Rob Katz

2008 Skoll World Forum Preview

Skoll World ForumI like late March. Here in New York – and in Washington, where I used to live – late March is when spring starts to take hold, bringing longer, warmer days. It’s also when the annual Skoll World Forum takes place, bringing a breath of fresh air to cloudy, rainy England (apologies for the weather metaphor). For a review of Forums past, check out Jacqueline’s blog post from 2006 and Kevin Jones’ guest post on NextBillion from 2007.

I sincerely hope for good weather in Oxford this week, since a number of my Acumen Fund colleagues (and numerous allies from throughout the ’base of the pyramid’ community) will be attending the Forum. Then again, rain might be for the best – that way, no one is tempted to spend time outside, away from the excellent sessions. I am particularly impressed with this year’s lineup, and its theme: social entrepreneurship: culture, context and social change.

If I had to choose, here are some of the sessions I would mark on my planner as “must-see”. Unfortunately, some of them are being held simultaneously…so be sure to check out posted synopses online (see below for more info on blogging at the Skoll World Forum.)

On March 27:
Morning –

Afternoon –

  • Empathy as a Tool for Social Impact
    (2007 Acumen Fund Fellow Jocelyn Wyatt and her IDEO colleagues run an interactive workshop…can’t wait to see the notes from this.)
  • Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, What’s the Impact of This All?
    (Brian Trelstad talking about metrics and impact assessment? I may be fortunate enough to see this up close on a regular basis, but if you don’t work at Acumen, you should check this out. Besides, Roger Martin – co-author of an excellent article critical of social entrepreneurship’s everything-to-everyone definition – will be there too.)
  • Addressing the Talent Gap
    (An under-heralded and incredibly critical success factor at the BoP: can you hire – and retain – good people? Acumen’s Deepti Doshi will be speaking here – check it out.)

On March 28:
Morning –

Afternoon –

  • Plenary session with Paul Collier – author of “The Bottom Billion” – if you’re not convinced that this session will be worthwhile, read Ethan’s review of Collier’s book.
  • Plenary panel featuring Acumen’s Jacqueline Novogratz and David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World
  • Plenary session with Paul Farmer – co-founder of Partners in Health – had the Skoll Forum somehow recruited Paul Polak in addition to Collier and Farmer, then they would have completed a triple-play of brilliant, world-changing people named Paul. ’Settling’ for Collier and Farmer is far from that – attendees are quite lucky.

The Forum is sold out – and has been for weeks – but that doesn’t mean we can’t follow along from afar. First off, Social Edge will be blogging every session and sending a team of Berkeley scholars into the halls and coffee breaks to dig even deeper. In addition, I have asked my Acumen Fund colleagues to send me updates from the Forum. Hopefully Jacqueline, Brian, Ann and Deepti will post at least once…when they’re not speaking on a panel, of course!

Full-time staff won’t be Acumen’s sole representation, however. Just as we did last year, Acumen is re-uniting its 2008 Acumen Fund Fellows cohort for a mid-year meeting, de-brief and short holiday. I’ve asked the Fellows – Jawad, Catherine, Tricia, Wangari, John, Chris and Jon – to cross-post some of their mid-year reflections from their Fellows blog on the Acumen Fund blog (which I’ll cross post here on NextBillion as well).

Finally, as if the current Fellows weren’t enough, Acumen’s inaugural class of Fellows will be having a reunion in Oxford this weekend. Stay tuned for their reflections too.

(This post first appeared on the Acumen Fund blog.)