Inspiration, Instigation, Imagination

Another Skoll World Forum has come to an end.  Looking around the business school on Monday, you’d have no sense of what descended upon it a mere few days earlier.  Delegates are gone,  corridors are cleared, Forum posters stripped down, students long departed for spring break.

So when all is gone, what lingers?

Perhaps the physical presence of the Skoll World Forum has dissipated, but I believe it is only now that we can begin to process its effects.

The Forum experience is different for each and every delegate.  So I can only share my own journey of meeting more incredible people and hearing more remarkable ideas than I think the human brain can process in such a short period of time.  It was utter creative overload.

For me three major themes arose, both within the sessions and among conversations with delegates.


Joyful Archbiship Tutu on Deep Leadership panel

There is no doubt this Forum revitalizes the spirit. Others have already spoken about the gift of having Archbishop Tutu with us, who was no less than an beacon of humility and hope.  But inspiration was not just felt through blockbuster speakers leaving us in awe of their leadership, but also through those very same leaders admitting defeat, setback, challenges, and utter, total existential doubt.  I found nothing more truthful than the conversations in the “Deep Leadership” panel and “Is Heroism Obsolete?” session (watch them both here) where the greats of our field opened up the desperately needed conversation about the things we all know and are often frightened to admit: that this stuff is hard (personally and professionally, emotionally and intellectually, physically and mentally) and that’s OK. It was equally humbling and inspiring.


Along similar lines, I thought this Forum made some headway by being a bit of a instigator.  No longer was there solely  the sense of self-congratulation or successes-lauding (though much of that did occur) but there was also a feeling of criticalness and troublemaking.  As the field continues to mature, it demands a deeper, more rigorous eye on the growing complexity of our solutions. (Watch the wonderful opening microfinance debate for precisely this).  The finance tracks similarly explored its progress with not just hopeful anticipation, but also a sophisticated self-awareness I hadn’t sensed previously.


Skoll Centre Director, Pamela Hartigan, at the Closing Plenary pushing us to think about convergence and collaboration

For me, some of the most exciting sessions were those that stretched our creative imaginations and offered multi-disciplinary frameworks for creating change.  There was a real infusion of  dialogue around ideation, design processes, systems change structures, human-centred design, convergence, and innovation cartography (my new favorite phrase thanks Richard Jefferson). I felt my capacity for how to think through complex problems – and not just to arise at the solution – stretched to a whole new level.  There was a delicate tug to encourage us to open up our minds and broaden our creative potential beyond the frameworks we are used to working in.

There’s lots more insights from the week than I can sum up in this post. Instead, most of it is captured here from a diversity of voices, as well as some great videos and images of the week.

Until next year, when you all descend on us again: keep inspiring, instigating, and imaging.