The impact convening space is growing. Each day, Conveners.org learns of new conferences, summits and gatherings in all corners of the world designed to bring together innovators, influencers, and change makers focused on sourcing solutions to the world’s most critical challenges. The impact leaders who organize these events use the power of convening to advance positive change by sharing knowledge, fostering meaningful connections, and creating intentional spaces that inspire action. The steady growth of these types of convenings is the inspiration for this inaugural State of the Convening Ecosystem report. The purpose of this report is to identify and evaluate the current characteristics, trends, and impact of social enterprise- and innovation-focused convenings, while setting this in the context of the broader impact convening movement. To do this, our team analyzed data submitted to our Global Calendar in 2016. This data set of about 500 events from 50 countries, along with qualitative interviews, informed the development of this report. We hope these insights not only help to advance the convening ecosystem, but also lead to more effective impact gatherings that empower agents of change and ultimately accelerate positive impact in all communities.  Please note that the data and insights shared on this page only reflect data captured in Conveners.org's 2016 Global Calendar—not the full global impact convening landscape. If you would like to add a future impact convening to our current Global Calendar, which will inform future reports, we invite you to do so here


The 21st century has seen an exponential rise in conscious networks that convene in person to explore ways to advance positive social, environmental, and economic impact. Much of today's impact convening ecosystem—which consists of gatherings ranging in audience size, event type, location, and focus area—was shaped by progressive thinking formed in the 1960's and 1970's, and has roots in the first impact-related gatherings of the 1980's. The following timeline highlights leading conferences that have been instrumental in catalyzing and advancing social entrepreneurship, impact investing, sustainable business, and social impact across the globe over the past three decades. The majority of these organizations host annual gatherings that are open to the public, and some have helped to inspire the birth of new impact convenings and global networks. This timeline has been curated from conversations with Conveners.org community members, as well as publicly available information found on the following organizations' websites and Wikipedia pages. While it represents a cross-section of well-known impact convenings in the United States—it is not an exhaustive list of the many conferences, unconferences, summits, workshops, and other events that have contributed to this movement.


Data from the Conveners.org 2016 Global Calendar paints a dynamic portrait of the current state of the impact convening ecosystem. The following charts provide insight into when, where, how and why impact-focused events were convened in 2016. The accompanying passages, along with select quotes from organizers of leading impact convenings, put this data into context.

Please note that the data represented here only pertains to events that were shared by our global community and submitted to Conveners.org’s Global Calendar in 2016. In addition, throughout this section the term “convening” refers to in-person events of all types—including conferences, summits, seminars, and workshops—centered on impact.


Approximately 34% of 2016 convenings occurred in the Spring, which according to the meteorological seasons for the Northern Hemisphere include the months from March to May; and 36% occurred in the Fall, or September to November.

Opportunity Collaboration convenes every October because we purposefully overlap with the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (Oct 17 each year), and because our venue in Mexico is more affordable then.” — Topher Wilkins, Opportunity Collaboration

Of note is that about 14% of all 2016 convenings occurred within the first two weeks of June, while far fewer convenings occurred during the remaining summer and winter months. Summer and winter are historically inopportune seasons to host impact gatherings because people tend to be on holiday during those months.


While the duration of impact convenings in 2016 ranged from single evening occasions to day-long, multi-day, or week-long events, the majority of convenings were organized on or during a Thursday. Convenings that were hosted on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday comprised 56% of events in 2016. Conversely, only 19% of events were hosted during the weekend, and 25% hosted on Monday and Tuesday. Notwithstanding trends, conveners host gatherings on specific days of the week based on a number of factors relevant to their community.

SEA was born nearly 20 years ago as The National Gathering for Social Entrepreneurs. While we’ve morphed over the years, our keystone event, now called Summit, remains intact. This year we hosted Summit on Mon-Weds to ensure the event didn’t conflict with any other events of interest to our community.” — Kila Englebrook, Social Enterprise Alliance


Single day gatherings, most of which occurred on a Wednesday or Thursday, accounted for 28% of convenings in 2016. Convenings that were hosted over a period of multiple days comprised 72% of events in 2016–and of that three-day events were the most common and comprised 29% of total events in 2016.


Approximately half of impact convenings in 2016 were priced at or below $250 USD, ranging from free gatherings to evening events priced at $15-$30 and day-long functions costing about $150-$250 per ticket. All convenings that exceeded $1000 per ticket were multi-day events, and in most cases week-long gatherings.


Convenings hosted in the U.S. and U.K in 2016 accounted for approximately 40% of total recorded events in Conveners.org’s Global Calendar for that year.

Please note that this chart indicates a bias in our data, as it only reflects events that were submitted by our global community and is absent of events in parts of Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Russia.


While the data shows that the vast majority of 2016 impact convenings were hosted annually, Conveners.org has observed a rise in event series hosted around the year by the same organization. Often times, those year-round events are connected to signature annual conferences and are hosted in different cities as a way to engage communities across geographies throughout the year.

“Through year-round thought leadership panel discussions, inclusive dialogues, and community-building events in multiple locations, SOCAP 365 serves our rapidly growing global network.” — Social Capital Markets (SOCAP)


Among the range of topics explored at impact convenings in 2016, 40% of all topics focused on using business as a force for goodOf note is that business-related topics were not concentrated in specific geographic regions—business topics were represented at convenings across the world.

“The Skoll World Forum curates people and models operating at the intersections of change, with business leaders and social entrepreneurs being a critical force for scale and influence.  Other essential innovators of change include academics, non-profit veterans, policy makers, and artists.” — Sarah Borgman, Skoll World Forum

The list of topics to the right highlights key themes organized by the meta-categories displayed in the above chart. Please note that this list does not include all topics or themes examined at impact convenings in 2016. In most cases, multiple topics—from impact investing to diversity and inclusion—were considered concurrently at conferences.


As impact-focused convenings continue to sprout across the globe, and the audience for impact gatherings continues to expand, Conveners.org is encouraged by the innovative convening strategies we are observing. While this is not reflected in the 2016 Global Calendar data, we are heartened by current trends in how communities are being engaged around the year, the growing attention to inclusivity, and budding approaches to measuring an event’s impact. Conveners.org has observed that in an effort to build strong communities that advance impact, conveners who host annual conferences are organizing convenings that take place around the year. Echoing Green’s UpStart Talk Series, Opportunity Collaboration’s regional Happy Hours, and SOCAP 365, just to name a few, are ongoing event series built off the success of annual conferences. In addition, we’ve observed a rise in both annual and year-round convenings adopting more participant-driven formats, rather than traditional presenter or panel models. Another trend that is not represented in the 2016 data is an increased focus on making impact convenings more diverse and inclusive. Not only are conveners increasingly designing gatherings specifically on inclusion and equity—Change Catalyst, Tech Inclusion, and TechCrunch Sessions: Justice are a few examples—but organizers are also integrating diverse voices into speaker lineups and reaching out to diverse audiences to attend their events. In addition, through conversations with the Conveners.org member community, we have observed an opportunity to develop a more comprehensive and standardized system to measure the impact that a convening creates, including tracking progress made towards specific impact goals, and communicating impact achieved with stakeholders. While efforts are not yet underway, we have heard from impact convening organizers a desire for greater collaboration to share best practices on how they may more systematically assess the social and environmental impact of their convenings. We invite you to subscribe to our Convening the Conveners newsletter to stay tuned on this and other convening updates each month. For more detailed examples, insights, and recommendations based on our research and the 2016 Global Calendar data shared on this page, read this blog post. Thank you for reading. This report was written and produced by Nayelli Gonzalez, Conveners.org Managing Director, Marketing & Partnerships. Amy Chong, Ph.D. Candidate at Cornell University, provided data analysis and visualization support in the development of this report.