Debating the future of social finance at the house of lords

This post was written by Elizabeth Ritchey, member of the SBS  2010-2011 MBA class, and co-chair of the Social Finance OBN.

What's the future of social finance in the UK?: MBAs outside the House of Lords

On May 24th the Social Finance OBN (Oxford Business Network) and the Social Entrepreneurship OBNs teamed up for a joint trip down to London to visit the House of Lords.

Tim Jones, the Social Entrepreneurship sector consultant for SBS, hosted a lively panel discussion on the current state of Social Finance and Entrepreneurship.

The panel consisted of

We discussed everything from social impact bonds to how to build a sustainable future to getting back to the fundamentals of ‘social’.  After the panel we were treated to an insider’s tour of the House of Lords by Lord Mawson and Baroness Steadman-Scott.

It was a wonderful afternoon packed with ‘social’ of all forms. Thank you again to Tim Jones for making it possible!

Announcing the 2011-2012 Skollars!

Drumroll, please!

It’s a special day here at the Skoll Centre, as we can finally introduce you to our newest class of Skoll Skollars!

After a rigorous 6 month search, we have selected four fantastic social entrepreneurs who have made significant contributions to the field already – and who will continue to do so long into the future.

The annual Scholarship funds social entrepeneurs to undertake their MBA at Said Business School and welcomes them into a community of innovators spread across the globe (now 39 Skollars strong over 8 classes).

It was a difficult process and we’d like to thank all the amazing candidates we met along the way.  We look forward to having you all with us next year and making social impact happen together.

Congratulations David, Daniela, Sydney and Andy!  We can’t wait for you to join us next year.

(Read their full bios by clicking on their picture)


SBS Venture Fund gives flight to big ideas

This post was written by Vannary Sar, of the Skoll Centre.

Last night hundreds of students, alumni and people from the business community gathered at Saїd to watch the Venture Fund Final (or should I say “show-down”) and let me tell you, what a fun night!  The Venture Fund happens once a year and is an opportunity for SBS entrepreneurs to battle it out for a chance to win seed capital for their venture.  To date, the Fund has a portfolio of five promising start-ups, with a total investment of £675,000 – and we were all hoping to see another cheque with many zeros being handed over.

The four ventures competing were Contego, TheySay, Off.Grid.Electric and Green & Grow.  The teams pitched their ideas with passion filling the theatre, and you could feel the drama (at one point a £250,000 cheque was waved in the air!)  All entrepreneurs did extremely well, fielding difficult questions and justifying their projections – but the two ventures that impressed the investors the most were Green & Grow and, Off.Grid.Electric.  Congratulations to both teams, and especially Skoll Skollar, Xavier Helgesen and Skoll Centre Associate, Erica Mackey of Off.Grid.Electric. We are SO proud of you!

The celebrations continued throughout the night with cocktails and live performances from Oxford’s a cappella group ‘Out of the Blue’ and it was great to be part of such a supportive and entrepreneurial atmosphere.  While this event isn’t run by the Skoll Centre (congratulations to our SBS colleagues for their hard work), it is a vivid reminder of the incredible resources and networks out there in the wider Oxford ecosystem for entrepreneurs.  These support systems are so critical to entrepreneurs – especially those with ideas for social impact ventures, where seed funding is even more scarce.

A great night all around, where little (or BIG) ideas can turn into a reality.   Here’s to the winning teams!

Student Treks: A week in the Bay

We’re pleased to welcome guest blogger Patrick Keenan, MBA ’10-11.  Along with dozens of his classmates, Patrick traveled to Silicon Valley over spring break with the Oxford MBA trek to experience the region’s entreprenerial energy first-hand.  The post originally appeared on Patrick’s blog.

Trickling into the Carlton hotel one Oxonian after another. It was Sunday night and we knew, despite the long ride, we would need all our energy for the week ahead. The schedule was packed. We certainly had options: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Box, IDEO, The HUB, Path, Genetech, LinkedIn, CurrentTV, and YCombinator.

What stuck about the Bay area was the contrasts. From one block to the next, from one hour to the next it was a place of:

  • Perfect Weather vs  Cold Fog
  • Delicious Tastes vs  Fast Food
  • Optimism vs  Destitution
  • Opportunities vs  Workaholics
  • Thought Leaders vs  Deluded realties
  • High quality of life vs  High cost of living
  • Freedom vs  Income disparity
  • Beautiful Public Space vs  Urine soaked streets

We heard many contrasts at our visits as well. Entrepreneurship and Innovation often come from making unexpected connections, here are a couple we saw:

Path: Anthropology + Online Networks

Drawing from Professor Dunbar at Oxford, Path is working to create a smaller social network. The venture is based on 2 of Dunbar’s magic numbers of 150(the amount of people you can know) and 5(the amount of people you can trust). By limiting your social network, the idea is that you’ll share more of your life(photos). Download the app, its beautiful., one of many entrepreneurial highlights (photo courtesy of Human Centred Design + Social Issues

We were privileged to hear from Jocelyn Wyatt about IDEO’s venture into the social innovation space. They’d be launching an incubator for ideas, and a kit around HCD. Design and Development have been too far for too long, we have 90% of designers designing for 10% of the population. Great to see this connection, apply for the fellowship here.

SYPartners: Strategy + Design

I took the liberty of visiting a firm I’ve been inspired by for a while. SYPartners has worked with top tier clients on changing culture for the better. By their material you might think they were a design studio. What they do well is assist leaders to develop new visions for themselves. I hope to see more work that hits the high note of both core strategy and quality execution, check them out here.

O’Reilly: Communities + Venture

Another fortunate meeting was with O’Reily Alpha Tech Ventures. They work with the alpha nerd, and the communities that surround folks who are doing for the sake of it. Some familiar technologies line the walls here: Drupal + Aquia, Foursquare, Strobe + SproutCore, Get Satisfaction.

The highlight of the trip for me though, wasn’t a company, but a talk. I’ve been an avid listener of the Long Now Foundation for years. As fate would have it, the dates matched.  In the talk many contrasting visions were reconciled, from the singularity, to nuclear power, to the importance of geography, and more. Check out the talk here.

Its clear I’ll have to go back. There’s an attitude, a culture, and an ecosystem in the bay area that can’t compare. Entrepreneurs live on the fault line of ideas, and the Bay area is wrought with tectonic activity.

For more on the trek to Silcon Valley, read what other student’s had to say

Reunited and it feels so good

A lively day here at Oxford SBS for the Annual Skollar Summit!

This annual gathering brings together the Skoll Skollars of years past – social entrepreneurs who were selected and funded to spend a year with the Skoll Centre studying for their MBA.  Now in it’s 7th year, the Skollar’s programme consists of 35 entrepreneurial changemakers from all over the world.

Peter Tufano on the future of business

Also, we were fortunate to have with us today this year’s and last year’s class of Skoll Centre Associate Fellows (MBAs at SBS who focus on social impact).    It’s amazing to see the growing community of students and alumni of the Skoll Centre, and all the incredible work they are up to.

The day was full of energy – from catching up with old friends to white-boarding ideas for new ventures. We also  had the pleasure of hearing from Dr. Larry Brilliant, President of Skoll Global Threats Fund, who spoke about the increasingly fragility of our world and routes for action to combat these great threats.  The new incoming Dean of SBS, Professor Peter Tufano, also paid a visit to share his vision for the future of  business education at SBS – with an eye towards solving the wicked problems of our times.

Hear more about the day from the Skollars and Associate Fellows themselves below.  Day 2 of the Summit continues tomorrow – and then onward to the Skoll World Forum!

Grace Sai, Skollar ’09-’10 reflects on what it means to be reunited with this community.


We also caught up with Henery Gonzalez, Skollar ’04-’05.


And finally, Chris McCormick, a current Skoll Centre Associate Fellow talks about the anticipation of attending his first Skoll World Forum: