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 Convening17: Katapult Future Festival & Women Deliver: Analysis & Update

At, we believe that convening, done right, has the power to break down silos and drive greater impact to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. One premise of Convening17 is to meet key stakeholders at events they already attend and to provide a context and process for unlocking the collective wisdom in the room. To do so, our program Convening17, sustains conversations across a series of convenings with impact leaders and uses a 3 part process to together:

  • Discover critical levers for change and root barriers to progress, 

  • Connect human and financial resources to promising solutions, and 

  • Scale impact by sparking and supporting new collaborations and identifying solutions poised for replication and growth. 

We started in 2017 with a focus on SDG 4: Education and are continuing the process this year adding SDG 5: Gender Equality and SDG 14: Ocean Health

This year, sponsored by 5th Element Group, we have moved our SDG 4 work forward with specific collaborations and we have discovered together key levers for change for SDG 5 and SDG 14. At the Skoll World Forum (SWF) we hosted an interactive workshop to unlock the urgent and important lense to all 3 SDGs. We continued our journey on Education through targeted efforts to support specific activations, and with the Oceans and Gender conversations by facilitating focused conversations at Katapult Future Fest and Women Deliver respectively. These two conferences had attendees with the expertise and diversity for our deeper discovery process on Oceans and Gender Equality. 

SDG 4: Education

With our pilot on SDG 4: Education last year, we collectively determined our key lever for change to be trauma-informed care and education for refugee children. With that focal point, the Skoll World Forum was a time to explore both community needs and identify organizations already engaged in the work. Since that time we have been weaving connections between three organizations which bring important and varied contributions to the space: 

Humanity Crew which provides mental health in the field in Greece as well as rescue teams on the sea; training in mental health for refugees, aid workers and therapeutic, professionals; research on key aspects of their ongoing work and promotion of awareness campaigns; and an online clinic that has already had over 1000 hours of sessions. 

  1. Amal Alliance which has a comprehensive program of social-emotional learning and psychological support that includes art, yoga, dance, creative writing, among other modalities, to work with kids ages 1-16 in Greece, Lebanon and Turkey.  

  2. TrustCircle, whose founder Sachin Chandry we had the opportunity to meet through our work with 5th Element Group. Trust Circle provides a technology platform endorsed by the World Health Organization Research focused on at-risk youth ages 15-25 to introduce assessments, prevention, community for emotional wellness, and empowers individuals and communities with heat map data on wellness. Trustcircle has recently connected with the Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan to roll out a program at a national level. 

Our next phase for SDG 4 is to support potential collaborations and connect these organizations to the resources needed for replication and scale.  

SDG 14: Life Below Water: Oceans

Katapult Future Fest was started by the team at Nordic Impact to bring to Europe a new form of convening that recognizes the power of the intersection between Impact Investing and exponential technology. At Katapult we brought the key insights from our conversation at SWF to a session within the Katapult Oceans Lab to continue the conversation forward around Oceans and Ocean Health. At SWF we recognized the need for a shared vision for healthy oceans (abundant life, able to regenerate) where individuals understand their behavior matters and that oceans are not limitless. In that context, at Katapult we focused on education and awareness around ocean health. With education, the focus was on consumer awareness of the complexity and scale of the problem as well as changing consumer behavior through access to new data and traceability to give more and new context to how they can be part of the solution. With the 30 participants in the Lab we started with that context and with the three levers for change identified at SWF - technology, building capacity of ocean movements, and  policy (see here for the detailed SWF analysis) and then divided into three tables to dive deeper into three core areas of ocean health:

  1. The impact of pollution from ocean transportation led by Katapult Ocean’s Accelerator, 

  2. The role of healthy fisheries for a thriving planet led by Future of Fish, and 

  3. Systemic interventions for improving ocean health led by 

Participants were from a diverse array of fields including Civana, which uses digital technology to connect people for global change, Empower, whose mission is to rid the world of plastic waste by creating a circular economy using digital technology, Tomorrow Today, an investment fund that helps support some of the world’s most innovative entrepreneurs, and Planet 9 Capital

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During these conversations three core themes emerged:

The first was a recognition that addressing ocean health is a complex problem and, rather than having simple solutions, a key challenge is holding and balancing core tensions - such as:

  • The value and the risk (including unintended consequences) of regulation and labeling for fisheries,

  • The pull of short term gains and the need to focus on long term impact -- for ocean industries, the broader ecosystem and fishing communities that can be focused on survival, 

  • The focus and fascination with building technology that is new and disruptive and the need to build capacity and connect existing solutions, and

  • The promise of new systems and high standards for fisheries and the need for localized interventions

The second theme was a focus on the power dynamics in the system. Examples include the ocean industries and their power and coordination to make policies, and who is creating them, funding, profiting from and promoting the technologies intended to promote ocean health.

The final, and related, theme is the need to design with those most impacted and link solutions for scale. To address the power imbalances and the scale of the opportunity for ocean health we need coordinated solutions -- and at the same time, because we come at solutions based on our personal experience, context and world view -- we both need a deeper level of empathy and to recognize the value of designing with and not just for the communities most impacted. One example of an organization doing this work is Blue Ventures, that works with tropical communities that rely on fisheries where biodiversity is high, deeply listening to local challenges of livelihood and bringing access to best practices for sustainable fisheries. 

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After listening to the needs of one tropical community, Blue Ventures learned that there was no access to family planning or safe birthing. As a result women were having up to 26 children with an average in the community of 7 - and 20% of all children were not living to their 5th birthday. As well as resulting in poor health of the women and their children, the need to feed families was contributing to overfishing. Blue Ventures saw the link between health and conservation and after a search for appropriate partners, opened the first community health center in the region. Twenty percent of all women attended and asked for contraception the first day the clinic opened. With access to family planning, the community saw dramatic improvements in health, and women were able to engage more in income generating activities. This appears to be contributing to greater women's empowerment, with signs that women are taking greater interest in natural resource management. With the trust Blue Ventures built with the community through offering vital health services, the organization was able to leverage this to strengthen community support for engaging in best practices for sustainable fishing. While this shift is significant - for the health of oceans broadly, the impact of this individual community must be replicated - with similarly localized solutions. Blue Ventures is supporting replication throughout Madagascar (reaching a total of 300,000 people) as well as supporting replication in Mozambique, Kenya, Comoros, Indonesia and Timor Leste. This example demonstrates what we learned at the Skoll World Forum and in the Katapult Oceans Lab -- solutions can not merely be dictated in a top-down manner but must be localized. At the same time solutions cannot merely be local to have the needed impact -- they must be linked together in a shared effort.

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The Oceans Lab closed by identifying multiple strategies to address the problems and challenges outlined above in order to towards a more healthy and abundant ocean: 

  • Providing food and nutrition through alternative methods than exploitation,

  • Creation of fish sanctuaries to mitigate illegal fishing practices,

  • Removal of plastics and creation of improved waste mitigation practices and creation of incentives to manage and reduce waste,

  • Addressing oil spills and leaks and create more regulations around clean ocean transport,

  • Bringing in fishermen to help create these solutions and - training fishermen to work in conservation, 

  • Focusing on restoring coral reef systems.

Finally it was recognized that there are robust networks within the ocean space engaged on these levers. What may be useful to strengthen the linkages between the networks - both within the space and with other SDGs - such as SDG5 Gender.

SDG 5: Gender Equality - Empower all Women and Girls

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Women Deliver is an international conference that meets every three years focused on catalyzing the power and connections of 8,000 leaders from all sectors. These leaders gather to discuss the wide array of local and global efforts to promote gender equality and the health and human rights of women and girls. Women Deliver was the conference to attend to learn the latest research and strategies for shifting SDG5 and to connect with impact leaders from around the world. The conference’s key question - “How will you use your power?” - provided a fertile context for our Convening17 private gathering that dove deeper into key SDG 5 levers for change we identified at SWF.  The curated event brought leaders with expertise in each of the levers identified at SWF: 

1) Collective voice through technology, 

2) Inspiration and models through media, 

3) Shifts in funding and measurement through the social impact sector, 

4) Incentives through government policies and finally, 

5) A focus on shifting gender norms generally, with a lot of energy on bringing men into the change and conversation.

Curating the event during Women Deliver allowed us to engage some of the top experts and organizations deeply embedded in the work of Gender Equality from NGOs, brands, funders, and tech leaders devoted to advancing SDG 5 in multiple countries to the table. Our event included participants representing Tostan, Mercy Corps, and ProMujer who are working on shifting gender norms around the world, World Pulse, who is focused on collective voice through technology, as well as,  Johnson & Johnson, and GirlSPARKS. Building on the work and conversations at SWF, we wanted to dive deeper into exploring the intersections and complexity of the levers identified for Gender Equality.

As context for the dinner, we recognized that the SDGs are complex and so there will be no simple solution. Within the web of complexity we wanted to identify the threads that would be the most valuable to pull to shift the system. Throughout the conference we explored what role could play to have the most effective impact in that system. The participants reviewed our levers from SWF and gave feedback that all sectors need to play a role in each lever -- rather than framing the levers as contributions by sector.

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Participants recognized that we are seeking structural changes - and disrupting systems of power. To do so effectively will require collective efforts - and one of the real challenges is the need for collective voice and collective action. Similar to our learning on SDG 14, there is a need for both local solutions and collective action. In the SDG 5 space - there may be more local leadership and formal organizations. 

The core gap our participants identified is the need to build human connections among leaders and a shift from transactional relationships to transformational relationships -- supported by funding that recognizes the need for relationship building and collective efforts

As Katja Iversen, Founder of Women Deliver, stated in the opening plenary 

“Power - we all have it ... 

and when we use it smartly, boldly and collaboratively 

progress will follow.”  

We must use it collaboratively in this space - and doing so will require a new level of connection -- and funding that supports this in a sustained way. 

In addition, multiple leaders recognized that the power of their work was to create, to strategically engineer for, safe spaces (both online with World Pulse and offline with the community banks of ProMujer and the work of Tostan) to allow for growth and collective action, as well as the transformative power of personal storytelling. Johnson & Johnson recognized that it is these moments that matter - with the transformative power storytelling to both empower the individual women storytellers and to provide examples within communities. Finally, there was a shared recognition that shifting gender norms requires not just targeting women and girls but bringing interventions for change to full communities - taking into account all of the stakeholders such as boys, parents, and elders. For example, in the work being done by MercyCorps in Northeast Nigeria to shift gender norms 13,000 girls also brings in a number of boys and 500 elders to support the community wide shift.

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In our deeper dives into both Ocean Health and Gender Equality we uncovered a common theme - the need for locally driven solutions that are linked for collective action. As activist Natasha Mwansa from Zambia stated at Women Deliver - “There is no way to do it for us, without us, because then you are doing it at us.” At the same time, to address the complexity of the problems and the power structures pushing back against progress -- there will be no one super hero or one technological solution -- collective action by connected leaders is needed and funding for those efforts is essential. 

What comes next 

Our first premise is to meet key stakeholders where they are and unlock their wisdom, insights, and networks. Our second premise is that it is both possible and necessary to create an ongoing conversation with these stakeholders (you!) that can both go deeper over a series of events and continue the conversation -- whether or not you are able to attend all of the events.

3 Opportunities to Connect

1. Individual partner calls - we want your insights and feedback on the outcomes of our discovery process and to learn about other solutions or potential collaborations that we can support in these areas. 

To schedule, please email

2. Community-wide calls for SDG5 and SDG14 - recognizing the need for collective action and supportive community we will be facilitating one call on Ocean Health and one on Gender Equality to provide a quick recap of our discovery process and then to explore together solutions and potential collaborations that are ready to replicate or scale - and the resources needed to do so effectively.

SDG 5 - August 12th at 10:00 am Pacific. RSVP here 

SDG 14 - August 5th at 7:00 am Pacficic. RSVP here

3. Future events - our next events will be hosting an SDG-focused program at Opportunity Collaboration. 

The next step in our SDG 4 Education, 5 Gender Equality and 14 Ocean Health work is to connect with leaders of proven solutions and to be a catalyst for scale - through collaborations and access to human and financial capital. If you and your organization have aligned priorities and are interested in collaborating to scale these type of solutions - please let us know. The impact needed is too big to create and sustain alone - and we’re excited to partner with you!