May 18, 2016 | | by

As a freelancer, I love going to conferences that give me a chance to learn from others in my field. But, as a freelancer, the excitement is always tinged with a little of what I call “Middle School Cafeteria Syndrome.”

What if I sit at a table and everyone already knows each other and ignore me? What if they are all talking about something I know nothing about and I’m left out? (I had a rough middle school).

The SEEED Summit in Providence, RI was definitely not that old school. Simply put, the conference was filled with really high-energy people doing cool shit.

The SEEED Summit is one of the nation’s largest and most vibrant gathering of social entrepreneurs, global innovators, problem solvers, and impact investors – the leaders trying to address the world’s problems (income inequality, racial tensions, environmental degradation) through innovation and entrepreneurship. These are the folks for whom “social” means the common good and not necessarily your Instagram account. The keynotes and breakout sessions all covered some aspect of how to grow and transform enterprises that consider the Triple Bottom Line, and all the people I met were humble and interesting and ready to get to work.

For the Digaboom community, I could see three large trends that were particularly exciting.


“Coopetition” over Competition

One of the recurring themes to the two-day event was that collaboration is vital to the social economy. In other words, the very nature of these enterprises means an attitude of “coopetition” rather than competition. After all, systemic problems require system solutions and system solutions require network approaches.

This is important because it is part and parcel of the shift to the new economy and portfolio careers. Where traditional businesses may turn to traditional agencies for their marketing needs, a social impact organization may be looking for experts in crafting a core identity and branding that fits a new business model and a new type of consumer.

I know far more individual specialists in social impact marketing than I know of agencies, so organizations will be better off building their own team of on-demand talent than trying to fit into an agency’s personality.

Traditional Siloes Aren’t Going to Save the World

Another intriguing aspect of the social enterprise world is the very interdisciplinary nature of it.

The first workshop I attended was by Mollie West of IDEO on using design thinking to solve problems. The room was packed and there was a lot of really good discussion on how to harness creativity and innovation in problem solving. The very things that are the reason we do the work we do can be used to improve the world we live in.

This is important because Digaboom is all about cross-disciplinary teams. The thing that attracted me to the concept of Digaboom was the ability to connect and partner with talented people in lots of different fields. I am in control of that and don’t have to wait for a project to team up with an SEO expert or a UX designer.

It’s All About the Story

SEEED16_2459Lastly and the one that is nearest and dearest to my heart is the role of good storytelling in all this. From fundraising to advocacy to network building, the role of storytelling is clear. And in good hands.

Jay Coen Gilbert of B-Corps opened with a story of a young man with Greyston Bakery. Willy Foote of Root Capital gave us the story of Root Capital’s growth and transformation (with songs) and Doug Rauch entertained us with his story of founding the Daily Table.

Whether I am helping an organization create or refine its core brand or creating a digital strategy plan, I’m focusing on the story. And I see similar approaches across the Digaboom talent platform. We all value story in one way or another and acknowledge that the power of a clearly defined and well-told story goes well beyond the current “storytelling” mania that has struck the communications field over the past few years.

There is no doubt in my mind that I will want to be at next year’s SEEED Summit.

What I really hope, though, is to come armed with great stories of the interesting social impact projects taken on by Digaboom talent over this next year. So, let me know what you’re doing and what you are interested in doing.