How many times have you heard the word “unprecedented” in the last year? Well, add another tally to your list because the Turner Family Center hosted an unprecedented sixth annual Social Ventures Summit, creating an entirely virtual event in light of the on-going coronavirus pandemic and social distancing guidelines, along with the largest snowfall Nashville has seen in years coinciding with the week of Summit.
Regardless of the fact that we couldn’t be together in person, the importance of community and connection was emphasized throughout the Summit. We were lucky to have the incredible Becca Stevens – author, speaker, Episcopal priest, justice entrepreneur, and founder and president of Thistle Farms – as our keynote speaker. She talked about the importance of starting really small when wanting to make an impact, so that you can do it alongside of people. That way, we can hold each other up and hold each other accountable while creating change.
Our coffee panel, including Brett Struwe, Executive Lead at Sustenance Coffee, Mbula Musua, Founder and Chief Empowerment Officer at Utake Coffee, Levi Booser, Chief People Officer at Bellwether Coffee, and Phyllis Johnson, Founder and Board Member of the Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity, and moderated by Kelley-Frances Fenelon, a PhD candidate in Vanderbilt’s Community Research and Action program, spoke of understanding that in order to create impact through action, it’s about embracing the long road and understanding the coalition and community that must be created.
Even in planning the sixth annual Social Ventures Summit, the Summit Committee wanted attendees to have the opportunity to network as organically as possible. Through Zoom breakout rooms and open conversation sessions, we fostered as much connection between attendees and speakers as we could. We were also able to have more participants from countries around the globe – we had over 200 people register to attend Summit!
When extenuating circumstances prohibit people from gathering in person, it’s about being resilient and finding ways to bring those people together. Listening to the importance of community from our speakers at this year’s Social Ventures Summit just made me even more grateful for the TFC as it inherently fosters connections within Vanderbilt and beyond.
Becca Stevens concluded her keynote with the reminder that in difficult times, remember to look past the grey, because you never when a halo moon might appear. While there has been a great deal of grey over the past year, the sixth annual TFC Social Ventures Summit reminded me that there is hope, change, and good on the horizon – and I am confident that the TFC and Summit attendees are on the forefront of that change.
We are deeply grateful to all who joined us in attending this year’s Summit – as well as our partners who made this virtual platform such a success.