10 sparks from the Social Innovation Summit in Los Angeles - Generocity Philly


Jul. 8, 2019 3:00 pm

10 sparks from the Social Innovation Summit in Los Angeles

The annual conference of philanthropists, corporate impact leaders and social entrepreneurs took place in Los Angeles. But the lessons are apt for you too.

The big stage at the annual Social Innovation Summit, held in Downtown Los Angeles in 2019

(Photo via SIS)

Solutions come at intersections.

For the wicked problems of the world, those intersections are thorny. Funders and those afflicted, stakeholders and supporters, all are necessary. All manner of events, communities and gatherings attempt to be a part of that work.

For more than 15 years, boutique investment bank Landmark Ventures has organized one of them, what is now the Social Innovation Summit, an annual, two-day conference. The confab changes locations each year, taking place in Los Angeles last month, and serves as a crossroads for the network Landmark maintains. That means attendees and speakers come mostly from large companies and nonprofits with a cross-section of social entrepreneurs and other do-gooders. Many have attended for years, and there is a contingent of Philadelphia attendees from companies ranging from Comcast to Benefits Data Trust.

“We want to keep this a family reunion,” said Landmark COO Mel Ochoa kicking off the first day. The day features on-stage panels, keynotes and breakout conversations. On-stage, (at-times troubled) corporations announce funding and inspiring examples of impact are elevated to the stage by their funders. Keynote speakers included Olympians and investor Mark Cuban. Hip hop icon and Fyre Festival co-promoter Ja Rule was in attendance. It’s quite a mix.

From dozens of speakers, here are lessons for impact leaders to take home.

  • “The voice of the customer is at least as important as the shareholder. Employees need to stand behind what the company says it stands for,” said Comcast Foundation chief Dalila Wilson-Scott, bold for a large corporate.
  • “Longterm social ills are our priority because they’re going to intersect with our business needs,” said Prudential Financial Senior Vice President for Diversity, Inclusion and Impact Lata Reddy. It’s a case for corporate philanthropy as a business strategy.

  • Corporate social responsibility develops in an organization over time: first to reduce harm, then to bolster a positive image and employee engagement and later to transform real change: Eventbrite Global Head of Social Impact Caroline Barlerin described the pattern she has seen in the development of corporate philanthropy programs.
  • “Don’t worry about saving others. Save yourself and let others watch:” Investor Matt McCall spoke about his own journey to impact.
  • “They ban us for the illusion of security,” said The Revolutionary Love Project founder Valarie Kaur in a stirring performance of her past TED talk on her global peace nonprofit.

  • 1 in 5 youth are not meeting basic levels of activity: Nike Foundation President Jorge Casimiro said, and young girls drop out twice as fast as boys, in highlighting their investment in WeCoach with founder Megan Bartlett.
  • “I questioned whether I could do this” without a Latina role model, said Olympic gold medal gymnast Laurie Hernandez on the concept of representation.
  • “1 in 5 entrepreneurs are Latinx. We create jobs, not take them,” said Acevedo Foundation President Beatriz Acevedo of the economic impact of the fastest-growing demographic.
  • “Solidarity doesn’t mean erasure,” said Revolve Impact cofounder Mike de la Rocha of growing challenges of intersectionality in a more diverse and inclusive landscape.
  • Having friends is as healthy as quitting smoking: said Brent Bushnell, the bowtie-wearing founder and CEO of Two Bit Circus, an entertainment-maker community space.
  • Lifetime learning is a necessity for all, and it’s where people will be left behind, said investor Mark Cuban. He shared that when he was first tracking investments in artificial intelligence, he took online courses, watched online video and generally built his own curriculum.


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