AVPN Conference 2016: An Interview with Naina Subberwal Batra

At WINGS we have heard nothing but fantastic things about AVPN’s Conference this year, which is going to take place from the 24th of May in Hong Kong. We spoke to the CEO of AVPN, Naina Subberwal Batra, to find out more about the conference this year.AVPN Conference

1) Tell us about this year’s AVPN Conference!

This year’s AVPN Conference, I’m happy to tell you, has just sold out! The conference starts on the 24th of May. This is going be our biggest conference yet. The theme of the conference is looking at how social investing has impacted Asia.

AVPN is a funders and resource provider’s network – we have 550 registered delegates, 90% of them are resource providers or intermediaries. For the conference, we really believe in having the right people in the room. We are the only conference of this kind in Asia, but also perhaps globally, that is for funders, by funders, and all of the sessions are presented by practitioners. It’s a very unique opportunity to share, learn, listen, and potentially collaborate.

2) The topic for the conference this year is ‘How Has Social Investing Impacted Asia?’ – How did this topic come about?

This is our fourth conference, and it’s also our fourth year of operating in Asia. Our initial conferences were about introducing venture philanthropy and social investing to an Asian audience. In our own five-year journey, we’ve found there’s an evolving enthusiasm, education, awareness with respect to social investment and venture philanthropy.

At the same time, there’s always a lot of excitement around impact investing, especially when looking at Next Gen, when thinking about funders and family offices, we find that there’s a greater interest to move from traditional strategic grant-making into looking at more innovative funding models, that includes non-financial support to the social sector, in addition to social and impact investing.

That is what led us to see how this has actually impacted the way philanthropy has been done in Asia.

3) Who will be attending this year’s AVPN Conference?

Someone just told us it sounds like the ‘who’s who’ of philanthropy! We have delegates from 32 countries – pretty much all of the Asian countries.

Our audience is very different from the typical foundations or social purpose organisations. They’ll be representatives from multi-lateral financial institutions, government agencies, as well as educational institutions, intermediaries and large grant makers.

We have people like Ashoka, corporate foundations like the DBS foundation, as well as a wide range of private banks like BNP Paribas and UBS. We also have newer foundations, like the Epic Foundation. Universities are represented, government organisations, The Global Social Economy Forum, Goldman Sachs – it’s an interesting mix.

What is also interesting is that from almost every Asian country, we have the leaders of philanthropy and social investment in those markets – for instance, DASRA, Japan Fundraising Association, and the Jollibee Foundation.

4) What are some events that the attendees should be sure to attend?

We’re running a bunch of things will appeal to the diverse audience that will be coming to the conference – including some very interesting plenary and keynote speakers. The way the conference is structured means that we have one day which is restricted to our members and speakers only, where we do an in-depth country sharing in terms of what is happening in the different geographies of Asia when it comes to venture philanthropy and social investing.

We are covering six countries in our member’s day – The Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Malaysia, India and China. What’s interesting is that we have plenaries that range from looking at sustainable livelihoods and social innovation, and how social innovation leads to sustainable livelihoods. Since we are doing the conference in Hong Kong, promoting sustainable livelihoods and poverty alleviation is something that the Hong Kong Government has put out as part of their prime objectives – so the conference builds into that theme.

As this is a funders and network providers conference, we have something called the investment showcase which is unusual. We get several members to talk about one investment they have made – so 30 organisations they have invested in are represented in the investment showcase.

It’s interesting because our members actually get up and explain to the group about why they have invested in a specific organisation – it may be a nonprofit or a social enterprise. So then social enterprise or nonprofit talks about how that capital has helped, and makes a pitch on what it plans to do. What we’ve seen from past events is that a large majority of these organistaions find new partnerships or collaborations as a result.

5) What should people be thinking about prior to the event?

People should be thinking in terms of how they have expanded their thinking around grantmaking and philanthropy. Have they been looking at innovative financial models? Have they been looking at interesting ways in which they can build capacity? How have they looked at measuring impact? There’s always a lot of hype around what you can do to measure impact, and what different steps you should use.

It’s a unique opportunity because there is a lot of sharing from practitioners in the field, who are working in foundations, or making grants. It’s great to see what works on the ground, what has failed, and where people can put on their thinking caps to see how they could do things differently.

6) What do you want the key takeaways to be from the conference?

The key takeaway is to have a call for action. The primary mission and vision of AVPN is to try increase the flow of philanthropic capital, whether it’s financial, human or intellectual, into the social sector. We hope this conference energises people into giving more, giving more strategically, and multiplying the impact that their giving has. At the end of the day, we are all here because we want to make a social impact – the challenge is converting that impact or thought into action.

To find out more about this year’s conference, make sure you visit the AVPN website here.

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