2018 Skoll World Forum – The Power of Proximity

2018 Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship

Binet Ibrahim, MBA ’18

Why attend the Skoll Forum?

I like to consider myself fortunate to have been chosen as a Skoll Fellow to attend the 15th Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship which was held this April in Oxford, England. It was informative as it was inspiring, one which changed my perspective on the subject on many levels. I wanted to attend the Forum for one of many reasons. First and foremost, I had this curiosity to know more about social entrepreneurship from the perspective and understanding of social entrepreneurs themselves. Aspiring to become one myself, I imagined this to be the perfect opportunity to truly learn from such individuals. I also saw this as a way to expand my network, both to help me in the long term (once I set out on my own) and short term (while figuring out my next steps in life). Last but certainly not least, I wanted to continue Nii’s legacy. I hoped to witness the world he was so passionate about and had the chance to influence before he left us.

To quote Skoll Foundation: “Nii’s legacy will continue to inspire us to be insistent about our work of connecting with one another, while challenging and questioning how we can be better leaders for our communities”. For me, these words summed up precisely what I envisioned to achieve both while at the Forum and hopefully in the years to come after Owen.


The Power of Proximity

This year’s Forum, like previous years, had a distinct theme which focused on engaging with one another to tackle inequalities: The Power Of Proximity. Spanning approximately 4 days, the Forum brought together social entrepreneurs, leaders, activists, innovators and industry experts and provided a platform for engaging with individuals and communities in understanding challenges and working together to craft solutions.

Among the main programs for the Forum were networking sessions, award ceremonies, panel discussions, workshops and other events. These events had a well-rounded representation of subject areas that provided delegates the opportunity to pick and choose those that reflected their organization and interests. I myself had the opportunity to listen to and engage with many leaders representing areas such as refugees and migrants, behavior change, sustainable agriculture, art and story-telling, technologies for impact, etc. The pinnacle of the Forum, however, was the Skoll Awards where six individuals were honored for exemplifying leaders who took risks to fix unjust systems. Among them was Angaza, a company that created a platform for households to access solar energy products. Others were Code for America, a user-centered solution that equips government in optimizing services; and Global Health Corps, which brings together fellows and promotes collaboration among them to increase health equity around the globe.

Overall, the individuals represented and organizations recognized throughout the entire Forum offered a very comprehensive, yet precise platform for global change and progress. It was also a great opportunity to learn about Oxford’s history as well as Oxford University and Saïd Business School’s contribution to and influence on social entrepreneurship.

What did I learn?

As I look back at the Forum and reflect on the many experiences I had and the connections I’ve made, I am repeatedly grateful to have been a part of this vast network of remarkable leaders. This experience has more than met my expectations of learning and understanding more about the social entrepreneurship and what it takes to succeed in the field. I’ve learned it can be rewarding to be a catalyst of transformative impact. I have also learned that it requires, not only individual efforts, but collective action from all actors to be able to effectively and sustainably solve social problems across the globe. Looking forward, I hope to use my experience from Oxford as a platform to better define the space and identify my most opportune value add. For this, I would like to acknowledge both the Skoll Foundation and Turner Family Center for the invaluable opportunity. I’m more than certain students who will attend the Forum in subsequent years will not only enjoy the experience but will gain a broader and more personalized understanding of social entrepreneurship.

For more photos, videos, and information on this year’s Skoll World Forum, check out their website: http://skoll.org/live/