Reflections from the Skollar Summit

Every year before the Skoll World Forum, medications our community of Skollar alumni return to Oxford University to spend the day together as part of the Skollar Summit. The Summit is the one in-person gathering a year for this group, link so you can imagine the excitement with which they come. This year’s gathering was facilitated by Ilana Wetzler and Tim Hartley– they share their thoughts of the day below. 


It is fair to say that as professional facilitators of leadership development experiences and change programmes we don’t often find teams of people who know exactly what they want before they’ve had it.  So you can imagine our joy when we saw this written in the Skollars’ formal request for Summit facilitators back in October last year:

“The Skollar Alumni community is seeking to strengthen bonds between alumni and to contribute to members’ ongoing development as individuals, link as leaders of organizations, and as social entrepreneurs.”

It is an understatement to say that we were delighted to work alongside the Skollars to bring shape and purpose to proceedings at the 2012 Skollars Summit.

The highlight for us was hearing what it meant for everyone there to really meet each other, spending a day exploring what it means to be human, and how exciting it is to be committed to the same greater cause.  We had a blast, and very much feel this could be the beginning of something amazing.

It’s difficult to convey the energy of the day, but below is a brief summary:


Starting Point

Our view is that understanding our core identity and values is key to living a life that is purposeful, meaningful and aligned with what we truly believe in. With that as our starting point everyone was invited to speak about why as social entrepreneurs we do what we do – asking what it is that we are most passionate about.

Shifting the conversation away from “I do this” towards “I do this because” had the effect of people realising their common ground, their same-ness – yet each individual spoke from their heart with their very own sound, unique colour and tone.  The feel of community started to form.


Unity in Diversity

From this paradoxical place of sameness and diversity we moved through what one Skollar described as “a term of business school in one day”.  Through a combination of dialogue, team tasks, theory and reflection, we spent a day learning about leadership, about us as individuals, us as a group and the different contexts that we each operate in.


Emotional Intelligence

As a base for leadership, we used Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence model. This simple and powerful model shows that in order to affect change and manage our relationships, the fundamental step is developing our self awareness: “we cannot manage that which we are not aware of”.  The premise is that if we are able to develop our awareness, of ourselves, of others, of all that is around us we are more able to see what is needed from us as leaders, and develop the capacity to move to serve those needs.  How can we step back, become aware and respond rather than just react?


Common Values

We looked at the value of being part of one single human family, that we are inter-connected, and how that translates into action if everyone is our brother and sister. We looked at service as being at the heart of leadership.  We also looked at the concept of the ‘ends and the means are the same’, which stems from Gandhi’s quote of, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world” – i.e. if we want to see peace, we ourselves must be peaceful, if we want to see harmony, we ourselves must live harmoniously, if we want to see transformation, we ourselves must transform…

We ended the day with confidence that solid foundations have been laid to support the Skollars as they explore who they are, how to lead, and excitement about what the future holds for them, their ventures, and this community.