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C2 Montréal: A Business Conference. Only Different.

Posted 9 June 2015 9:30 AM by Renee Blake

I'm a rare bird: a creative who loves to take on challenges using the left half of my brain as much as the right. So when the opportunity to attend this year's C2 Montréal conference (whose tagline reads: Creativity + Commerce), I knew it was right up my alley. Offering experiences ranging from "Brain Dates" while suspended in the air to emotional eating experiments, this Cirque du Soleil-founded event became the venue for being stretched, challenged and inspired.

As I mentioned, I'm also a left-side creative. So amidst the Ferris wheel rides and witty antidotes from Alec Baldwin, I was desperate to land the plane. I kept asking myself, how do we ground all of these non-traditional experiences? Luckily, I soon started keying in on all the Social Innovation sessions. This is where innovation met corporate solutions.

Talking about revenue-generated non-profits is not a new thing. However, it still works within the traditional model of exploring revenue-generating activities to help support their worthy causes. This is not bad; by nature, though, it starts in a reactionary mode. And the revenue has a harder time being tied to the cause.

Social Business — or, even better, Social Innovation — offers the best of both worlds. It’s grounded in strategy (just like almost every other creative challenge in business). You start with a consumer insight and then solve for it with the greater good in mind. By always connecting the two, you create white space in the market. And since this is presumably a distinctive pain point you're solving for, your product or service therefore will be unique and desirable. Your Social Business can operate like a business yet still focus on the social purpose.

Brands that are doing it right? Danone’s venture with Grameen in Bangladesh is a great example. It seeks to solve a problem (malnutrition) by selling affordable and nutritious yogurt. Toms “One for One” formula couldn’t be simpler: They sell a pair of shoes and then give a pair to a child in need. The tighter the connection between the product and the social benefit, the easier it is to be profitable.                          

So all in all, while C2 Montréal at times felt more like a circus than a conference, it ultimately transformed the way this creative thinks about the partnership between innovation and commerce.

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