There’s a magic to events that’s hard to describe. As you’re getting ready – coming up with a name, co-designing the programming, and reaching out to people – you just don’t know what’s going to happen. There are always two basic questions: will people show up? Will it matter that they did?

This is a feeling that social entrepreneurs, and all kinds of changemakers, understand well. In the lead up to a big event the world’s coloured with your uncertainty, hope, and determination. You want to turn an idea into concrete benefits for people and planet, and you can do your best – but you just can’t fully know.

That’s why I want to confess something right now: I didn’t think you’d show up for Impact Fest. When Barnabe Geis, CSI’s acceleration manager, told the team that he wanted to do an ambitious half-day conference for Toronto’s social mission sector in just a few weeks, I just didn’t think we could compete against summer with such a short timeline.

So when hundreds of you turned out and packed the place, you proved me  wrong – and I learned a few things about you. Here’s my top six learnings from Impact Fest:

#1 You want to have an impact

The Impact Room featured workshops on fundraising, impact investing and pitching. All three were jam packed, and we even had to turn people away. Stay tuned for more in the coming months.

#2 You want to learn how to be an ally

In a day full of popular events, the “How to Be An Ally” workshop was one of the most popular of all. Want more info on how you can help create an inclusive social change sector in Toronto? Check out the How to Be An Ally workshop series.

#3 You’re in this for the long-haul

You filled the Wellness Room for workshops on yoga, emotional health and self-care. You know that we need to take care of ourselves and each other – even as we’re stepping up to take better care of the world.

#4 You want to learn about each other

You packed the CSI lounge to talk to all the organizations, from new start-ups to seasoned vets, who were tabling there. Our team heard from tablers who told us they barely had time to breathe between conversations! We hope these connections will lead to lasting benefits in ways we can’t ever predict. Speaking of which…

#5 You make great connections

We also heard from people who met interesting people who would be crucial new connections for their work, or just new friends in the movement. We love this and we want to help, so keep an eye out for some new tools that CSI will be rolling out in the next couple of months to help CSI members find and connect with each other.

#6 You’re looking for the right kind of support

Over the course of the day I got to talk to dozens of people about a new platform that CSI is launching with 35 partners in the social mission sector across Ontario. The platform is called Soshent, and it’s designed to connect social entrepreneurs and innovators with the supports you need to grow your impact. Click here to check out Soshent.

#7 You’re brave

I wish I could have seen this for myself – but word travelled fast about the brave and beautiful pitches coming from people standing in… a kiddie pool. Huge thanks to the Shark Tank presenters, and everyone who showed up to hear the pitches and give feedback.

So what’s next? Well given the overwhelming demonstration of demand, we’ll be hosting Impact Fest, or something very much like it, again. We’ll also be learning from this event to make some improvements the next time we convene. So: thank you for all the lessons – and for everything you do to make social mission sector a vibrant space of possibility.

See you at the next event,

Jamie Biggar,

Director of Communications and Campaigns

All the photos are by Nyo Mudzingwa of You The Best photography.