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Ag Faceoff: For-profit or Nonprofit, Which Wins the Social ROI Contest?

Oxford’s Fierce Compassion – Series of Student Insights to the Skoll World Forum 2016.

Mark Brown, rx Co-Founder of Kulemela Investments and Current Oxford Said MBA student weighs in on “Ag Faceoff: For Profit or Non-profit Which Wins the Social ROI Contest.”

Agriculture presents an incredible opportunity for small-scale rural families in developing countries across the world. Countless organizations have taken various approaches in an effort to help farming families create better livelihoods for themselves. In this debate, link we heard from two representatives from non-profits and two representatives from a for-profit investment fund. They debated which structure better positions an organization to achieve social return on investment.

The panel, moderated by Richard Fahey, COO of the Skoll Foundation, included Alan Cheung and Ion Yadigaroglu of the for-profit Capricorn Investment Group, and their non-profit counterparts Willy Foote of Root Capital and Andrew Youn of One Acre Fund.

The panel was tasked to debate whether $1million can generate better social impact for small scale farmers if invested in a for-profit company or donated through a non-profit channel.

All four of the panelists shared great examples of investments and impact that their respective organizations have made and achieved. All four debaters expressed their organizations’ innovative approaches, promising social impact and the ability to generate healthy streams of revenue. At the end of the introductory remarks all of the panelists seemed to have a lot in common.

Alan Cheng pointed out that Root Capital and One Acre fund have a lot in common with for-profit ventures. Willy Foote urged us to consider that non-profits can make riskier, important investments. Ion Yadigaroglu pointed out that many of the early discoveries that have been scaled by non-profits were initially discovered by for-profit ventures. Andrew Youn shared his bottom line that One Acre is for-impact and with a non-profit baseline, it can formulate its approach to generate social impact at the most efficient rate.

The panelists raised compelling arguments but their values did not seem to be inherently opposed. The dialogue pushed the conversation past the two sides’ common threads of impact and financial sustainability and examined where they are unique from one another: in their differing accountability to their sources financing. Fortunately Jeff Skoll, an investor in all four of the panelists organizations, stepped forward to share his perspective. “It’s about timing”, he shared from the gallery. Market forces can achieve great impact, but when working to serve the poorest of the poor, the timeline to make money can just take too long. With less vulnerable populations, we can let market forces push businesses forward to create social impact.

The insights from each side of the debate seemed to underscore the importance and benefits that both for-profits and non-profits can have in the pursuit of improving small-scale farmer livelihoods. In the end the themes of a commitment to social impact, innovative methods and financially-sustainable revenue prevailed as more important than what seemed to be a false tension between non-profit and for-profit structures.

Follow Mark: @MarkPatBrown

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Stronger Together? Government Collaboration with Social Enterprises in India

Oxford’s Fierce Compassion – Series of Student Insights to the Skoll World Forum 2016.

MBA student, viagra 100mg Skoll Scholar and Founder of Home Safe, ampoule Nikhil Saigal gives his perspective on the Skoll World Forum seminar session ‘Stronger Together? Government Collaboration with Social Enterprises in India’.

The question of the necessity and possibilities of fostering collaboration between the public and civic sector has been a pertinent one amongst practitioners. When champions from both sectors come together on a common platform, the insights are bound to be powerful.

Natalia Agapitova, Program Lead, Innovation Labs at World Bank kicked us off with her experiences working with multiple social enterprises across the developing world. Seeing a strong synergy in the objectives that both the civil sector and public stakeholders are working towards, she stressed the need to create an environment where support systems can help these social enterprises scale the work they do.

Rwitwika Bhattacharya, CEO for Swaniti Initiative, has been working in the space of delivering development solutions to government officials in India. These solutions have ranged across the fields of healthcare, education, gender equality and livelihoods. Sharing her experiences on working with a government in a rapidly developing environment, she explains that most often the challenges arise out of a difference in perceptions of the problem. While local government officials feel extremely connected first hand to issues in their areas, organizations that have seen successes in other settings are not always perceived to be able to tackle it and may be seen as outsiders. Suggesting that the best approach is to build a track record and show results in a similar environment visavis geography or nature of the challenge, strongly helps push the cause through.

On the flipside, hearing from Ms Vidyavathi Vaidyanathan, Joint Secretary at the Government of India, gave a balanced view of how the public stakeholders view collaboration opportunities with social enterprises. Over her 25 years working with the Indian political system across levels ranging from the Zila Panchayat all the way to her current role as joint secretary, one sentiment that came out strongly throughout was her insight that the perception from governments is changing. While there was a time that for profit organizations were perceived as negative partners, she says “Profit is not a dirty word”, matching Ritwika’s insight on how the transparent profit motive gives the government a clear understanding of what’s in it for the partner.

While times are changing and an environment of greater openness to working together are seemingly closer, we still have a long way to go before these conversations are more common. In the experiences shared, we could see how governments are open to overcoming traditional challenges like partnerships being driven on the basis of individual motivations and changes in this by bringing about longer term, multi year agreements on solutions being delivered. We are also seeing changes in the push for collaboration coming from both sides of the equation, governments reaching out to look for partners combined with the more traditional route of social enterprises advocating the government to open up to partnerships.

In my experience of working on Road Safety in India, there are certain social issues where collaboration with public stakeholders – governments and law enforcement agencies, becomes imperative to see a change. A for profit start up, we faced multiple challenges engaging with the public sector and understanding how these challenges are being addressed by other organizations working with the government. Armed with strong insights and experiences of practitioners in India on successes and challenges on fostering government collaboration, these experiences allow us to evolve our approach to taking the social missions we are passionate about to fruition.

Follow Nikhil: @nikhilsaigal

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Mindful Action, Intelligent Fearlessness: Creating Movements that Inform, Inspire, and Change the World

Oxford’s Fierce Compassion – Series of Student Insights to the Skoll World Forum 2016.

MBA student and Skoll Scholar, recipe Maria Springer gives her perspective on the Skoll World Forum seminar session ‘Mindful Action, Intelligent Fearlessness: Creating Movements that Inform, Inspire, and Change the World’.

Panel moderator Ron Schultz, Co-Founder of Waterman Aylsworth, opened the early morning session with a request for the audience: “Please root your feet on the floor, place your hands on your knees, sit up straight, gently lower your gaze, and feel your heart. Then let your heart radiate out.”

Within sixty seconds, the hearts of 75 delegates were radiating. If we believe that individuals are connected to the universe and by default other individuals, building movements that inform, inspire and change the world require mindfulness and fearlessness. Radiating hearts are just the beginning. Three key insights on mindful action and intelligent fearlessness emerged from the session.

(1) Fear is workable. What if we see fear as workable? After all, even the fearless fear. Insight Meditation Society co-founder, Sharon Salzberg, suggests that if we “loosen the grip on fixed thinking and expectations, new options emerge.” Fears that are acknowledged can be turned around. By creating space and an internal practice for managing fear, we can accept the world as it is, not how we think it ought to be, savings us time, frustration and energy. Founder and CEO of International Bridges to Justice, Karen Tse, summed up the point with a quote from Khalil Gibran, “your joy is your sorrow unmasked.”

(2) Compassion is a practice. Practicing compassion enables social entrepreneurs to align intention with heartfelt, powerful action. APOPO Founder, Bart Weetjens, suggests that social entrepreneurs are often successful because they demonstrate compassion for themselves and for those they serve. Social entrepreneurs who love themselves authentically connect with those they serve.

(3) Boldness and compassion are not mutually exclusive. Fierce compassion does not make one weak or foolish, and the notion of being compassionate towards oneself is not to be confused with laziness, a lack of rigor or an inability to pursue excellence. On the contrary, “being compassionate can increase the audacity and intensity of action,” advises Salzberg. By practicing fierce compassion, social entrepreneurs create the space to avoid superficial reactions, and can instead respond intelligently and strategically.

Mindful action, fierce compassion and intelligent fearlessness require practice and commitment. By valuing mindfulness, compassion and fearlessness, social entrepreneurs can inform, inspire and change the world.

 

Follow Maria: @mariaspringer

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Healthcare as an Engine for Social Transformation

Oxford’s Fierce Compassion – Series of Student Insights to the Skoll World Forum 2016.

MBA student and Skoll Scholar, discount Ritesh Singhania gives his perspective on the Skoll World Forum seminar session ‘Healthcare as an Engine for Social Transformation’.

Ritiesh - Healthcare

Is healthcare about disease management or delivering health?

While it is so important to provide quality affordable healthcare to communities at the bottom of the pyramid, can healthcare alone improve the lives of the people?

This is how we began the session with Gary Cohen, co-founder Healthcare Without Harm; Tyler Norris, VP Total Health, and Rebecca Onie, Co-founder Health Leads. It was very thought provoking to start the session broad, with questions that make us challenge our own thinking about the fundamental role that healthcare can play in the lives of local communities.

It is difficult to set up a medical clinic in the middle of a village community in rural India and expect the community to grow. Illness treatment or disease management in segregation can only have a limited impact in the lives of the people. To give an example – most of the women in rural India still use firewood for their cooking energy needs, leading to massive amounts of smoke within the four walls. This smoke is inhaled by just not the women of the family, but also by their children. As Annie Griffiths, from Ripple Effect Images highlighted during her fantastic opening plenary at the Skoll World Forum, that more children (under the age of five) die due to breathing problems, than diarrhoea, dengue and pneumonia together. Thus, while setting up a medical clinic in a remote village definitely has value addition for the community, it is important to understand the needs of the community and set up a cross-sectoral relationships with other areas of development for a healthier life-style of people.

I would like to share a small example from my days back in India, where we used to set up small scale power plants in the Indian Himalayas to generate clean electricity and cooking charcoal (by-product) from flammable pine needles. We would employ local women in the villages to collect pine needles and remunerate them both in the form of cash and cooking charcoal. Women in the villages are normally responsible to meet the energy needs of the family and spend the entire day gathering firewood. By employing them to collect pine needles, for the first time we were not only empowering them with money, but also offering a cleaner source of cooking fuel so that they do not have to go but down trees, in the fragile Himalayan eco-system. Thus, trying to create an impact at every step in the value chain by not only offering cleaner electricity to people, but also a cleaner cooking fuel and employment.

Similarly, healthcare offerings in the local communities have to be integrated with the needs of the community so that we can actually see a difference in the lives of the people – better, healthier people for a brighter future.

Follow Ritesh: @riteshs01

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A whole new world…

Deborah Owhin is an MBA Skoll Scholar of 2015-16, sale she has dedicated over 10 years towards achieving gender equality. After attending UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 57) in 2013, healing she realised the urgent need for men and women to learn and work together to prevent gender inequality. Deborah therefore started ‘Made Equal’ – a non-profit social initiative that engages, symptoms educates and empowers men and women to eradicate gender inequality. She describes here her experience of life and study at Oxford Saïd so far.

 

Having left formal education over 5 years ago the idea of becoming a full-time student again was exciting but also slightly daunting. How was I going to ensure that I could balance my ‘perfectionist’ traits with interacting with over 340 course mates, faculty, staff, career options, adoption of the SDG’s, my personal commitments to women and working across sub-Saharan Africa, keeping in touch with family and friends, and traveling.

 

Being a student again has pushed me outside of my comfort zone and has increased my ‘work streams’ by almost double. I thought I was busy prior to my matriculation at Oxford, however the masses of opportunities available to you as an Oxford student are unimaginable. From Oxford Union debates on ‘Does Feminism Need Rebranding’ and panels, to distinguished speaker lecture series such as the ‘Devaki Jain Lecture with Graça Machel’, to formal dinners where I got to introduce my friends from home to my new Oxford friends, conferences such as PowerShift hosted by Professor Linda Scott, workshops run by the Skoll Centre on negotiation skills, to seminars by Josh Levy on ‘Dads at work’ the list is endless.

 

The thing that I had not anticipated or put much thought into would be the quality of my lecturers inside and outside of the classroom. I was assigned an academic advisor at Oxford Saïd and one at my College both of which are perfect for my interest, background and growth areas. Coming from a small liberal arts university, Spelman College, I was accustomed to a small network of students which meant faculty and staff knew students by name. I never expected to find that at Oxford and due to the nature and demands of my course it added to my disbelief. However my interactions with faculty has been inspiring to share my past and work areas with them and to hear about their passions for different fields, research areas, and their own families which has truly helped to keep this whole ‘MBA’ experience real.

 

I have had the opportunity to meet with a number of faculty members some who are my current lecturers and some who are not. Each one has taken the time and made themselves available in the common areas or during office hours and have not only advised me on careers but on interpersonal relationships, their own personal bicycle mishaps, the importance of ‘pause’ and reflection, while encouraging me always to share my non private sector experiences and realities with my classmates.

 

So many ideas often need sounding boards; in my first month Professor Marc Ventresca advised me to try new things, things that I would not do or had not done before coming to Oxford. What great advice that is so simple…do something you have never done before. This was affirmed by a number of other faculty and staff who I engaged in conversations about electives. So I signed up to take a French course, something that I have always wanted to learn and granted I many not become fluent in the next year but it is a step in the right direction.

 

Starting this journey has been a whirlwind with great days and tougher days, but the new friendships and networks make it worth waking up and getting to class for 8.30am every day.

If given the chance would I still choose and MBA? Would I still choose Oxford? Would I still choose this year, a resounding YES. Why? Because I feel more excited about this journey months into the program than when I began this new world which poses endless possibilities for which I am truly humbled.

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Freedom of my spirit

Sumit Joshi is a Skoll Scholar on the Oxford MBA for 2015-16. He is the founder of APAART Education, malady an organisation that aims to bridge the gap between academia and industry.

“There I was, wearing ill-fitting shoes, loose pajamas, a plain T-shirt, and a tired smile. That morning I had woken up to scales tilting further East. I had become chubbier in the last three years – something I wasn’t proud of. And now, while I waited with my friends outside Trinity College, it dawned on me that in these three years I had completely forgotten something crucial: I had forgotten how passionate I was about climbing. I took a deep breath as images of The Himalayas flitted across my mind. I really missed home.

Just when I was about to turn around and make my way back to my student accommodation at Rewley Abbey, I heard Melissa shout, ‘There he is!’ I saw a young man on a bicycle approaching us. He had climbing gear tightly fastened onto the back of the bike, and I thought I spotted a climbing rope too. Instinctively, I stopped.

Giles (as he later introduced himself) parked his bike by the pole. Within a few minutes of our introduction, we found ourselves discussing things we were really passionate about – sports, culture, food and more. We walked down from Trinity to Oxford Brookes, acquainting one another with our lives outside of work and academic study. The rapport was natural. No well-rehearsed networking pitch or futuristic thoughts on how the economic growth of developing nations would affect the world. We were out there, simply talking about what we loved. It felt good to be ‘normal normal’ again.

By the time we reached Brookes, I felt an adrenaline rush in my body. With my steps turning into a sprint I entered the building with Giles right by my side. When I spotted the towering 30 feet climbing wall, I knew I was going to make my Oxford debut that day.

With a silly smile plastered all over my face I looked around. People were adjusting their gear; some were trying to climb a higher grade; there were a couple with crampons and slips while others were cheering on the ones making a climb.

When I moved closer to the wall I could hear my heart pounding. I would love to call it ‘pure thrill’, however I must admit, I was a bit nervous! It had been three years. I was out of practice and this was a new place with new people. I had to quickly build my confidence and get going.

As I prepared for the climb, I could hear people clapping and cheering. I took my first shot at a medium grade. I was cautious, reconfirming my strength at every step, my skill in handling the ropes, and my ability to remember the manoeuvres as I negotiated my way up. I kept reminding myself of the techniques and I soon realised I was doing fine. When I climbed back down, Giles was beaming. He encouraged me to take on the next challenge – this time it was grade 5+. I climbed that without a moment’s thought. And then the next, and the next – higher and tougher each time. After my 4th climb I decided to call it a day. Giles seemed impressed with my performance. And many people came up to me congratulating me for the effort. It felt great, after a long time.

That day I must’ve met 20 sports enthusiasts. Each one of us belonged to a different country, spoke a different language, and had lived a different life before coming to Oxford. But right there, at that moment none of it seemed important. There were smiles for jobs well done, genuine encouragement for failures, and support that promised we’d outdo ourselves the next time. We were simply absorbing the thrill of a sport, a common thread that bound us together.

The following day at the School was different. The once tired routine had become spirited; there was a spring in my step. And guess what? The next day I went gliding!”