I was one of the 440 delegates selected to attend the Opportunity Collaboration gathering in Cancun, Mexico in October this year. OC 2018 brought together 400+ nonprofit executives, for-profit social entrepreneurs, grant-makers, impact investors, corporates, media and academics building sustainable solutions to poverty and injustice.
Being in Cancun to attend the gathering meant taking a 30-hour flight from India and skipping work for a week; considering the opportunity cost, I had pretty high expectations from the convening. (Here are the possibilities I expected to unleash prior to OC 2018 published in Medium — https://medium.com/@pratikgauri/the-road-to-oc-2018-reflections-and-possibilities-6ad33da613a6)
Being back in Delhi now, I can comfortably say that OC not only exceeded my expectations, but also gave me a family of extraordinary people spread across the world.
OC 2018 created productive and meaningful connections through the combination of leaders, purpose-businesses, policy, and technology.
The adventure began when I entered the location of the conference, Club Med, in Cancun — It immediately appeared to be a beautiful and heavenly place. Built on a private peninsula and lined by three spectacular beaches alongside the world’s second-largest coral reef, Club Med offers everything: gorgeous beaches, delicious local and global cuisine at various restaurants, and water-based adventures. It is both an ideal place to relax and to put your thinking hat on to co-create solutions to world’s most pressing challenges.
My 5-day roller coaster OC journey kicked off with meeting two of my favorite superhumans: Topher Wilkins, CEO of Opportunity Collaboration, and Avary Kent, Executive Director of conveners.org. We had an energising discussion exploring possible collaborations to take our current projects to the next level in order to better the world. Sipping a fancy mocktail at Club Med’s Soluna bar, I walked amidst the breeze towards the “Adventure Zone” and decided to try archery for the first time. Avary was kind enough to be my guide and I managed to learn enough tricks from her to even hit a bullseye.
After archery in the afternoon, I headed from the Adventure Zone to the La Hacienda restaurant(I discovered there were 3 restaurants serving different cuisines) for dinner and caught up with a few fellow OC delegates. Every person I met was leading incredible efforts to change the world, had lots of energy and passion, and was also so encouraging, kind, and generous. Receiving so much warmth from fellow delegates made me feel at home and I felt blessed to be a new member to the OC Family!
I decided to eat dinner with fellow members of the conveners.org community, whose mission states : “We are conveners for common good, coordinating, cooperating, and collaborating to advance our individual impact and collective impact in the social sector.” Over a 5 course delicious meal, I had an interesting conversation with a delegate and she offered to launch INY leadership movement — the social enterprise I run, in her home state in Washington.
After dinner at around 10pm, another delegate suggested we take a dip in the pool. While enjoying the warm Mexican evening weather in the pool, we conversed about the importance of climate change. The delegate was a Climate Scientist at UC Berkeley and we decided to collaboratively host Climate Change convenings in India. (A few months ago I was selected as one of the 75 Global Shapers to receive training in Climate Reality by former US Vice President Al Gore in Los Angeles. Here are my reflections also published by the World Economic Forum — https://medium.com/shapers-on-climate/must-we-change-can-we-change-will-we-change-a-global-shapers-reflections-on-the-climate-reality-60b4d91f14d5)
Early in the morning the next day, all the delegates gathered for an energising yoga session. I was very excited to attend my first Colloquium for the Common Good with 20 fellow delegates. The Colloquium is Opportunity Collaboration’s signature seminar on executive leadership, economic justice and the good society. Brilliantly moderated by Zohra Zohri, the Colloquium addressed the principles that drive poverty alleviation and asked us to think pragmatically about the nature of our leadership. We bonded very well over 4 colloquiums; it was definitely one of the best and unique seminars that I have attended. Also, it is the only seminar where I was able to sport a tee shirt and shorts — not bad, right?
A typical day at the OC included attending a colloquium, having conversations for change, capacity building clinics, and lunch/dinner salons. Conversations for Change are two-hour work sessions in which delegates intensively describe missions, strategies and common challenges around a central question, policy issue or theme. Salons are delegate-led mealtime discussions on a relevant topic of interest. Capacity-Building Clinics are delegate-inspired and organized professional development sessions in which delegates intensively coach each other.
Not only did I attend these amazing sessions, I also had the honor to co-catalyse a Conversation for Change on “Harnessing Youth Leadership to shape the world”. We spent 2 hours deliberating on the future of education and the classroom of 2050! By the Atlantic ocean, folks brainstormed curriculum, physical spaces for learning, faculty and mentors in 2050 and how we can make education more relevant for the future generations. I sincerely enjoyed co-hosting the session and it was a fantastic experience!
I spent a lot of time during the next 4 days over 1:1 networking appointments with notable attendees. These meetings were very unique and special. Over pool, bar or beach, I ended up making great friends through these appointments. I have already collaborated with 3 folks from 3 different countries to take the INY (India Needs You) leadership movement to the next level. The details of this process will make for an independent story soon.
Other charming vignettes of the OC included bonding with fellow delegates over adventure activities like trapeze, snorkeling, kayaking, water boating, and water skiing. While learning the many trapeze tricks with interesting names such as the Knee Hang, Gazelle, Straddle Whip, and the Splits, we continued our deeper conversations regarding cryptocurrency and Universal Basic Income. While exploring the Atlantic ocean, we also ended up exploring so many possibilities that exist to expand our work and amplify our impact. I even ended up learning a new favorite hobby: adventure water sports!
At the end of long days, carefree beach parties seemed a need of the hour. Donning our respective cultural attires (folks came from over 30 countries), we all hit the beach dancing. While the party was happening, we tried our hands at acrobatics. I never in my life thought I would have such an experience with such awesome humans from around the globe, and I am still in awe of the events that transpired at OC 2018.
Back in India as a more socially-conscious and purpose-driven leader with so many new friends, I write this as I continue to miss the OC adventure and extraordinary people I met. Blessed to be a part of the OC family, I am amazed and look forward to the array of opportunities that will open as I explore the friendships and connections forged at OC 2018.
PS: I am still overwhelmed with the support I have received from the OC family. I am very excited to dive deep into the OC community of 2000+ hard-working people making differences to create even more friendships and collaborations.
Post PS: I also happened to share my birthday during OC 2018; It was the best birthday week I could have wished for !