Social Venture Institute / Hudson Valley: Laying the Foundations for High-Impact Ventures

How can we create regenerative businesses? How can we inspire communities, cultures and conditions for businesses that improve the world? How can we build and lead high-impact organizations while also supporting whole-person leadership and leading healthy lifestyles? 

These were some of the questions asked and answered at the May 2015 Social Venture Institute / Hudson Valley, a weekend retreat at which 40 individuals from a wide range of sectors came together at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY, in pursuit of transformational innovation, growth and impact for themselves and their organizations. 

Photo: Scott Tillitt

Photo: Scott Tillitt

Over the course of three days, workshop participants — who included “the dreamers and doers, the thinkers, the visionary world-changers, creators and catalysts… social entrepreneurs, and innovative business-builders and nonprofit leaders” — heard from a number of leaders in the space about their own challenges and successes. Through Case Studies and unique True Confessions sessions, attendees engaged in targeted question and feedback sessions.

There will be obstacles if you do what you love, and there will be obstacles if you don’t. So you might as well do what you love.
— Decora, emcee and poet (SVIHV performer)
Decora (photo: Benjamin Ryan Nathan)

Decora (photo: Benjamin Ryan Nathan)

Emerging Themes

I came to SVI Hudson Valley with an open mind and willingness to learn. Over the last months, I’d been working on a project to create therapeutic and supportive employment opportunities for victims of domestic violence.

As a social entrepreneur, a resident of Poughkeepsie, and having just completed two years of coursework in Bard’s MBA in Sustainability program, I was eager to meet and hear about the experiences of social entrepreneurs who are living and working in the Hudson Valley. 

While I did take away a wealth of information on best practices and innovative approaches to leading change, what I most appreciated was a series of important and inspiring reminders from leaders who are much more experienced and wiser than myself to slow down, reflect, and be. 

I’m not a blood bank. There are no emergencies. Sometimes I take a few days to make a decision.
— Sharon Rowe

Through True Confessions sessions with Matt Stinchcomb, co-founder of Etsy and ED of its nascent nonprofit, and Sharon Rowe, founder/CEO of Ecobags, Case Studies, and mindfulness and strategic visioning exercises, themes of the importance of throwing the typical how-to business guides out the window continued to jump out at me. Here are some snapshots: 

Everything that you need to know is within you; it’s just a question of activating that knowledge.

Just think about that for a minute. You already know everything that you need to, but in order to access that information, you need to stop, breath and reflect. This involves trusting your intuition, a skill that is best developed through practice, though not taught in any classrooms. 

Take a vacation and take your time.

It’s not about time management; it’s about energy management.
— Flip Brown

Easier said than done, right? In working in the social enterprise industry and battling everyday to lay the foundation for a better world, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with a sense of urgency.

It’s important to remember that we are more effective implementers and happier people when we take the time to take care of ourselves. As Flip Brown said in his workshop on Business as a Practice, “It’s not about time management; it’s about energy management.”

Your competitors aren’t really your competitors.

By celebrating and collaborating with those who work in the same space or industry, we will do better work more quickly. Don’t underestimate the value of a strong partnership or forget that your competitors are often creating more demand for socially conscious products or services. 

Make mistakes and move on.

Mistakes are part of the game. Expect that they’ll happen. We learn from them when we take time to recover and reflect. After all, failure is a just disguise for growth.

Photo: Scott Tillitt

Photo: Scott Tillitt

We move better through stress when we ourselves are balanced.

By building our ability to concentrate and find our center, we are better able to be engaged in what we’re working on and to come back to that place of peace in challenging moments. Concentration, like intuition, is a muscle that we do not often exercise. 

Roll with the punches.

Planning for your day or your life is an attempt to maintain control. While it’s ok to do this, it’s important to recognize that the plan isn’t going to play out exactly as we expect. Lean into the unexpected and embrace that sometimes those surprises are key to moving forward. 

Taking it all Home 

How will a weekend of being surrounded by inspiring minds and great wisdom impact me and my future entrepreneurial endeavors?

I took away a commitment to build my community and learn from the knowledge and wisdom within it, while also taking the time to sit and be centered so as to better trust my intuition and find the answers that are already in myself.

For the short term, I think this means participating in meditation regularly. And for the longer term, well, I’ll see you at SVI Hudson Valley next year.

Justine Porter.jpeg

Justine Porter was our SVI Hudson Valley 2015 Fellow. As part of her fellowship, she documented her experience and how she’ll use it going forward. Bard College will also publish it. The Fellowship is sponsored by the SVI Hudson Valley team (Antidote Collective, On Belay Business Advisors and Re>Think Local) with financial support from Topical BioMedics.