The start of Skoll World Forum 2008 has been as unpredictable and refreshing as the (much discussed) weather in Oxford.
The rain was drizzling down on the front door steps of the Said Business School as newly arrived delegates gathered to complete their registration and begin the first of a 3 day forum on Social Entrepreneurship. The drizzle continued as delegates were seen mingling, shaking hands, chatting in gentle murmurs, and sipping cups of organic tea in the lobby. A sense of anticipation simmered through the crowd as more and more people arrived, together with the occasional shaft of sunshine the sound of enthusiastic voices of friends and acquaintances greeting one another broke through the crowd.
The theme of this years Skoll Forum is culture. Asking the question: if social entrepreneurship is truly about changing the world, then what are the cultural and contextual barriers that social entrepreneurs need to overcome to create sustainable change in the areas where they work?
Amongst the speakers at the opening plenary, was an impressive panel of women, each telling their story about how they have had to having to overcome challenging cultural barriers to be successful, and thereby having a profound global impact.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Jody Williams spoke of communication being the key to success. That everyone needs the same information to be empowered.
Karen Tse, Founder and CEO of Bridges of Justice told a story of warriors before a battle to illustrate what was needed to overcome cultural barriers. The warriors were told that were 2 things that must be remembered throughout if they were to be successful: compassion and interconnectedness. Both of which remain important in our growing global village.
As we left the prestigious Sheldonian Theatre the rain thundered down – as if in confirmation of Jeff Skoll‘s opening remarks of the forum “We are here”.
We are here, as social entrepreneurs, to cross cultural barriers and make a significant and lasting impact on the discourse of social change and development.
The Skoll World Forum can be followed online.