"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Buy Good. Feel Good. founder Rafik Riad at GOODCON LA.
Sometime we need a short circuit. One that jolts electricity back into our system to get us to reboot. To see things through an unjaded lens when hope runs out. And that was exactly what the GOODCON LA festival did for me this last December.
GOODCON is a global festival hosted throughout the year celebrating social change purpose-led ideas and innovations from around the world. They believe that there is a lack of hope that exists on social and environmental issues across the spectrum and that the continued focus on the world's problems and the polarizations that divide us can lead to paralysis and inaction.
Instead they focus on hope and the future of social change.
"We created GOODCON in 2019, to celebrate the most inspiring purpose-led ideas and innovations worldwide. Going into 2022, as we imagined how to serve our community best, we wanted to “Fill the Hope Gap” when there is so much depressing news and despair. So, we brought together 100 leaders in LA using business and culture as forces for good, including Solutionaries who are creating system-level solutions to the biggest problems facing life on our planet. And we did all of this on a farm in the middle of LA! It was a transformative experience for all of us," says Bobby Jones, co-host of GOODCON.
Hosted at Little City Farm in LA, a fantastic community of social change leaders from companies as diverse as Apple, Patagonia, Microsoft, PepsiCo, SpaceX and Go Fund Me, forward-thinking non-profits like Parley for the Oceans, Clara Lionel Foundation, and Kiss the Ground, Hollywood giants like Participant, Warner Media and Viacom, and disruptive VC’s from Anthos Capital, Red River West, Slauson and Co. and more came together for GOODCON.
The GOODCON LA festival was hosted at Little City Farm in L.A.
Social Change Tops The Agenda
It was so refreshing to meet the Solutionaries and fellow entrepreneurs, creators, leaders and innovators that use their business and culture as forces for good. The last two years, during COVID, I was really missing the human interaction factor with other social enterprises. The model of Buy Good. Feel Good. was built on creating trade shows as a platform and space for people to connect. I was involved in a lot of events and I had a lot of opportunities to constantly connect with other social enterprises and get inspired every single time. So, this past year and a half felt like a drought of hope and inspiration.
I felt very optimistic after the GOODCON event. The festival had social impact entrepreneurs from different areas of the impact world. There were projects focused on supporting women-owned businesses, projects working on increasing diversity and inclusion in the workspace, and those who were focused on providing solutions for climate change. It was such a beautiful cross-section of the social impact world coming together and it really did help me to feel energized and hopeful about the future.
Everyone wanted to talk about what they were doing and everyone was open for collaboration to make progressive changes for social change. The variety of projects that people were working on from Air Protein tackling climate change to using AI to support the visually impaired to using the power and influence of Hollywood to promote diversity was just all very enthralling. I think it was helpful for me as an individual and as an entrepreneur to reconnect to a similar-minded community and know that everyone had a pretty tough two years and that we're all in this together.
The location of the event just brought everything together for me. We were set up on an urban farmstead in the heart of L.A. surrounded by organic fruits and vegetables with rows of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and the sounds of chickens clucking. It was so easy to forget for those few hours that we were in the centre of sprawling Los Angeles. Which made it so much easier to connect with the community of social change agents around me.
GOODCON hosts Afdhel Aziz and Bobby Jones and co-authors of Good is the New Cool.
Meet Some of the Solutionaries!
The Solutionaries were all fascinating. These courageous souls work on creating system-level solutions to the biggest problems facing life on our planet with creative actions to lead to impactful social change.
The projects that got me excited the most were those in social impact spaces I had no idea there was work being done. And the fact that we had a zoom call with Malala Yousafzai was the cherry on top. It was so exciting to get a deeper glimpse into her life journey and to see how much she truly believes in girls’ education and the initiatives that she's working on with giants like Apple. Understanding this marriage of passion with a tech company with so much reach, influence and resources, was amazing to witness.
Justin Wilkenfeld of Kindhumans
Justin Wilkenfeld: Celebrating Humanity With AN Ethical Marketplace
Kindhumans was created to celebrate the good in humanity by elevating community, commerce, and world-changing causes. Co-founders Suzi and Justin Wilkenfeld dreamed up Kindhumans based on their journey as parents and philanthropists. Their goal was to set a good example for their children by fostering a community of kindness, making it easy for everyone to consume responsibly, and always giving back.
Justin and I were seated next to each other, and what a great coincidence it was! We both founded and work in the ethical online marketplace field so it was such a good chance for us to to connect about the growing community of conscious consumers and how sustainable products and ethical brands can better our world.
Saqib Shaikh of Seeing AI
Saqib Shaikh: Disability as a force for innovation
Saqib Shaikh is the blind inventor of the Seeing AI platform which explores how Artificial Intelligence can be leveraged to empower the blind and low vision community to do more. Seeing AI is a free app that narrates the world around you. Designed for the blind and low vision community, this ongoing research project harnesses the power of AI to open up the visual world and describe nearby people, text and objects.
I was very touched and inspired by this Microsoft-led project to provide better quality of life for those who are visually impaired. And to see Saqib, who is from the visually impaired community, leading this project was extremely uplifting.
Lisa Dyson of Air Protein
Lisa Dyson: Developing meat alternatives out of thin air
Lisa Dyson is the founder and CEO of Air Protein which seeks to produce sustainable meat alternatives from elements found in air. She shared her story and talked about the potential to feed the coming 10 billion people in the world.
Turning elements in the air into sustainable protein that eliminates climate threat, air meat is crafted through a process similar to how beer and yogurt are made and can be produced exponentially faster than traditional meat production.
Listening to Lisa talk about Air Protein and revolutionizing the future of food was mindblowing - they create meat-free meat from the very CO2 choking our planet!
James Arthur Smith of Seatopia
James Arthur Smith: Sustainable aquaculture to feed the world
Thanks to documnaries like 'Seaspiracy', the world is waking to the short-sightedness of industrial scale hunting wild-caught seafood. As Jacques Cousteau once said, “We must learn to plant the sea and herd it's animals using the sea as farmers instead of hunters."
Seatopia founder James Arthur Smith shared how he is working with the world's most sustainable and ethical fish farmers to create a new paradigm that can feed the world.
Working directly with regenerative farms raising real fish breed from non-GMO eggs, responsibly fed and conscientiously raised in low-density, and antibiotic-free environments, Seatopia is the first farm-to-table seafood cooperative. By working with truly sustainable aquaculture farms, his direct farm-to-table seafood supply chain values and incentivizes artisan quality production, fair labor practices, and environmental stewardship.
Fashen Cox of Inclusion Rider
Fanshen Cox: Inclusion in Hollywood
Fanshen Cox is one of the co-founders of the Hollywood inclusion rider initiative, which holds movie makers accountable for diversity and inclusion.
As a producer and head of strategic outreach at Pearl Street Films, Fanshen discussed and explained how the Inclusion Rider template and contract provision for entertainment industry companies helps implement widely applicable best practices for building workplace diversity.
By implementing such initiatives and promoting them with the help of those who have such wide media coverage is such a hopeful step that can be transitioned into other industries.
GOODCON hosts Afdhel Aziz and Bobby Jones and co-authors of Good is the New Cool.
GOODCON: A CATALYST FOR SOCIAL CHANGE
"We end our gatherings with Margaret Meade's quote, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." By bringing together a community passionate about applying their financial, cultural, and social capital towards scaling world-changing ideas, we can build alliances to move ideas forward and accelerate positive change," says Jones.
I can't help but to be moved and recharged by these words and the essence of what the GOODCON festival is able to achieve. And I implore all of you who work or are passionate about about social change in all its facets to checkout GOODCON for upcoming events, because I sure will!
Photography by @sarahskyann Sky Williams Media