17 Years of Inspiration at SVI Hollyhock
‘Some moments I simply gaze in awe,’ says Joel Solomon
Friday July 27, 2012 -- Kristian Partington
For 17 years, socially-conscious business leaders have ventured to Cortes Island off the rugged British Columbia coast to drink in the peaceful landscape and camaraderie found at Social Venture Institute (SVI) Hollyhock.
It’s a place where leaders of diverse enterprises are linked by their common sense of purpose, and from Sept. 12-16 the Hollyhock campus will once again be filled with the buzz of experiences shared, knowledge exchanged and purpose and dedication renewed.
“Going, for me, is a mandatory requirement,” says Jennifer Williams, co-founder and CEO of Ottawa-Gatineau’s La Siembra co-operative, which is focused on Fair Trade and organic certified food products.
“It’s my annual regroup.”
As she looks forward to the upcoming retreat, she considers the diversity of businesses represented and the wealth of knowledge available because of it.
“The real value comes from a space where we know we’re all headed in the same direction; we might have different paths to get there, but we have a really strong desire to share our experiences and intentions — to be open about that — to be able to support ourselves in getting further along on that journey.”
Joel Solomon is president of Renewal Partners, and chairman for Renewal2 Investment Fund. He’s been part of organizing SVI events every step of the way, and is consistently impressed with the force of conviction of the leaders who share their passion and knowledge every year.
“Attendees are linked by the pursuit of a better world through business and social profit organizations, rather than a specialized business sector,” Solomon says.
“The diversity of enterprises enables an openness about the most vexing challenges. One can be fully transparent. That transparency wins loyalty. Loyalty can become long-term peer relationship.
“It's like a multi-decade dinner party for entrepreneurs making the world better.”
Don Shaffer, the president and CEO of RSF Social Finance, says at a time when people the world over are feeling worn out by the news of economic strife, SVI is a ray of hope reconnecting the people who are passionate about marrying social purpose and business success.
The True Confessions sessions, where business leaders speak openly about their experiences — warts and all — stand out as exceptionally memorable when Shaffer looks back on his past experience at SVI.
“How you really learn is through failure,” he says. “Once you get pounded, picking yourself up and dusting yourself off and being creative about what you do next.”
Sharing these important lessons doesn’t happen nearly often enough.
“That’s something that is exceedingly rare to the point where I don’t know of any other gathering I’ve been to in the whole time that I’ve been involved in this field where you have a prominent person who’s accomplished a lot willing to give you the full scoop on their past and their journey,” Shaffer says.
“Everyone who goes I think comes away being comfortable with more vulnerability for themselves.”
Try as he might, Solomon can’t pin down a specific aspect of the event that excites him most: “This interview has me all revved up and ready to welcome the 2012 SVI class at the front door to Hollyhock,” he says. “I can already feel the energy.
“The two-minute pitch Marketplace, the poignant bare all case studies, and the remarkable True Confessions keynotes, are my favorite sessions,” he says, pointing to some of the attractions.
“But it's the Friday and Saturday afternoon half-hour, one-on-one advice sessions buzzing away in the lodge, on the lawn, or on the beach that make my heart jump for joy.
“Some moments I simply gaze in awe, seeing people giving all they have to share needs, and deliver tough love to each other.”
Click here for more information on this fall’s SVI.