Cascais, Portugal. It’s Tuesday evening, it’s extremely hot for me and I’m a bit anxious as I approach the Summit registration desk. At any other conference or similar event I would be wandering about by myself, not talking much and waiting for the whole thing to be over. Not here. Even before registering I meet familiar faces and an electric atmosphere, and within moments it’s full blown conversations about super interesting and impactful topics. What kind of Summit is this? It’s the European B Corp gathering of course, the only business event that I have had the pleasure of attending so far in which people are genuinely excited and interested and really try to make the most of their time together. No delays, the registration and welcome gives a great start to the event and by the end of the evening I have a lot of “we’ll continue this discussion tomorrow” promises (which actually does happen the next day, people are not just being polite here).
Towards the end of the welcome I finally locate Francesco, co CEO of mondora, and we agree on meeting up with the other Italian B Corps for a dinner which gives us the time to catch up on things and meet some newbies. There is definitely a lot of anticipation for the two day Summit ahead and everyone can’t wait to get started.
The next day as I enter the conference hall I immediately get the feeling that this is going to be different, not just different from other events, but different from other B Corp events too. There is a stage and there is a slide projected behind it, but there are also lots of round tables and the chairs are set around the tables, rather than in neat lines facing the stage. This room is screaming “collaboration” at me and I love it as the theme of the Summit is Interdependence.
It all starts with a very traditional welcome speech, but that’s as far as the traditional part goes. After that the magic begins, with a few B Corps sharing their “story of Interdependence”, just to start getting everyone inspired to share, collaborate and innovate together. Which is exactly what people do the rest of the day: there is great engagement during the keynote speeches, during coffee breaks you barely have time to sip your coffee because you’re so busy asking and answering questions and, my favourite part, this Summit was packed with “open space” collaboration moments in which everyone could contribute to group discussions and really get something practical and achievable out of the day.
Me and Francesco unfortunately missed a part of the morning talks as it was our turn to be interviewed in a separate area of the venue. The interview was also quite fun anyway and although I had to give it a few goes, I was able to share some interesting stories about mondora and especially about how our colleagues live the fact that we are a B Corp and how onboarding of new people works. Look out for the video!
During the breakout sessions I got the chance to share ideas with a small group of people and met some interesting companies that are facing our same issues regarding how to incorporate company culture into daily routines. I shared our practice of having Failure Parties to eliminate fear of trying (and making mistakes) and learned some other things we can try out in mondora too. I spent lunch desperately searching for some shade and then it was back into action again with the brilliantly organised “idea marketplace”: here there was not only open space discussion, but anyone could propose a topic and form a group to discuss it! Both me and Francesco chose the tech discussion of course and then I moved on to a second discussion about events and how to leverage existing ones to spread the word of B Corporations.
By the end of the day I would have been completely drained in any other situation, but the passion, positivity and engagement of the people I met at the B Corp Summit gave me the energy to keep going and enjoy every moment. Once the discussions had come to a close I had time for a quick dip in the blissfully cool ocean before getting ready for a lovely dinner with the most amazing sunset and more interesting talk of interdependence and how we can all work together to achieve a better world (just your average light hearted dinner topic).
The next day was very exciting because Francesco had a five minute slot in which to share mondora’s story of Interdependence, which I recorded live on Facebook after much pressure from my colleagues back in Italy who all wanted to be part of this. Francesco explained how we use Interdependence as a clause in agreements with customers so that we can form a network of benefit creators with everything we do. You can read about some examples of how these agreements work in his latest post Benefit and the Six Degrees of Separation.
The rest of the morning went by in a blur of explosive ideas as I joined an all ladies group in designing our ideal planet and then looking back at what are the first real steps that we can take today to work towards this ideal. Before lunch we just about managed to share every group’s ideas and a recurring theme was that of educating children to the B Corp way of doing business and considering positive impact creation just as much (or more than?) profit in a company. Ideas ranged from events in schools, to B Corp summer camps to including young family members in strategic business decisions. Amazing!
The Summit ended with a few more really inspiring talks and marked the start of a second event dedicated to Cascais and local businesses. It was a great success and I’m happy to say I experienced many improvements from last year’s event, which was already pretty good. There were many more moments of interaction and collaboration and although it was much more energy consuming than just sitting and listening, it was fantastic to be able to participate actively for two whole days and get to talk with so many wonderful and enthusiastic people. There were some very touching speeches, such as those of Streetwize and Davines to name just a few, and there were lots and lots of amazing conversations and ideas that led to practical steps we can all work on together to improve the world through the power of businesses.
It’s hard to put into words what I take home from this Summit. Plenty of tips and practical ideas to work on immediately for a start, but also something more, a feeling of being part of something that is really making a difference. Working for a B Corp gives me so much more than just a salary. It gives me, as it gives everyone else who was at the summit and all our colleagues who were not there, the knowledge that we are really changing the world together, not just in words, but in real and tangible actions. We truly are a force for good and we are becoming an even bigger force through interdependence.