Opportunity Collaboration – Poverty Alleviation Un-Conference

I signed up this week to participate as a delegate in Opportunity Collaboration, which is described as "a four-day strategic and problem-solving retreat for for nonprofit leaders, for-profit social entrepreneurs, funders and social investors."  The focus is on the reduction of poverty.  Opportunity Collaboration founder and CEO Jonathan Lewis describes the retreat on his I on Poverty blog on Social Edge:

At the Opportunity Collaboration – now famously noted for its “no plenary, no panels, no powerpoints” rule – every Delegate is both a learner and a contributor. A working business meeting of anti-poverty leaders, the Opportunity Collaboration’s animating purpose is laser-focused on the nitty-gritty of rolling up our sleeves to get things done. And, not just getting to work, but also working more efficiently and more impactfully.

The retreat's agenda is intriguing.  It includes the following:

Colloquium for the Common Good.  The 2010 Colloquium invites participants to explore the practical tension between traditional philanthropy and the increasingly popular idea that social enterprise provides the best means of alleviating poverty. The debate over philanthropy and social enterprise is a challenge to all of us to create “capitalism with a human face.” In the ideal, market consciousness combines with people consciousness to produce leaders who recognize human nature as it is and work to produce practical solutions to the problem of poverty.

The 2010 Colloquium readings advance a solution to poverty which involves understanding the engines of both capitalism and human need. In these readings, Delegates will hear the voices of the disenfranchised, but also the voices of those who believe they have found a route to empowerment. The following readings reveal both the promise and the danger of top-down or externally imposed solutions, allowing Delegates to consider a productive combining of market forces with an ethics of care.

Conversational Cluster-Forks.  Delegates select between structured small group discussions entitled Conversational Cluster-Forks, private business meetings or self-directed discussions. Conversational Cluster-Forks are mealtime discussions exploring a Delegate's focused topic of interest. Topics cover a wide range of policy, geographic, organizational, entrepreneurial and poverty-related themes, allowing Delegates to showcase their ideas, organizations and expertise. Discussions are attended by Delegates on a first-come, first-served basis.

Collaboration Challenges are extended work sessions in which Delegates intensively share missions and common issues around a central question or theme. Topics explore effective multi-dimensional poverty-alleviation strategies. Each session follows a common format that is designed to elicit a genuine search for collaborative solutions and spark cross-sector insights and partnerships.

In addition, presumably to help facilitate balance and time for introspection and informal networking, there are early morning yoga classes, wellness programs, and casual convenings.


Some Resources on Poverty:

Anup Shah, Poverty Facts and Stats, Global Issues, Updated: March 28, 2010

National Poverty Center, Poverty in the United States FAQs