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Conference attendees trade Coronado Beach for Carson Beach

Much as we love this city, if we were to do a totally unscientific poll, we’re willing to bet that, given the choice of attending a conference in Boston or San Diego, most would pick that reliably warm, sunny, paradisiacal southern California beach town over The Hub.

Not Pat Walsh and Scot Chisholm.

UMass-Amherst grads who grew up on the South Shore (Walsh from Weymouth, Chisholm from Hingham), they’re co-founders of Classy, a San Diego company that provides online fundraising technology to nonprofits and other “social enterprises.”

For the past few years, they’ve hosted a biennial conference in San Diego called The Collaborative for nonprofits and businesses doing world-changing socially innovative work. Think drones combatting illegal poaching and 3D printers making prosthetics for people with disabilities.


This year, however, they wanted a change of scenery. They considered moving the event to the Bay Area, New York City, Philadelphia or Washington D.C. Ultimately, Walsh said, they concluded “there’s no place we’ve seen in the country that does a better job of incubating young social entrepreneurs than Boston.”

And that is why attendees of next week’s Collaborative – rather than strolling through Balboa Park, hiking at Torrey Pines, or cooing over sea lions at La Jolla Cove – will instead find themselves at Cruiseport Boston in the Seaport, where the three-day conference is being held.

“Boston weather is certainly not San Diego, by a long shot,” Walsh joked, acknowledging the climatic downside of the change of venue. “We did try to avoid the winter, though!”

The gathering will conclude Thursday with the Classy Award s, which recognize “the most remarkable changemakers of our generation.” Several of the 100 finalists are local, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, Ceres, Design That Matters, Grit, Interise, Match Education and Seeding La bs.

Billed as the country’s “largest social innovation event,” the conference expects at least 1,000 attendees and its big-name sponsors include Salesforce, Southwest Airlines and the United Nations Foundation. This year’s Boston-based speakers include Susan Musinsky, executive director of the Social Innovation Forum; Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America; and Tracy Palandjian, CEO of Social Finance.



Sacha Pfeiffer can be reached at pfeiffer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SachaPfeiffer.