For me, it was just last week.
The conference? Hope Global Forum 2016.
What made it unbelievably amazing?
The serendipity of several things. Let me share a few of those here. I’ll share more takeaways in future posts.
About Hope Global Forum
Sponsored by Operation HOPE, Hope Global Forum (HGF) is “a community of events that serve as a call to action: to inspire innovation and thought leadership around an inclusive economy that works for all citizens.”
HGF is higher purpose in action.
My personal mission is connecting high achievers to higher purpose. HGF attracts my kind of people for my kind of purpose – high achievers from all sectors and several countries, each with a passion for making the world better place.
There were actors, activists, and athletes engaging together with pundits, politicians, and preachers. It was an environment ripe for serendipity, that is, for experiencing good things not sought after.
How I got to HGF
In two words: “social media.”
My favorite social media outlets are LinkedIn and Twitter. Both were instrumental in getting me to HGF.
Back in November, I read John Hope Bryant’s book, How the Poor Can Save Capitalism. I tweeted highlights from the book as I went through it on my Kindle. (You can view my Kindle highlights from the book here.) John is the founder of Operation Hope. He responded to my tweets and we forged a connection 140 characters at a time. What a great guy!
Then in December, I received a LinkedIn invitation to connect with Louis Enrique Negron, the President of the Atlanta Market Region for Operation HOPE. I accepted and we immediately engaged in deeper dialogue. As with John, a social media connection led to a personal bond. Another great guy!
Naturally, when Louis invited me to attend HGF, my enthusiastic response was, “Yes!”
So, you see, social media was my onramp to HGF.
I believe that social media channels can lead to real relationships. Granted, there are many people who don’t understand that and use their favorite social media channels for self-promotion and pontification. But, don’t let that dissuade you from the really rich relational potential of social media.
One of the goals Operation HOPE has for the HGF is to connect people and stimulate partnerships that continue after the Forum.
HGF recognizes that:
While the HGF participants shared a higher purpose, it was certainly a diverse crowd. Diverse in age, experience, profession, political persuasion and passion.
In a manner of speaking, HGF served as a great international banquet hall where people of purpose came together to meet, greet and eat.
Meeting, greeting and eating
Those of us who grew up in the southern United States recognizing that combining all three – meeting, greeting and eating – is a great way to begin a friendship.
Indeed, at every conference you can meet people and most conferences provide opportunities for greeting, but as I see it, eating is essential for human connection. Through my connection to Louis, I managed an invitation to grab a bit during the “pre-reception reception.”
A pre-reception reception. Who knew those existed?
To my amazement, serendipity abounded at the pre-reception reception. During that 90 minutes I met purpose-driven people and engaged in several rich conversations over bites of nachos, guacamole, and popcorn.
For example, I had a rich conversation on the development of leadership and organizational capacity in the social sector. In another conversation we explored the importance of marketing and messaging to mobilize the masses. Good food, great company, stimulating discussions.
Social media redux: JuJaMa
The HGF organizers used JuJaMa, an online platform and mobile app that facilitated interaction among meeting participants — before, during, and after the forum.
I used JuJaMa in advance of HGF to connect with people I knew and to make sure we met while at the conference. I love how JuJaMa integrates social media, especially LinkedIn right into its platform.
A pleasant surprise for me – in other words, serendipity – was the number of people with whom I reconnected during the three days. Some, I hadn’t seen in a few months. For others it had been 8 – 10 years since our paths last crossed. But there we were, intersecting again, attracted by higher purpose.
And then there was the opportunity to connect on-land with people I have only known online. There were a few of those. This might sound strange to some, but several, of my online relationships are every bit as authentic as those relationships with people whom I see regularly in person.
Chatting and chewing/developing and doing
I love healthy dialogue and robust discussions. I can “chat and chew” for hours.
The theme of HGF was “Reimagining the Global Economy” as one that works for everyone — whoever and wherever you are in the world.
Included in the program were discussions of policy, showcases of innovative thought and action across all sectors: business, industry, government, arts, education and entertainment. All focusing on what’s being done or could be done to increase opportunity and participation in the global economy.
There was plenty to chat and chew about between sessions.
But it wasn’t just talking heads and bleeding hearts. It was a call to action. Informed, passionate, purposeful, personal, and professional.
Knowledge is essential. But unless knowledge leads to informed action, what good is it?
Or as John Hope Bryant put it,
Here’s one way I spin that:
Business-in-a-Box – everyone wins
One primary way that Operation HOPE promotes action is through HOPE Business In A Box. This program provides educational opportunities and mentorship to young entrepreneurs.
Friday’s lunch session featured a “Pitch Competition” showcasing four organizations founded by young entrepreneurs putting their learning into practice. The pitches rivaled any you would see on an episode of Shark Tank.
The young entrepreneurs wowed the judges and the audience with their entrepreneurship. But unlike Shark Tank, is there were no losers in the Pitch Competition. Each contestant received financial support, technology, and most of all, mentoring.
The winner was Alexia of Miniature Chefs. She’s one to follow on her journey.
What’s next after HGF?
Now I’m digging out after three days away at a conference. Following up with phone calls, emails, tweets, and LinkedIn connections. Finding ways to take action on the ideas we explored. While the precise date for next year’s HGF is not yet finalized, the meeting is slated for March in Atlanta and will celebrate 25 years of Operation HOPE. I can’t wait! And I hope to see you there, virtually, and in person.
Looking to learn more about Operation HOPE? Check them out via their website or follow them on Twitter (@OperationHOPE).
I’m compiling my Tweetable Takeaways from HGF in what I’m calling the Higher Purpose Highlights inspired by Hope Global Forum. I’ll share those soon to inspire you on your pursuit of higher purpose.