In honour of Juan Jose Ochoa

We are deeply saddened to share the news that one of our Skoll Scholars, Juan Jose Ochoa, passed away recently following a prolonged illness.

A dear classmate, friend, husband, father and inspiring social entrepreneur, Juanjo was among our first Skoll Scholars, completing his Oxford MBA in 2006. He dedicated his career to building a leading microfinance company and improving access to energy, water and communications across rural Argentina and Latin America.

Juanjo was a much-loved and respected part of the global Skoll Scholar community. His energy, passion and generosity left a lasting impression on all those who knew him.  Juanjo is best remembered below through the words of some of his fellow Scholar cohort and classmates.

Our love and prayers are with Juan’s family. He will be greatly missed

The Skoll Centre Team

It is hard to capture in a few lines what a special person Juan Jose was. One of the strongest memories I have from when we first met in 2005, is the kindness of his smile, something I will forever treasure. Throughout our year at Oxford Saïd, I saw in Juanjo a rare combination of compassion and pragmatism; a deep sense of empathy and the eloquence to communicate and act upon it. My thoughts are with Maria and their children. Te queremos mucho, Juanjo.

Susana Frazao Pinheiro

Juanjo shall never be just another fading memory of a social pioneer in a fast-changing world.  Alas, this is too simple a description for such a Master of compassion the likes of JuanJo.  He taught us to strive to transcend the limits of singular perspective and to trust in the grace of deep human connection.  His light is constant, is pure and is forever illuminating brightly inside each of us. Our steps are his steps. Hasta pronto hermano.

Keely Stevenson

Juanjo’s passion, and at the heart of his work over the past years, was to bring light to the very rural communities in Argentina. He also shared his light of purity of spirit, intention and actions with each of us for which we are ever grateful.

Richard Webb

Juanjo and I had many things in common, therefore, we became close friends and fellow mentors. He was a very generous human being with qualities that are hard to find: committed to his family, devoted towards improving people’s lives, an optimist and believer in human nature and a deeply spiritual soul whose words and amazing capacity to listen would brighten us all who were so lucky to have crossed paths with him.  While his life was short; his legacy was profound and will keep pushing many of us forward to continue fighting for the causes he so willingly championed.  Maria and the kids will surely safeguard such inspiring legacy as Juanjo built it with them. Un abrazo fuerte y hasta siempre, amigo!

Henry Gonzalez

A smile and heart so big that everyone who had the pleasure to meet Juanjo instantly connected with him. A dedication and love so deep that it effortlessly extended from his family to his friends to the communities he worked with. His unwavering trust and belief in all made everything seem possible. Juanjo is and will forever remain a beacon of inspiration.

Shanoo Saran

In 2005 we had the pleasure to meet an intelligent, humble and extraordinarily well-rounded human being: Juan Jose Ochoa, Juanjo. Juanjo not only stood out from the rest of the class as one of our Skoll Scholars but also as a loving husband, good father and a true gentlemen. A man with a profound faith in god and in the people, who always looked for the bright side of everyone he met. Juanjo has been a light for all who met him. Now the challenge for us is to honor his name by living from his example.

Felipe Blanco

We lost an amazing man. Juanjo was a wonderful soul who cared deeply for those around him. Truly heartbreaking.

Michael McFadden

There was no other like Juanjo. A determined social entrepreneur on a mission, a kind friend with a listening year, a sportsman with a kindred spirit, a loving father and husband! I will always remember him fondly.

Ruchika Singhal

We’re growing our team

We’re growing the team here at the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford!

If you would like to join our team and help us to advance transformative social entrepreneurship globally through education,  networks, and research then check out these opportunities.

Both roles are fixed-term contracts to July 2021, and the application deadline is 12:00 noon on Monday, 5 November, 2018.

Associate Director for Partnership

Grade 9: £47,263 – £54,765 with a discretionary range to £59,828 p.a.

The Associate Director for Partnerships will play a central role in further developing the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship as a global leader for social entrepreneurship teaching, training, and applied research. As an experienced professional with a strong commitment to social entrepreneurship, the post holder will contribute to the Centre’s overall strategic direction and ensure that the Centre flourishes by creating a strong funding base and cultivating long-lasting stakeholder relationships and networks.

The postholder’s primary responsibility will be to manage and lead fundraising initiatives and operations to secure philanthropic support for the agreed priorities of the Centre. The Associate Director will supervise a Programme Manager who will manage the Centre’s flagship Skoll Scholarship programme, oversee the development of the Centre’s Impact Alumni network, and provide additional support to fundraising activities as necessary.

The postholder will engage with various stakeholders in order to ensure connections with activities both within and outside of the University. This will include working with the Dean and senior management of Saïd Business School and the Social Sciences Division as well as other academic departments. Externally, the Associate Director will engage with multiple stakeholders globally, and represent the Centre Director when necessary.

To read more about our Associate Director for Partnerships role and apply click here.


Programme Manager for Social Ventures

Grade 7: £32,236 – £39,609 with discretionary range to £43,267 p.a.

The purpose of this role is to support the development and accelerate the impact of entrepreneurial ventures with a social and environmental purpose. The Skoll Centre Programme Manager for Social Ventures will work with existing organisations and networks in Oxford to identify and fill gaps in current provision of support for a) early stage social businesses, b) other early stage social impact organisations ambitiously tackling systemic problems, including non-profits, c) for-profit start-ups wishing to incorporate positive impact and responsible business principles into their activities.

They will also support activities including training, workshops, and mentoring/coaching, as well as linking to wider network resources. The scope of this support is for ventures started by University of Oxford staff and students, but may also extend to the wider Oxford community. The Programme Manager will take responsibility for the Skoll Venture Awards competition, and manage the Centre’s work providing due diligence support and strategic advice to a major global social enterprise contest.

This is an exciting new position, and the postholder will have considerable scope to shape it in partnership with existing actors across the enterprise support ecosystem.

To read more about our Programme Manager for Social Ventures role and apply click here.


All applications must be sent to Lauren Lamb at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. Details of how to apply are accessible through the links above.


Going beyond dialogue


The idea that business can play a role in alleviating poverty has long been a subject of real significance for academics and practitioners – in for-profit and non-profit sectors alike. Today, the debate on the role of ‘Business and Society’, ‘Responsible Business’, and a host of other related terms point not just to an emerging trend, but more significantly, to a new normativity in which corporations, NGOs, charities, and indeed a technologically empowered civil society are all co-constructors. This transition from emerging trend to normative value is represented in literatures and conversations that have moved beyond the question of if the private sector has a role to play in addressing poverty (and a host of other social and environmental challenges), to the question of how. This new normativity is neatly summarised in the mantra, ‘doing well by doing good’. In other words, there is a possible synergy between commercial and social value that can be harnessed to tackle serious social and environmental challenges.

In the context of answering the ‘how’ questions, earlier this year, in April, the Skoll Centre and Acumen co-hosted Beyond Dialogue with generous support from Mars Inc, PepsiCo, Levis Strauss Foundation, EY, and Johnson & Johnson. The event was designed to bring together corporations and social enterprises to discuss their warts-and-all experiences of cross-sector partnerships. Through a series of facilitated roundtable discussions, experienced cross-sector partnership managers shared their learning, reflections – whether positive or negative – and made suggestions for improvements and future collaborations. The details of the themes and lessons of Beyond Dialogue are outlined in this report that also includes six case studies of cross-sector partnerships between social enterprises and corporations.

In the on-going pursuit of tackling poverty, corporations and business managers will continue to find that when working in complex, unpredictable, and unfamiliar environments, the creation of new strategic partnerships can offer the best way forward. Social enterprises and entrepreneurs, on the other hand, will continue to find that relating to vast, billion-dollar companies with a myriad of internal stakeholders and managers can be just as challenging as the ‘wicked problem’ they are trying to solve. Ultimately, the challenges of cross-sector partnerships will only be improved over time, when mistakes are made and lessons are learned. This is why convenings such as Beyond Dialogue and the conversations that they spark are important contributions to answering the how questions of ‘doing well by doing good’. Please download the report and continue the dialogue.


In Honour of Pamela Hartigan

STILL_BIF_PH_Skoll_Interview1It is with a heavy heart that we share the news that our fearless leader, Dr Pamela Hartigan, passed away today after a two-year battle with cancer.

The Saïd Business School has created a page in her honour, listing many of her accomplishments, though the list could certainly have gone on for many more pages.

While we have all been inspired by her accomplishments, anyone who knows Pamela will have been touched by her energy, her fierce disdain for bureaucracy, and her unique ability to get things done when others would have found the task impossible. As the book she wrote with John Elkington was titled, Pamela certainly did channel “The Power of Unreasonable People.”

At the Skoll Centre, we gathered this morning to mourn and reminisce over tea, and felt a huge sense of loss for the powerful force that had brought us all together. The global community of Skoll Scholars and Saïd Business School alumni whose lives have been touched by her generosity have been reaching out, sharing their gratitude for the opportunities she opened up for them, the inspiration she provided, and the lessons she left them with. And the wider world of social impact educators and practitioners will certainly be mourning the loss of her thought leadership and passion for change.

At the core, the message we at the Centre feel left with is a sense of love. She had an incredible love for her family and for making others feel like family. There are many around the world who know and love the Hartigans as well as a global network of changemakers because of her incredible ability to connect people to each other to get things done, while building life-long friendships along the way. She also had an incredible love for her work. She poured her heart into it, because she saw it as her channel to change the world, and that she certainly did. We can remember how, a few years ago, a group of students asked her to teach a course about social entrepreneurship because they weren’t in the Business School and they wanted to learn from her. She told them “I’ll give up my next 5 Saturdays to teach you, if you commit to showing up.” She had more than 100 people taking that class, on a Saturday morning, and she held true to her commitment, bringing in speakers and lecturers. She offered this course, on her Saturdays, for no pay and no fee, because she loved helping people learn how to improve the world.

She will be greatly missed. Our heart is with Pamela’s family and her global network of friends today as we mourn the loss of such a unique and “unreasonable” woman. Saïd Business School and the Skoll Centre will be celebrating her life in the weeks to come, but today we wanted to share this sad news with our community so you too can hold up your teacups and sing her praises. She lived an incredible life, and we all feel blessed to have been touched by it.

– The Skoll Centre Team

Pioneering Community-Based Student Finance

Following the success of the Oxford Social Innovation Case Competition on 30th April at Saïd Business School, Project Manager and MBA Student, Min Ji Kim takes time to interview Cameron Stevens, CEO of Prodigy Finance.

The 3rd annual Oxford Social Innovation Case Competition (OSICC) – a competition that challenges teams of students from any and all Cameron Stevnes - Prodigydegree programmes from the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University to find the best solution to difficult questions faced by real social entrepreneurs – was held at the University of Oxford Saïd Business School on April 30th 2016. In the lead-up to the big event, we sat down with Cameron Stevens, CEO of Prodigy Finance, a co-sponsor with Oxford’s Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship of this year’s OSICC, to speak about the journey of the company he founded and his personal journey as an entrepreneur.

Learn more here about the way that alumni can support the incoming class of Oxford SBS September 2016 students.

What does Prodigy Finance do?

Prodigy Finance is a company that provides student loans exclusively to postgraduate students attending the world’s top business schools and universities. We believe the talent map is global, yet the current student lending credit model is not. We are committed to changing this, and have built a borderless lending model that prizes academic potential over geography.

Would you consider yourself a social entrepreneur? What in your life journey do you think prepared you to start and build a company like Prodigy?

I’ve always thought the purpose of any great business was to solve problems, and have constantly been very interested in addressing social issues via entrepreneurship. Particularly, the concept of combining a social and profit dimension in businesses that can grow to size and scale.

For instance, when I was in university in South Africa, I started a corporate events planning company and designed it in a way to address employment inequality. We provided people with the skills to transition into full employment and grew the company to 65 full time staff. Later, I moved to Malaysia for six years and founded another company there, which I successfully scaled and sold. And ever since, I have always associated business success with doing good in the world and making a positive impact.

What specifically triggered the idea behind Prodigy? What was the specific problem or gap you and your founding team were trying to address?

Shortly after arriving to INSEAD to pursue my MBA, a few of my friends and I were lamenting over a beer the challenges we all had financing our business school education. We really had only three options: (a) self-fund from family, friends, and personal savings, (b) sell or dispose any existent assets, or (c) borrow at usurious rates from banks in our home countries and eat the costs of foreign exchange rates and fees. At the same time, despite being at a well-recognised school like INSEAD, no financial institutions in France would lend us because we did not have local credit history.

At this time, I was very influenced by Mohamed Yunus and the microfinance movement and thought to bring those same principles to plug the gap I was witnessing; enable anyone accepted at a top MBA programme to achieve their dreams and complete the course, no matter where they came from.

What was the biggest challenge in getting Prodigy started? How did you respond?

My founding team and I worked on developing and re-developing the business model of Prodigy during our time in INSEAD and a bit beyond. We managed to attract the attention of Barclays bank and were working out an investment agreement for them to provide the initial loan base, but just as we were about to seal the deal the 2008 financial crisis hit. By the time of our next scheduled meeting with the Barclays team, the team as well as our intended agreement had all but evaporated. The global economy and the appetite for investment in new ideas dried up.

It, felt surreal, a bit like a slap in the face. We were completely deflated, so we did the natural thing. We went back to the drawing board. Clearly our initial idea of getting institutional backing from big banks wasn’t going to work anymore. The model had to change – or at least the investment source needed to. It was around this time that I recalled that I had written my university thesis on crowdfunding in 1999, except of course back then it wasn’t called that. We also needed people with available money who understood the funding plight MBA students faced: alumni. That’s how Prodigy came to be a peer-to-peer platform allowing alumni investors to invest in future classes of MBA students.

What lesson in that experience would you say is the most important for social entrepreneurs?

(Laughs) I’m not sure what I would advise someone…it was not rational or intelligent at the time. The rational thing to do would have been to listen to the people telling us at that time to stop and do something else. On a serious note, I suppose I’d say you need to be very resilient. Problem-solving and being quite stubborn are also personality traits I naturally have, and ended up helping me through the difficult times with setting up Prodigy.

How important is the alumni community aspect of the business model to you? Would you say that it has a role beyond guaranteeing financial returns?

Very important. The alumni community is at the core of our business model. Through their long-term sustainable capital, the alumni community gets to see the tremendous impact their monies have in supporting global talent. Plus, as we extend the model to other adjacencies the alumni community becomes even more important. We are already seeing how the alumni community is genuinely interested in connecting to fill available job positions or to fund new entrepreneurial ventures.

What’s next for Prodigy?

We’ve grown quite fast over the last two years and have now expanded beyond MBAs to support postgraduate students studying for other non-MBA business programmes (e.g. Masters in Finance, International Management, etc.) LLMs, MPPs, and Masters in Engineering at selected schools. We face typical challenges from a business with social impact achieving size and scale, but isn’t this why we signed up to be a case for this competition (laughs)? So you tell me! I look forward to hearing the suggestions of the talented teams in this competition of how and where Prodigy should be focusing on.

Read Min’s last article, Prodigy Finance: From Capital to Community.

Prodigy Finance: From Capital to Community

Min Ji Kim is an MBA student at Saïd Business School, dosage University of Oxford and the project manager for this year’s Oxford Social Innovation Case Competition, an event that sees teams of students  tackle a real-life business problem faced by 3 different social entrepreneurs, then present their case to a panel of judges where a £300 cash prize is awarded to the 3 winning teams. Previously solely supported by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, this year has seen the generous sponsorship of Prodigy Finance; the MBA tuition fee loan company supporting international students to access high-quality business education.

Although I am now familiar with Prodigy Finance – an official sponsor of this year’s Oxford Social Innovation Case Competition (OSICC) – I have to admit that I used to think that it was a conventional financial institution with a conventional student loan product. I was therefore initially sceptical as to how the company was compatible with the objectives and identity of the OSICC.SICC logo (2)

There was a personal colour to my scepticism. Before I enrolled in the MBA programme here at the University of Oxford, I was an official in the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the UN agency with the mandate to research global employment trends and promote decent employment for all. In the wake of the 2008 Financial Crisis, the organisation found itself very much connected to the consequences of that fall-out and compelled to advocate for millions of ordinary people and families around the world whose livelihoods and, sometimes, survival were suddenly threatened as a result of the irresponsible conduct of the financial sector. At the ILO, I was personally responsible for tracking the devastating consequences of the crisis on youth employment figures and youth flight and brain-drain from crisis-affected countries. It is not surprising that in this milieu, and in the growing popular disillusionment with capitalism beyond it, it was increasingly accepted as fact that capital and community well-being were diametrically opposed.Prodigy Finance1

However, incredibly, Prodigy Finance demonstrates that this does not have to be the case. Founded on the conviction that a person’s country of birth or socio-economic background or lack of a credit history in one fixed country should not hinder her from accessing the world’s top business schools for lack of financing, Prodigy has found an ingenious way to mobilise the often dispersed but high-impact power of the community to invest in not just financial capital but the more important human capital. Even before online crowdfunding was “a thing” Prodigy had developed an online platform through which international students could receive relatively low-interest loans that are fully funded by the alumni of their MBA programme. More than 70% of Prodigy loan recipients are students from developing countries, and more than 80% of the company’s clients could not have accessed the financing necessary to accept the offers they received from top academic institutions had it not been for Prodigy. Prodigy’s business model is predicated on the idea that investing in such talented individuals, giving them the opportunity to have the life-changing and character-stretching experience of a top graduate programme, would lead to the sustainable development of these individuals’ home countries and communities.

It turns out that I am surrounded by ample evidence that Prodigy’s business model is sound. A significant number of my colleagues and classmates are financing their MBA education with the inter-generational community support represented by the Prodigy loan, and they are among the most inspiring, entrepreneurial, and values-conscious people I know – in other words, the kind of people the most likely to create exactly what competitions like the OSICC exist to curate and promote. There is no doubt in my mind that after completing their studies at Oxford they will have tremendous impact, whether they return to their home countries and apply what they learned through the MBA there or get employed in the UK and invest in the sustainable development of their nations from here.

What is equally clear is that, despite not being a loan recipient, I am also impacted through the experiences, insights, and vision of my classmates that Prodigy serves and have become all the richer for it.

Most importantly, I have been pleasantly humbled to consider the possibility that capital in its truest form is neither opposed nor isolated from community but is always embedded in it.

Author: Min Ji Kim (MBA 2015-16)