This past weekend we enjoyed a delicious summer retreat with social venture founders hailing from Montreal to Boston. I’ve been digesting the rich experience and wanted to share some of the key joys, learnings, and highlights from the event with you.

It all started on Friday mid afternoon, when participants began arriving, filling out the space with their smiles and eagerness. With an opening circle underneath a big old oak tree, we got to know each other through ever deepening questions, investigations of our ‘stretch zone’, and playful movement. It wasn’t long before a kinship emerged and we were off!

We began our educational time together with an overview social venture launching by examining one of the most overlooked steps, one we consider to be the single most important seminal act of an effective social venture: to determine the communication operating system. A communication operating system is the processes by which we communicate, make and enact decisions of all kinds, including determining our shared purpose and business model. Questions and comments about the emerging trend of shared leadership and ‘teal’ organizations buzzed with excitement.

Nourished by a long dinner break with time for walks, and delighting in Andrew Perron’s inspired cuisine of fresh organic food, we met again. After a summary of the launch sequence for social ventures, each participant took a dive into a speed purpose building exercise for their venture. Through a set of reflections and conversations each social venture founder created or refined their vision, mission and values for their enterprise and set their personal intentions for the weekend. Some were impressed by just how quickly and succinctly a ‘minimally sufficient’ purpose could be articulated.

After a restful night, serenaded by the music of the brook, a few of us gathered for early morning movement led by Kevin Aderer who inspired us to wake up to the gorgeous misty day. And fed by a fragrant amaranth porridge, we began our morning session with embodied presentations from everyone on their current intentions and their venture’s purpose. Resting in this grounded place, we launched into an overview and discussion of a practical map of the social venture business model. Each founder flushed out the current details of their model, paying special attention to the parts that were unclear or not working for them.

Breaking for lunch, we played in the brook, ate veggie noodles, vegan Alfredo sauce and date squares, shared perspectives on effective marketing, and took naps under the shade of the trees. Gathering again for our afternoon session, we flushed out through journaling and group dialogue the riskiest assumptions upon which we’ve built our business models. This step was a highlight for many participants where they had a chance to surface key insights into their model leading to the articulation of concrete next steps they could take to move their venture forward.

This lead into a lively presentation and conversation around shared leadership and decision making in particular. When we are working with others in the launch of our venues, how do we make clear, rapid, iterative decisions that include everyone adequately without taking forever? We spent some time exploring Collab’s model of Integrative Consent and got to try it out in action through simulation which surfaced a rich dialogue around practical matters of handling resource constraint, role delegation, and accountability in shared leadership environments.

The dinner break began with another trip to the watering hole and the setting up of our fire circle. When we gathered to eat, our expert fire tender, Kevin Aderer, started the fire with bow and song, an auspicious start to a deep and delightful evening of storytelling around the fire. Some stayed long into the night, basking in the coals and the company.

By morning, we woke again to warm our bodies up through movement under the oak tree, embracing the earth and the good fortune of our sunny weather. Was hard to believe it was our last day together. Tasting the rice pudding and fruit for breakfast, we took a pivot to focus on personal leadership development. Through journaling and small group conversations, each person chose a topic for exploration and took a guided tour through their own current way around their topic. One of the highlights of the weekend for many was uncovering through supportive questions and comments the nature of their hidden commitment that undermines their own clearly expressed goals.

Lunch with stuffed veggies and cucumber mint soup lifted our pallets, and after yet one more dip in the crystal clear waters of the brook, we gathered to wrap up our time together. Beginning with explorative movement and collective remembering of our time together, we shared our personal and organizational next steps with feedback all around. Appreciations flowed next for each of us as we offered support for the challenging and rewarding journey of launching and running a social venture.

Our packing up time was filled with laughter, trips to the brook, and community spirit in cleaning up and caring for the spaces we had enjoyed. We drove away nourished, connected, uplifted, informed and inspired to tackle our changes, and grow our ventures.