October 21, 2012
Lovership at the Opportunity Collaboration @OppColl

Sunset at the Opportunity Collaboration in Ixtapa, Mexico

Why do I count the days between Opportunity Collaborations, the October un-conference in Ixtapa,Mexico for those committed to alleviating poverty?  Because every year I know I will fall in love there all over again.


I fall in love partly due to the tangerine sunsets and the lime margaritas — which set the stage for economic development romance.  Or as one environmental policy delegate told me on the last day, “it works because we wear no clothes.” (Layered clothes are avoided because we drip sweat in the searing Mexican sun.)


The Opportunity Collaboration starts with dating.   Reach out.  Eyes meet.  Listen on purpose.  See if there’s enough chemistry for partnership.  Even when there’s not, give and receive respect because we are all in this work together.


The OC deepens with conversation.  Intimacy evolves during the four-morning colloquium where we define poverty and share our poverty- alleviation failures.   We take risks when we admit to power differentials between grant-seekers and moneymakers, between those on the ground and those in the towers, between those saying “No,” and those who feel forced to say, “Yes.”  As one African leader put it, “Raising money is like going to the gynecologist.  You spread your legs, put them in the stirrups, and expose your soul.”   Trust is essential — never transactional.

The experience is enriched by unconventional tenderness.  A global development Doer and a Donor share the highs and lows of balancing
love-life and work-life in the warm, undulating waters.  A grantee tells a harried grantor to put herself on her plate.  The thick-bearded OC founder publicly professes to the head-covered, Afghani Economic Justice Award winner,  “I love you.”


Hours of intellectual ecstasy and moments of profound emotional connection– the raw stuff of real relationships — are what keep me coming back to the Opportunity Collaboration.  At the OC we talk about leadership, entrepreneurship, and partnership to rid our world of poverty — but this is only the “public” version.  The real work of the OC is practicing the art and craft of authenticity and trust-making and compassion — much like the art and craft of lovership.


Only 348 more days to go…


For more about the upcoming Opportunity Collaboration on October 13-18, 2013, “a four-day, problem-solving, strategic retreat for non-profit leaders, for-profit social entrepreneurs, grant-makers and social investors engaged in economic justice enterprises,” see http://opportunitycollaboration.net/.