Sankalp Unconvention Summit 2014: Here's what's in store at the annual pilgrimage for social entrepreneurs

By Nelson Vinod Moses|10th Nov 2013
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In 2013, Sankalp Summit merged with the Villgro organized Unconvention to become Sankalp Unconvention Summit (SUS). The conference is widely regarded as Asia’s largest social entrepreneurship conference, attracting top entrepreneurs, social enterprise professionals, academics and policy makers every year. In an email interview with SocialStory’s Nelson Vinod Moses (NVM) SUS’ director Aparajita Agrawal (AA) spoke about what’s in store for the 2014 edition and the summit’s focus to create a global forum that will attract an audience from around the world.

Edited excerpts:

Photo courtesy: SUS Facebook page.
Photo courtesy: SUS Facebook page.

NVM: How will SUS 2014 be different from 2013?

AA: Sankalp 2013 was all about relooking at impact, and asking hard questions about what is needed to create transformational change. It also marked a new chapter in collaboration. We renamed the Sankalp Unconvention Summit to recognize our strategic collaboration with Villgro.

Sankalp 2014 will take off from that point. We will continue to highlight collaboration in everything that we do everywhere – be it in expanding our thought process to the Global North by announcing our partnership with SOCAP, or working in Africa with a host of local partner organizations. But more importantly, Sankalp 2014 would focus on creating a global forum for a global audience.

Conversations at the Summit will no longer just focus on the entrepreneur in India, but will also bring forth conversations that are equally relevant to the investor from Europe, the sustainability professional from the United States, the student from Latin America and the entrepreneur from Africa.

The difference will be subtle but quite important – Sankalp 2014 will focus on bringing together the lessons and resources from across geographies, and create shared thought leadership. It will allow people to witness the creation of powerful knowledge corridors and allow each one of us to also look deeply into issues like inequity, unemployment and resource scarcity.

We envision Sankalp 2014 to emerge as a global common action platform that engages actors and stakeholders from around the world, and shapes the discourse on inclusive development.

NVM: What is the theme for SUS 2014?

AA: When we started Sankalp in 2009, the focus was on entrepreneurial approaches to driving development. In pursuing this objective, we were fairly successful in bringing together all the actors, in an otherwise fragmented space, to encourage innovation and drive scale & consensus on matters that aid development for poorer populations. In the past 5 years, we also worked on aligning global conversations and pushed the traditional boundaries of impact investing to welcome new stakeholders and engage the private sector and governments.

Sankalp 2014 hopes to push these boundaries much farther. The theme for Sankalp 2014 will pick up areas that will help shape the global inclusive development discourse. The focus will be on creating a global common action platform that brings together governments, media, development institutions, companies, policymakers and entrepreneurs. Sankalp 2014 will propose newer ways to further collaboration, mainstream development agenda and leverage the power of technology to create positive social value.

NVM: Do you expect more international participation and representation from the Indian government?

SS: We absolutely do. Sankalp 2013 saw 22 countries represented, and 2014 should hopefully at least double that number. But, perhaps more important than the number of countries is the effectiveness with which we are able to engage relevant stakeholders from newer regions. And we are not leaving this to chance.

The Summit in 2014 will see a relevant international delegate contingent that has not only a lot to offer in terms of expertise, networks and resources; but also has a lot to learn from what is shared and discussed at the Summit. We also expect a significant government participation both from India as well as from policymaking circles in other countries, especially in the developing world.

NVM: Who should attend Sankalp 2014? How will they benefit?

AA: The Summit will be critical to entrepreneurs, corporations, investors, philanthropists, policymakers and donors who appreciate the need to push innovative models for inclusive development. Additionally, students and professionals aspiring to contribute to development space will find the Summit to be the right place to seek & discover answers.

Apart from the opportunity to hear inspirational speakers, be exposed to cutting enterprises that are succeeding at the BoP, the participants will enjoy networking with a truly global audience.

NVM: Tell us about Sankalp 2014 awards? Who should apply and how will they benefit?

AA: Sankalp Awards 2014 is now in two geographies – we are inviting eligible social enterprises in India to send in their nominations for the Sankalp Awards India 2014 edition by November 20th and we have also rolled out Sankalp Awards for Africa that is inviting applications from emerging SMEs operating in Africa. In both geographies, the focus is on finding early-stage, high impact enterprises working in sectors like agriculture and livelihoods; health, water and sanitation; clean energy; education and vocational training; financial inclusion; and technology for development.

The shortlisted enterprises in both geographies get exclusive access to investors, mentors; support towards capacity building and pitch preparedness and networking opportunities. Select enterprises will get fast-tracked into other internationally recognized forums and awards, and also be showcased at Sankalp’s Regional Africa Summit in Nairobi in February 2014 and at the Global Sankalp Unconvention Summit 2014 in Mumbai in April 2014.

NVM: What were the biggest takeaways from Sankalp 2013?

AA: I was glad to see that we are truly able to bring varied actors from different cross-sections of business, policy, non-profit & corporate sectors together for dialogs on social enterprise & impact investment. In fact, the scale at which we were able to do it, paves the way for the creation of that common action platform that not only India needs, but that the world could use to align discourses between the Global North & Global South.

In line with our objectives to create an enabling impact investing eco-system, Summit 2013 also witnessed the launch of India Impact Investor Council (IIIC), which will establish standards for funds in the space.

I was also happy to see some of the conversations from the event – like those about socents driving development in conflict zones like Afghanistan – really take off and gain traction over ensuing months across the media.

NVM: How many people do you expect to attend?

AA: We expect around 400 delegates to attend the Sankalp Africa Summit in Nairobi on Feb 12-13, 2014 and around a 1000 delegates to attend the Global Sankalp Unconvention Summit on April 9-11, 2014 in Mumbai, next year.

NVM: What challenges is the social enterprise industry facing and how will Sankalp 2014 highlight those issues?

AA: Some of the challenges that we have seen enterprises face include – absence of (and access to) local support ecosystems, access to potential funding, measuring and scaling impact. We have made some headway on these in the past few years, through our partnership with Villgro’s Unconvention series of local events, our work with Intellecap Impact Investment Network (I3N) that is trying to democratize impact investing as well as our focus on creating a viable deal flow pipeline for investors in the space. In 2014, we hope to tackle these with renewed vigor.

As Sankalp Forum, we are committed to catalyzing more investments into the sector and bring the much-needed resources and expertise to social enterprises. We are also creating knowledge corridors and showcasing opportunities across the South and North.

NVM: Sankalp Forum is making the big leap globally by entering Africa. Tell us more about that initiative and why you’ll thought of the move?

AA: Thank you, we too are truly excited about this expansion into Africa. In our research, we found increasing evidence that nations in the Global South stand to benefit from learning about and replicating successful sustainable development models created in the South and for the South. Intellecap’s vision is to build a knowledge transfer corridor between India and Africa. For this, we are working closely with several local organizations; and plan to eventually build on-ground teams that will provide advisory support in the region.

The plan to expand to Africa has been in the works for several months now. The last two editions of the Sankalp Summit had tracks on Africa, and this year we wanted to really deepen our engagement. We are already meeting sharp, innovative enterprises as part of the Sankalp Awards for Africa applications, and overwhelmed by the response to our event in Nairobi on Feb 12 – 13.

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