Emerge 2017

Opening Plenary Speaker, Andy Middleton, Project Slipstream

This weekend, we welcomed 400+ attendees across two days at the Saïd Business School for our 9th annual Emerge Conference.

People from across the globe came together for what was a jam-packed event, dedicated to showcasing innovation across a variety of trends within the social impact space.

We invited four writers to join us as our Communications Champions to capture the event in real-time using #Emerge17. And guess what? As per infectious disease specialist, Peter Drobac’s welcome speech and corny pun intended, we made it #GoViral!

Here are our four writers’ insights from Emerge 2017:

Claud Williams

Claud WilliamsClaud Williams is a brand consultant, public speaker, and social entrepreneur. He currently serves as the Executive Chairman of the social enterprise Dream Nation, which is re-inventing personal development for millennials.

“We cannot predict the future, but we can invent it”

I had the pleasure of spending my weekend at Emerge 2017. A conference created by the Skoll Centre and the Saïd Business School at University of Oxford, focused on exploring big ideas that are disrupting and challenging unjust systems and practices.

Each session I attended has laid out a blueprint of what is needed to ‘invent’ the future. Although, we cannot say for sure which particular idea or business will eventually become the status quo, these principles should still be universally applicable. The four themes which stood out most to me are:

  1. Leveling the playing field
  2. Useful innovations
  3. Measuring Impact
  4. Building relationships


Katherine Li

Katherine LiKatherine Li is a current MBA student at the University of Oxford – Saïd Business School. Prior to Oxford, she worked with early stage Bay Area, San Francisco, start-ups to enable future growth and is passionate about innovation, technology, and healthcare.

How Virtual Reality is Helping Grow Africa’s New World Wonder

What do global decision makers and an 8-year old Senegalese girl have in common? It turns out that they can inhabit the same space despite the many miles between them.

The initiative in question is an ambitious 8000 km long natural wonder termed “The Great Green Wall.” Their shared experience comes from a VR film entitled “Growing a World Wonder” led by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in partnership with Surround Vision. But they’re also the first to tell you that VR isn’t the answer to everything. “I know many people talk about VR as the ultimate empathy machine – but for us it wasn’t so much about empathy but about inspiration to see and hear the world from another human’s perspective. I think in that sense. VR breaks the square frame of traditional narratives,” says Alexander Asen, Communications Officer at UNCCD. To craft a compelling narrative, Alex and his team decided to place people at the center of the action, rather than simply speaking to the story through reports and visuals.


Khadeja Ramali

Khadeja RamaliKhadeja is currently an MA student at Soas University of London. She co-founded Project Silphium, which was launched to create a digital space for Libyan women to share their stories and have their voices heard. She is also a Geophysics Graduate from Imperial College London and worked as a Geophysicist in Libya for 5 years.

Shaping the systems and practices surrounding us

We live in a time where we have the tools necessary to make a difference and impact the many systems surrounding us but sometimes we fall short of tackling the big challenges. Through discussions, conversations and exploration, the Emerge conference facilitates the sharing of knowledge and inspiration between members who are already part of the social impact drive in their own communities and participants who want to get involved. At the same time, remembering that we have a responsibility towards the environments that get affected.

“What would you do if you couldn’t fail”

 Andy Middleton set the tone and started off the opening plenary highlighting the need to create networks of people in diverse places and be more focused on the real challenges affecting us. His work at Project Slipstream focused on preparing future generations to be more aware of their environment and food consumption, while teaching them the tools to be able to take on big goals to change the world.


Solene van der Wielen

Solene van der WielenSolene is a History graduate from the Universities of Warwick and Oxford. She uses her research and writing skills to help social enterprises better understand, address, and communicate human needs in the United Kingdom and internationally.

Conversation: An Untapped Resource?

Over the weekend, the halls of Saïd Business School were flooded with entrepreneurs, technologists, journalists, performers, and students for Emerge, the Skoll Centre’s annual conference on social innovation. As could be expected from such an eclectic mix, many quickly found themselves making new and unexpected connections, often an eco-cup of coffee. However the question of conversation was far from confined to the conference hall or corridors of the Business School. Several sessions addressed the importance of connecting with others be it across the social, economic, geographic, or political divide.