involved with social enterprises – but on a personal level, I sometimes feel that I am on the fringe of it all. The urge to jump in and get right to the center of it all does not translate easily into reality. As I pursue my own ways of contributing to the social entrepreneurship world, I come up against the very challenges that Ashni points out, and it reminds me that this field is still maturing and that many of you are also likely facing similar hurdles.

Where does that leave us? If one path doesn’t work, try and try again. There are still many outlets available to explore possibilities – fellowships, internships, further education, and events like conferences.

Conferences, these days, are a dime a dozen – and with social entrepreneurship, universities and organizations are holding more and more relevant events. But one – the Social Capital Markets (SoCap) conference – held on September 1-3 in San Francisco, caught my attention as a unique forum: the variety of speakers and breakout sessions (including one titled “Indian social enterprises toward scalability, sustainability”), the “unconference” day (where participants lead the direction of the conversation), and the energy-charged participants that will be attending all indicate that this is a place where one can learn, connect, and strengthen ideas.

I am probably like many of you. I’m not currently a breakthrough entrepreneur; I’m not full of connections that will handhold me to the right path; and, I’m working hard to find a way to apply my skills to meaningfully contribute to this emerging field. I actually couldn’t have gone to SoCap under the regular registration fee. Determined to find a way, I applied to volunteer at the conference and attend at a highly discounted rate. Even though preference was given to MBA students and social entrepreneurs, I am lucky enough to be given the opportunity to volunteer and bring back news and updates for all you readers.

I believe that adds another feather to SoCap’s hat – they clearly aren’t doing business as usual. They’re giving a chance for non-MBA, non-business veterans, but passionate and diverse individuals to add to the voice of this field. SoCap is broadening the limits of what is possible by the broadening the limits of who is involved.

I plan to take that and run with it! Expect to see tidbits, takeaways, and personal thoughts on how all of this applies to the Indian context – both as it happens at SoCap and after – right here at ThinkChange India and through our Twitter page. And if you are going to SoCap yourself, do let me know so we can be link up during the conference (and come up with ways to jump the hurdles that Ashni identified!).

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