“How many guests are you expecting today?” Eleonora from the Migration Hub Network asked me as she was switching on the giant heaters in the room. The venue was located within the “Alte Münze”, the mint factory from the 1930s, at a time when “ Germany belongs to Germans” was the slogan of the nation. Today the same building provides a co-working space for migrant entrepreneurs and is a symbol for diversity, inclusion and social innovation.

“Around 80 to 100,” I replied. We had around 120 confirmed attendees, however experience showed that around 20-25% do not show up at the end. It was 8:30am in the morning on the 21 st November and the room was filling up quickly with delegates who were ready to take part in the first European Supplier Diversity Conference in Berlin. Networking had already started in those early morning hours with the usual swapping of business cards and phone numbers. The room had a true mixture of guests; minority/migrant-businesses from Germany and the UK, large corporates, associations, politicians, academics, lawyers etc. The next time I looked at my watch, it was almost 9am. I waved across the room to Mayank and pointed to my watch to indicate that we should start. He raised his hand and spread his fingers in a gesture to tell me “in 5 minutes”. From this point onwards, time just flew by!

Mayank Shah, the CEO and Founder of MSDUK, opened the event by giving the audience some background about MSDUK and its 11-year journey so far. More importantly, he set the scene by talking about the importance of Supplier Diversity and Inclusive Procurement and how innovation has also become one of the main vehicles in driving diversity forward. He then introduced Cemile Giousouf, former Integration Commissioner of the CDU Party, who started by saying “although many global companies already implement supplier diversity programs – Germany still needs to catch up.” Cemile continued her speech discussing the economic importance of migrant-run businesses in Germany and how the country needed to develop advisory services catered specifically for migrants.

Kai Nowosel, the CPO of Accenture, held the Sponsor’s Address and started with a candid overview of Accenture’s procurement priorities. “This is what we mainly buy…” he said, as he listed the services and products that were of main importance to the company. He then went on to explain Accenture’s Supplier Inclusion and Sustainability Ecosystem and concluded discussing the challenges faced by both diverse suppliers and large corporations as well as the possible solutions to overcome these. To me, this was an eye-opener. Kai managed to elegantly communicate this complex subject in a simple yet insightful way using examples and anecdotes.

The Keynote speaker of the day was Philippe Legrain, Founder of the Open Political Economy Network. I had already listened to his Ted Talk and several other discussions and lectures on YouTube and thought that he would probably re-use some of that content in his speech. To my surprise, he took a completely different approach and talked about the importance of diversity by highlighting a series of truly fascinating examples – from Silicon Valley to the German national football team!

Read the final part of this three part blog in the March Newsletter.

To read Part One, please click here