The Triple Bottom Line Investing conference this week - the organization’s first in the US after an illustrious 15 years in Europe - was an outstanding event for the impact investing space in New York. Compared to other conferences in the space, TBLI achieved the most in getting mainstream asset owners and managers in the room, alongside the leading investors and field builders from the emergent field of impact investing. Illustratively, their sponsors (for the first year of the event, remember!) included BNP Paribas, USAID, Gate Global Impact, and Mintz Levin.
Of course, it’s one challenge to get people to sponsor and attend a conference. But then the question is what to do with them. On this dimension too, TBLI succeeded. The team’s long experience with event planning was evident. Founder Robert Rubinstein set an excellent tone for engaging and provocative discussions. Indeed, each session I attended was characterized by complementary and at times conflicting view points, which drove honest consideration about the challenges and shortcomings of impact investing. There was also plenty to celebrate, with a variety of accomplished impact investors and entrepreneurs in attendance.
After the opening sessions, they held a moderator pitch session, allowing each moderator to attract participants to their session in a 30-second overview of the topic, speakers, and format. This was a quick and easy way to make the conference agenda come to life, and results were evident in the well-attended, dynamic breakout sessions.
Finally, the timing of the conference was wise, with long (nearly 2 hour) sessions and breaks (30 minutes for coffee breaks and 90 minutes for lunch). The long panels enabled - indeed forced - speakers and the audience to really dig into the topic at hand, with ample dialogue and exchange. The long breaks, in turn, facilitated the ultimate goal of conferences: networking among participants.
I thoroughly enjoyed the day and a half with the nascent US-based TBLI community and look forward to next year’s event: May 29-30, 2014 in New York City! I may even fly over to Zurich to experience the original, European version in November…