Scott Anderson

Weekly Roundup 3/6/13: Getting ready for Sankalp 2013

Although there are no official rankings, it sure appeared like last year’s Sankalp Forum was the largest social enteprise conference in India. But by linking up with Villgro, which runs the UnConvention – also focused on harnessing entrepreneurship to assist the poor – it’s now indisputable that Sankalp is THE largest conference of its kind in India, and perhaps anywhere else in Asia.

Considering the rapid scale up of the conference, I wanted to find out what Sankalp would look like in 2013, specifically on April 16 through April 18 – the dates of the conference in Mumbai. For more, I spoke with Sankalp Forum Director Aparajita Agrawal. The theme of this year’s summit is ‘Looking Beyond Impact: Seeking Transformational Change’. As a media partner for the Sankalp Forum, NextBillion readers can receive a 30 percent discount by the exclusive partner code “SUSPD” while booking your seat. For more details on agenda and to register, click here.

Scott Anderson: This year Intellecap, which created the Sankalp Forum and Villgro, the creator of Unconvention, teamed up. The result is the Sankalp Unconvention Summit 2013. Beyond the name, how has this partnership affected the conference?

Aparajita Agrawal: The move to come together with Villgro’s Unconvention was a first step towards consolidating the social enterprise space in India. There are several fragmented efforts to support social entrepreneurs in various ways, but such collaboration between two industry leaders will amplify what can be achieved.

Beyond the name, we have really been able to make the platform more inclusive, for example we are together offering scholarships to over 50 social entrepreneurs to attend the Summit. Jointly, we have been able to go deeper into content, engage a wider network of people, recognize and mentor more entrepreneurs, and share cumulative learning gathered throughout the year.

The Summit is also where over 20 promising early-stage enterprises are showcased, as finalists to Sankalp Awards, selected through rigorous and independent jury process. As a result of our collaboration with Villgro this year, we can now offer them a more holistic set of services, including mentoring and incubation support. Additionally, with Unconvention’s focus on creating local events and Sankalp’s mandate to drive entrepreneurship in low-income states in India, we are quite uniquely poised to offer comprehensive regional social enterprise engagement strategy. We’ve already established the beginnings of an enabling ecosystem in Bihar, Assam and a few other Low-Income States of India, but there is a tall order ahead and much more ground to cover for us to create some real wide-scale impact.

SA: What should attendees who have participated in previous Sankalp Forums or Unconventions for that matter expect for the combined event?

AA: The Annual Summit is bigger than it has ever been. We’ve scaled up from 700 delegates last year to more than a 1000 this year, and we have over 20 intellectually stimulating sessions, and interesting speakers like Antony Bugg-Levine (Non-Profit Finance Fund), Susanne Dorasil (German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development BMZ), Nisa Godrej (Godrej Industries), Jayant Sinha (Omidyar Network) and Vineet Rai (Aavishkaar) lined up. The Summit’s thematic focus and content design will allow for industry-level discussions to happen alongside mentoring, capacity building and real-time problem solving for entrepreneurs who attend, and this year we have lined up a lot of great collaborative events – Trust Law has volunteered time for one-on-one legal sessions, social media company Blogworks has lined up a “designed to use” workshop for early-stage businesses, and Dasra, NASE and TiE are running high-utility programs in scaling up and finance management.

What has the team behind Sankalp Unconvention Summit really excited is all the action happening around us. The G20 Challenge has chosen Sankalp to play anchor to the Inclusive Business Workshop for Asia, Journeys for Change has designed a customized social enterprise immersion program for senior business leaders culminating into the Summit and Grassroutes is planning rural tours for those who want to see the real India. ANDE is planning a member get-together and so is the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), IDEX is bringing all its fellows to attend the Summit and showcase how they are building human resources for this sector one talented Fellow at a time. Effectively, this year’s Summit experience lasts close to a week, not just the 3 days that you will see on our agenda.

SA:How many social enterprises and delegates are you expecting to attend this year and how does that compare with 2012?

AA: We are expecting around 400 delegates coming from social enterprises in India and from around the world. This compared to around 300 that were there last year. The total delegates expected are over 1000, compared to about 700 from last year.

SA:The opening plenary asks some tough questions of panelists and presumably the audience, such as whether impact investing and social enterprise are “really changing the lives of the poor” and “where does the disconnect lie in bringing about real change?” It sounds like you wanted to get things started on a very realistic note.

AA: Absolutely! This is the 5thyear of the Summit, and it seems like a good point to take stock of where the sector is really heading and to do some soul-searching before we start discussing the nitty-gritties. We are talking about a nascent space with the potential to become an industry, and emerge as a strong support mechanism to what the Governments and NGOs are doing to improve the quality of life at the bottom of the economic pyramid. This requires a lot of honesty, creativity, guts and entrepreneurship aside from the right approach to capital deployment and blended business models. We hope to discuss some of this in our opening plenary and we are looking forward to what our stellar speakers on the opening panel have to say about this.

SA: What are some of the other key themes and discussions for this year’s summit?

AA: Through plenary panels, workshops and guided conversations with global thought- leaders and policy makers, Sankalp Unconvention Summit 2013 will raise pertinent issues cutting across six core drivers of change Collaboration, Investment, Infrastructure, Inspiration, Innovation and Policy.

The key theme is “Looking Beyond Impact: Seeking Transformational Change” and one significant sub-theme that we are bringing out on the last day of the Summit is around South-South collaboration. There are some very interesting Regional Spotlight Sessions. We have voices from Afghanistan (US Department of Defense’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations Investment) that will discuss investment challenges in post-conflict economies, a discussion on Asia and where the impact investing industry is in the region, discussions with peers from sub-Saharan Africa on better technology and knowledge transfer with India, and deep-dive discussions from the Indian heartland.

Also to watch out for are some thought provoking ideas on how can we develop an effective framework for incubators, how do we mainstream innovation and how do we go from there to achieving “impact”.

Finally, the biggest highlight will be the entrepreneur pitch session on April 17, in which 27 social entrepreneurs will make 2-minute pitches in front of the entire Summit audience.

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