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Orbits in the Social Venture Universe


I spent last week at Social Venture Institute (SVI) at Hollyhock, a gathering I’ve been to many times over the past 10 years. It’s hard to explain what SVI is if you haven’t heard about it. Hollyhock is located on Cortes Island on Klahoose, Tla’amin & Homalco territory. It is a place where folks come together to reimagine what is possible and to connect with other folks who are looking to find new ways of being in the world. It is a journey from Vancouver to get there but it is worth every minute.

Each year, Hollyhock Leadership Institute gathers 120-150 energized folks with ideas that are changing the world for a 5 day conference. It is a highly engaged event filled with folks who are pushing boundaries and using business & not for profit skills to move ideas forward towards systems change and social and ecological justice. This year we dove deep into truth and reconciliation with Melanie Mark, Karen Joseph of Reconciliation Canada. We were held in ceremony and deep dialogue on how we collectively can move forward. It is tough work and the content is always pushing the edges of the work we need to do together. I am left thinking more about the importance of supporting our matriarchs as we move forward together.


Social ventures or social enterprises are projects or businesses that apply innovative and entrepreneurial thinking to positively impact a social challenge. The structure of a social venture could be a not for profit, a charity or a business and in some cases both. But this isn’t a post about structure - it is a reflection about the social venture universe and all the amazing folks who intersect at these gatherings. It’s a reflection about the human orbits at SVI.


SVI brings together a wide range of folks who work in the social venture space. I like to think of it as a social venture universe with stars, planets and moons that have the potential to align to create an incredible night sky.


The conversations never stop as we spiral and dive deep into dialogue, we travel through space and time along many paths over 5 full days together.

Connections, intersections and reconnections are sparked on every forest path and entranceway to a workshop. The program moves through the Hollyhock campus from water taxi to shuttle to garden, to dinner tables, to the porch overlooking a rising full moon. The circular wood framed buildings on campus transport us all into another way of seeing the world - looking up through the trees to the sky while the ravens gurgle.




You can be in a conversation for 24 hours a day for 5 days if you chose to do that but sleep is always a good option and I recommend taking a lot of breaks (I’m an introvert at heart). Naps and cold plunges in the ocean are highly encouraged to reset the nervous system. There is always a chance for a random meeting along a path.


You never know who you might sit beside at a meal, walk with on a path or settle down to sing next to at a campfire. You may not even feel like singing and you find yourself in a song that matters - in a moment that matters. In the 5 days of the conference it is nearly impossible to meet everyone and yet some people just keep showing up in your orbit. I make a point of trying to figure out why we are meant to meet on the path. There is no chance meeting at SVI. I often wonder about the possibility of a higher power at Hollyhock because these meetings don’t feel random.


My experience is that some of the folks you bump into over and over again. I often say “you are in my orbit” because it feels like we are circling the conference together and that we keep seeing each other on our journey. It is the same folks, over and over. And others I never cross paths with.


I’ve returned home now from SVI and folks are reaching out to re-connect. Some folks I spent hours with and others I only saw in the corner of my eye. We were just in different orbits. It’s one of the reasons to return.


I have a hunch that the more we find our way into new orbits, realms and patterns, the more that the mixing will lead us to new possibilities for the future.


I look forward to running into you in another slice of space and time.

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