Reflections on SVI Hollyhock

The Social Venture Institute (SVI) conference series has been providing a platform of support for Canadian social entrepreneurs since 1995.  

As cohosts of SVI Alberta, Thrive’s own Philip Lozano and Erin Melnychuk wanted to experience what the one that started it all, SVI Hollyhock, was like and what they could bring back from it. So, from September 11-15 they shuttled off to Cortes Island. This is what they found waiting for them at SVI Hollyhock: 


  • How is Hollyhock different from SVI Alberta?

P: The setting. You can’t recreate SVI Hollyhock in Banff…nor would you want to. The land, the people and the business climate, creates a slightly different invitation and ultimately a different but still unique and special gathering. 

The land also created ample opportunities for connections – whether it was walking through the forest to get to the main hall, eating dinner in their incredible garden or reflecting on the learnings while watching the tide come in on the beach. 


  • What did you go into the event hoping to get out of it?  

E: I went into the event hoping to understand the depth of connections made, how that is achieved, and how those connections facilitate the advancement of the participants’ social enterprises. 


  • Did you get what you expected?  

E: More, actually. The authenticity of the relationships formed at SVI creates a high level of trust. There’s also a shared willingness to be vulnerable in their business struggles and get the support they need. 


  • What was your favourite part of SVI Hollyhock? 

E: There’s kind of two SVI experiences happening — the formal program, and then what happens outside of the formal program — Hollyhock also throws some incredible parties!   

Every aspect of the program design was so intentional about gently pushing you outside of your comfort zone, creating vulnerability, and building courage. And that’s precisely the muscle we need to build as social entrepreneurs. 

P: For me, a large part of SVI Hollyhock was the importance of place and the land. Hollyhock is situated on beautiful land, rich in history. You can’t help but feel part of something much, much larger.  


  • What did you find challenging? 

E: I felt like we can be doing more to push ourselves to name the system we are trying to change. I don’t want this to end up being a trendy business offering to an exclusive market. We need to dial up the volume on designing for systems change within our social enterprises and making that core to our purpose.  

P: SVI Hollyhock was challenging in that you really are away from it all.  For us, it took us 2 planes, 2 airports, a water taxi and shuttle to get there.  And when you did get there, wifi and cell reception were hit or miss at best. This proved to be challenging but also such an incredible opportunity. People, whether by choice or not, were forced to shut off the rest of their lives. It was such a journey to get there, that once you arrived, the tone of engagement was already different because you entered the space differently. It created this nice little bubble to learn and be inspired in. It allowed attendees to show up, be present and focus in a way that if it were in a more “convenient” setting, would not have the same profound results. 


  • Favourite connection you made? 

E: I was surprised by how many participants had some sort of connection to Alberta, which made for natural kinships. I am very interested in how SVI can support interprovincial learning and understanding. Those kinships help SVI Alberta feel like an option for the Hollyhock participants. I suspect we’ll see some SVI Hollyhock participants attend SVI Alberta, and that kind of crosspollination is exactly what we need. 


  • How, if at all, has Hollyhock impacted your perspective on SVI Alberta? 

P: We’re just getting started and already there’s tons of interest, energy, passion and momentum. SVI Hollyhock reminded me that this type of gathering truly is unique and that there’s nothing else really like it. Going to SVI Hollyhock, reaffirmed in us the notion that we need to double down on place and the importance of bringing place even more into SVI Alberta for 2020. 

Take Action:

  • Click here to learn more about SVI.
  • Want to attend the next SVI Alberta? Stay in the loop on upcoming events through our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • For another opportunity to connect with like-minded people, check out the Soul of the Next Economy Forum on November 14-15, 2019 at Ambrose University!