Silver Lining: The Year of Going Virtual

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There is no doubt about it, 2020 has been a challenging year, perhaps the most challenging of our work life so far. As a Benefit Corporation focused on in-person conferences and events (not currently allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic), the dynamic team at Social Enterprises had to take the operating world as we know it and create a new path. The heart and soul of this company are based on gathering leaders in-person to collaborate, learn, and drive action around best practices for social causes to obtain maximum impact. Quickly, we had to figure out how to achieve the same or similar impact that we typically accomplish onsite at an event, on a new and unknown virtual platform. How do we best deliver the same program content, expert speaker learning, networking collaboration, and partner experience online?

Somehow we did it immediately, through extensive research, trial and error, and hands-on learning. Our last in-person events in 2020 were WOHESC at the University of Oregon and Veloz’s Electric Transportation 2030 meeting the first week of March. Since then, the team has brilliantly executed only virtual events encompassing full conference programs, with a similar amount of speakers and an even larger viewing audience, since travel to virtual events is not allowed/advised.

Starting with the Eco-School Network Stand With Our Children Stand for the Earth Virtual Benefit on June 5th, we help to raise over $50,000 to fund school compost programs, switching to durable silverware, school gardens, student green teams, herbicide-free schoolyards, and training parent leaders. Next up, Pac-12 Team Green organized A Future We Can All Believe In Lessons from COVID-19 on June 24th, which took the place of our normal in-person annual conference. We had the opportunity to use this shared global pandemic experience to inform a more just and sustainable world via current and former Pac-12 student-athletes turning their platform into an opportunity for activism, the NCAA forming a COVID-19 Advisory Panel focused on athletics action and academics from Pac-12 schools demonstrating the tie between the curve and climate change. 

The 10-year anniversary of the GoGreen Conference in Seattle went virtual, originally scheduled for Earth Month in April, focused on where stand in fifty years since the first Earth Day and creating a low carbon, prosperous and equitable economy. Delayed to September 8th (hoping for an in-person/hybrid event to no avail), we covered priority topics including green transportation, building decarbonization, bridging the urban/rural divide, climate action, diversity, equity, inclusion, and thinking intergenerationally. A new client in 2020, ASHA International brought us the annual Grit & Grace Conference on September 18th, which brings together women from across cultures to inspire, educate and empower each other to take charge of their mental health and cultivate resilience and well-being.

Our multi-year client and bi-annual conference Rewards NW, the only total rewards conference in the Pacific Northwest region, delivered a half-day virtual event in place of their in-person conference originally scheduled on October 6th. We look forward to welcoming everyone back in person next year at our new event venue the Hyatt at Olive 8, on October 1st, 2021. The Washington State Solar Summit organized by new client Solar Washington went virtual for the first time with our help, reaching those engaged in solar deployment, education, and advocacy in Washington state. 

October closed out with a bang featuring our second event in the Pac-12 Team Green virtual series – Amplifying Voices for Change. With this event, the Pac-12 Conference moved their commitment to social justice forward by providing information and education on the importance of voting along with promoting change by preparing students and future leaders to be involved not only this year but moving forward.

Finally, the national E-Mobility Equity Conference, produced in partnership with long-time client Forth, went virtual to explore and facilitate real conversations about strategies and best practices for engaging diverse communities.

It has been a heck of a year of ups, downs, and lots of new learning. We truly appreciate the opportunity to work with new impact-focused clients and projects to make our virtual event world a new reality moving forward. Working at our home offices on a daily basis, we appreciate the time we make to connect with clients and team members on a weekly basis so that we don’t lose our connection and communication while making it all happen in a pandemic. Here’s to a fresh start in 2021 and our continuing world of new beginnings!

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