The Opportunity Collaboration meeting, which brings together over 400 people to focus on solutions to global poverty and injustice, is like no other global convening—partly because of all the sand. I arrived in Cancun full of questions. “Who would I meet? Why were we convening in Club Med in Mexico, of all places? Why did this meeting take up an entire week?”
Thankfully, my state of constant questioning didn’t last long. Opportunity Collaboration is a unique mix of grassroots organizations from all corners of the globe, donors, impact investors, journalists, academics, and social entrepreneurs. By meeting in Mexico, international delegates avoid what can be an extremely painful process of securing a US visa, and, by meeting in an all-inclusive resort, every delegate can make the most of the ample facilities and services equally. Finally, while five days seemed like a long time to be away, I can confirm that it was barely enough time to meet everyone I wanted to.
Everyone who attends Opportunity Collaboration has her own agenda. Mine was to meet potential partners for WomenStrong’s new Learning Labs, to discuss the potential for collaboration with donors, and to spend time in the company of some of the most forward-thinking people in international development. I managed to do all that, and more. However, having your own agenda doesn’t mean that people are scurrying around, with their heads down, determined to only meet the delegates they need to. In fact, just as its name suggests, cooperation is strongly encouraged at Opportunity Collaboration, and I think this is the event’s greatest strength. Delegates went out of their way to make introductions and to ensure that people focused on the same things had the chance to meet each other. As a result, relationships could be formed that you never expected or knew you wanted.
There was also a program of structured discussions. First-class facilitators led us through conversations around fundraising, capacity-building, monitoring and evaluation, and conflict resolution, to name just a few. I attended as many of these sessions as I could and found them all to be tremendous opportunities to learn from experts in their fields and to share my own experiences with people who seemed keen to learn from me.
It’s not all work, either. There’s a real and unique balance to the event. Every effort is made to ensure that delegates have opportunities to recharge their batteries throughout the day. There was yoga, a wellness program, snorkeling, happy hours, and even an open mic night (that I most certainly did not participate in!). Most of all, there was strong encouragement for delegates to bring their families, and an entire OC program is structured for children. One afternoon these younger delegates hosted a lemonade stand, with flavored and colored lemonades representing the different Sustainable Development Goals. The lemonade didn’t taste great, I’ll admit, but I’ve now met a five-year-old who can name all 17 of the SDGs. I’d go back tomorrow if I could, just to hear that again.