Opening Plenary, Skoll World Forum
1. Jeff Skoll quoting Dr. Seuss in his opening remarks. “I’ve heard there are troubles of more than one kind, some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve brought a big bat. I’m all ready you see, now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!” There’s no better emblem of social entrepreneurship than Theodor Seuss Geisel, posited Skoll, for he created his own rules and worked hard to make his mark. Social entrepreneurs, he continued, use courage, purpose and fierce determination to combat troubles – and all necessarily carry a big, big bat. Skoll ended his remarks, much like he began, quoting one of the world’s favoured authors: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Indeed.
2. Musical performance by Baaba Maal. As part of the Opening Plenary, a mainstay of the world music circuit since the 80s, Senegalese singer and guitarist Baaba Maal was a perfect choice to kick-start the event. Not only is his music powerful, beautiful and stirring, Maal is a global activist on a number of global issues, many of which are interwoven into a variety of conversations at Skoll, including climate change and HIV/AIDS, the latter of which he’s involved with thanks to his title as UNDP youth ambassador.
3. Ashoka + Skoll = inspiration multiplied. I had the fortunate opportunity to partake in a private media call with Bill Drayton, Founder & CEO of Ashoka, Iman Bibars, VP & Regional Representative, Ashoka Arab World and two Ashoka Fellows. The central issue at the heart of the conversation was how to ensure social change achieves global impact. Coming on the heels of Ashoka’s Globalizer event, which just concluded in Stockholm, the discussion seemed especially timely. Of particular interest was hearing about the efforts of 47 Ashoka Fellows in Egypt, most working on cutting-edge issues. These courageous social entrepreneurs were involved in the country’s recent revolution, providing medical care, protecting communities from vandals, providing social awareness, among other initiatives. The experiences inspired the Fellows to meet post-revolution to establish a database of services, matching people with expertise and mentorship opportunities. The audacity, bravery and strength of conviction embodied by some never does cease to amaze.
Balliol College, Oxford
4. Dinner and discussion at Balliol College, one of the largest colleges of the University of Oxford. It’s also one of the oldest, having been established in 1263. The dining hall, with its high ceilings, long, worn wooden benches and tables set with romantic tall white candles, made one feel as though they magically stepped into a Harry Potter film. The surreal experience was magnified by the fact that our seats were once shared by Nobel price-winning scientists and iconic figures such as Adam Smith, Aldous Huxley, Robertson Davies, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens – and even Bill Drayton.
5. Jaw-dropping announcement. At the opening plenary The MasterCard Foundation announced a $45 million donation to BRAC to help scale its innovative microfinance project in Uganda. The generous funds will enable BRAC to expand its network to 129 branches, benefiting more than four million Ugandans.”The MasterCard Foundation aims to scale innovative microfinance programs in Africa to improve the lives of people living in poverty,” said Reeta Roy, president and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation, in a statement. “BRAC’s holistic approach integrates microfinance and livelihood services to help women to become productive economically and build assets to benefit their families.”