#SOCAP23 Convenes Leaders in San Francisco at the Speed of Trust: What Might this Mean for Leaders and their Organizations?

#SOCAP23 Convenes Leaders in San Francisco at the Speed of Trust: What Might this Mean for Leaders and their Organizations?


An unprecedented group of leaders are getting off zoom and gathering at #SOCAP2023 this week in San Francisco to confront an also unprecedented array of complex social, economic and environmental challenges. The annual coming-together of “the most engaged and diverse impact investing community in the world” is billed as “the largest, action-oriented gathering where investors, entrepreneurs, and social impact leaders come together to accelerate progress against the world’s toughest challenges through market-based solutions.” This year’s theme however is none of those topics. The theme is accelerating trust, without which there cannot be nearly enough collaboration to meet this rather terrifying moment.

With the focus on “trust” in mind, it is worth asking what we mean by this all-too-familiar word that is too easily tossed around. Members of the remarkable LEADS program at Harvard Business School will remember our look at trust as part of a deep dive into generating social capital effectively. And trust certainly comes up in every conversation we have at Koya Partners | Diversified Search Group about executive roles in the social impact sector, especially when we talk about the core competencies our clients are seeking in candidates.

I asked colleague and frequent collaborator René Redwood, CEO of Redwood Enterprise, to shed some light why this word “trust” matters so much. A coach and consultant in high demand, René has many credentials and kudos to warrant asking her this question. Just two such distinctions: she led the Presidential Glass Ceiling Commission and is on the investment committee of the Ms. Foundation for Women. René was also a Senior Consultant and Small Business Collaborating Partner with the Franklin Covey Institute.

“Trust is foundational for cooperation, and it is an ‘actionable asset’ for effective collaboration.” Rene Redwood, CEO Redwood Enterprise.

René – what does #SOCAP23 we mean by “trust” in this context?

The subtitle “Impact at the Speed of Trust” pulls from Stephen M.R. Covey’s book “The Speed of Trust” where trust is defined as the confidence born of the character and competence of an individual or an institution. The ability for #SOCAP23 to deliver on its mission “to unlock the power of markets for impact for all” relies on collaboration, and that happens best when there is trust between the parties.

What are the implications of putting “trust” at the center of the agenda in a gathering of leaders whose sometimes-rival institutions have so much at stake?

 It’s a very exciting way to frame the investment of being at #SOCAP23 for so many capable and committed professionals. Truly, this kind of thinking increases the probability of consequential actions emerging from the conference and we need that to happen.

 Will you please take us deeper into this idea of “trust” as an accelerator of impact? What should organizational leaders focus on to demonstrate they are on board?

When we talk about trust, we talk about the 13 Behaviors of Trust (bolded for emphasis so readers can adopt them) that can be expressed as intentional practices for leaders and organizations seeking to create synergies for societal contributions. Collaboration requires Clarifying ExpectationsKeeping CommitmentConfronting Reality and to Talk Straight about opportunities and challenges. Developing strategies and curating content rooted in equity and diversity Demonstrates Respect and highlighting the process of creation Creates Transparency

How will we know if this focus on the speed of trust has the desired effect?

 As the convener and as an elite platform for sharing information and offering learning sessions, #SOCAP23 has the opportunity to demonstrate its capabilities to Deliver Results and continue to Get BetterPracticing Accountability with the gathered community of entrepreneurs, social impact leaders, and investors includes being able to Listen First and to Show Loyalty which is to acknowledge and give credit to others. Trust is foundational for cooperation, and it is an “actionable asset” for effective collaboration.  We’ll know it worked if we hear that participants are leaning into relationships during and as a result of the gathering, and generating new levels of value together.

Can this enlightened approach to trust be taught or is it just the province of people with certain personalities and backgrounds?

Absolutely leaders can be taught to value trust as a core value and to rely on it as part of an operating strategy. Leaders who put the work in get results. A cautionary note: knowing when not-to-trust is just as important and relies on the same principles. If someone has shown you they do not have the character or competency to deliver on their promises – or that their organization does not prioritize these virtues, beware!

In addition to being Principal and Founder of Emblem Strategic LLC, Andy Tarsy is a Managing Director with Koya Partners, a Diversified Search Group company. He is a volunteer trustee of the Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology where he chairs the Governance and Strategy Committee and teaches at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. Andy is also a partner in the supplier diversity consultancy Conscious Customers.

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