Skoll World Forum 2013: Everything You Need To Know

Mark Hand, one of our Skoll Skollars, takes us on a recap of the Skoll World Forum. As Mark says, “happy reading”!


If you missed this year’s Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, never fear: a raft of students from across Oxford worked all week long to get you the inside scoop on the conversations going on in the high-level hallways of Said Business School. The write-ups of our student correspondents provide a pretty comprehensive–and quite encouraging–window into the world of social entrepreneurship.

The theme of this year’s forum, disruption, surfaced in a number of posts. I look at four skills necessary for shifting systems; MBA Meagan Johnson takes it up a notch to the power of system design itself. Rwanda, Sara Leedom argued, has practical lessons to teach us on such system-level change—unfortunately, the session she visited missed the boat. At the same time, Environmental Anthropology PhD Shauna Monkman points out one critical flaw in using Rwanda a model of disruptive change. DPhil Guillermo Cassanovas provides notes from a session with industry leaders well on their way to effecting large-scale change; MBA Michael Thornton examines how large companies can do this in a way that is more than “staving off Mr. Freeze with a Bic Lighter.”

There were a few well-trodden topics: James Tilbury covers the birth of yet the latest, greatest impact measurement tool put forward by the founder of now-bankrupt Monitor Group; and MBA Nicki Ashcroft offers a quirky comparison between impact measurement and one of your favorite children’s cartoons. MBAs Akiko Aiba and Nat Ware explore the relationship between social enterprise, aid, and philanthropy.

The mobile phone effect got a lot of play at this year’s Forum. That’s not too surprising, MBA Charlton Mak points out, given that mobile phones are more prevalent globally than toilets. MBA Sabre Collier says she is still looking for a business model that might be appropriate to Angola, dear to her heart; fellow Skoll Scholar Shubham Anand may have uncovered ideas in both monitoring and payments, while DPhil Ali Aslan Gümüsay asks how innovations like these can be taken to scale.

One of the biggest open questions at the 2013 Skoll World Forum was the question of youth unemployment–a hot topic beyond Said Business School. Both MBA Chad Anderson and MPhil Sherihan Abd El Rahman report out on the “ticking time bomb” of youth unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa. What can investors do? MBAs Chris Hunter and Greg Coussa might have some answers: Chris discusses one approach to startup generation with which we’re experimenting here at Said Business School, and Greg highlights the work one organization is doing to support small- and medium-sized enterprises around the world.

But what, exactly, does it take to get this hard work done? One surprising topic from the week was the importance of emotional connection. In her second article, Shauna Monkman wonders if the ability to connect is behind one of social entrepreneurship’s greatest successes; MPP Ken Moriyama suggests its power as a check on the worst demons of do-gooders.

Finally, if all this is still a muddle to you, I posted a Social Entrepreneurship 101 designed for beginners and a first stab at identifying key conversations happening at the Forum. Happy reading!