Many people I know and respect had told me that Opportunity Collaboration was the best conference they went to. Being an unconference, the guidance was “it is what you make of it”.
From the moment we were all boarding the flight from Mexico City to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, I knew I was in for something different. It felt like we were going to summer camp. The plane was abuzz with conversations. Fellow conference goers were already meeting and engaging one another. The conversations ensued on the bus ride from the airport to the conference facilities, Club Med. Even though most of us had been on red-eyes to get to Mexico City, the air sparked with energy and enthusiasm.
Upon arrival at Club Med, we were taken to Communications Central where each of us had mail slots. This was one way of connecting with each other. I came to refer the slips of paper I would find in my box, asking to meet, as love notes. It proved to be an efficient method of scheduling time with interesting people. The only difficult part was where to meet. By the pool? In the bar? Walk on the beach? One of my favorite moments was scheduling a meeting using my iPhone. The location of the meeting? “Beach”. I laughed typing that in.
I can safely say that every conversation I had throughout the week, be it in a breakout session, before or after colloquium (homeroom class), by the pool, or saddled up at the bar, were fascinating learning moments. I have been to hundreds, if not thousands of conferences throughout my professional career; that never happens. There is a magic combination of attracting 350 passionate people from around the sector and the relaxed environment that allows for truly interesting discussions. The transactional nature of “typical” conferences has no place at Opportunity Collaboration. I went from one impromptu discussion on what role BIG banks can play in this sector to a dinner breakout on spiritual activism.
The connections I made at the conference go way beyond having a business card. I have already had a number of conversations with people I met, some of which were “thank you”, others “see you soon” and others still “let me connect you with people I believe can help you”. And who knows where other connections I made will go. There were many stories of people meeting several years ago at Opportunity Collaboration and now they are working together.
Opportunity Collaboration is an unconference about continuing to build a strong and resilient social impact sector through relationships. Like good wine, it takes time.
From the Desk of Pamela Roussos, Director of Strategic Alliances