Rob Katz

Behind the Scenes at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship

Kevin JonesKevin Jones is a principal with Good Capital. He has extensive entrepreneurial and private investment experience in a range of technology and social enterprises. Kevin has also been a columnist for Forbes and Business 2.0. He attended this week’s Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, and has checked in with the following report:

How is attending Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship like alien abduction experience? I?m glad you asked.After taking the train back to London from Oxford I find myself suddenly in a normal London pub where people are talking about the cricket test match between x and y.
Dropped back into the reality of being a lonely pioneer forced to constantly explain what you are doing and how it’s different from traditional way business and social mission are done.

The experience of being immersed for three hyper-intense days among 700 like-minded early adopters is suddenly gone, sort of like an alien ship that took you into a brighter future for a brief time and then dropped you back on a street corner, disoriented but also changed and hard pressed to explain to people why that glimpse of the future changed the way you see yourself and what you are about.

The Skoll Forum is not, for the most part, about the panels, nor the sometimes laborious and repetitive struggle to define the term social enterprise. It’s about the action in the hallways and the restaurants. Discovering partners, burnishing your own brand and finding funders and investees is only part of its magic.

The real story of the annual gathering sponsored by the Skoll Foundation at Oxford’s Said Business School is the realization that there really is an approaching critical mass of people and enterprises working to create a new world where value and values join hands, where the impact of poverty finds its way onto the balance sheet and a thousand interventions start to overlap and combine.

The Skoll Forum, which this year used the constant visual image of a photograph of dawn breaking through a dark and cloudy landscape, is fundamentally, a time where people dedicated to a new way of changing the world gather in sufficient numbers to realize the force they cumulatively are beginning to have in the world.

The three days in Oxford is a glimpse of a possible brighter future for people working on leveraging the power of the market for good to impact issues like child trafficking, diseases that kill millions, illiteracy and gang violence. It’s a special time when lonely, dedicated pioneers get a glimpse of their potential power to make the world the one they want to see.

It may sound corny, especially if you’ve never been there, but at its core, the Skoll Forum is a transformative, slightly alien and other worldly experience. It’s a time when the distant future seems nearer for people with a burning hunger to work tirelessly and daily, back home, taking the incremental steps so that the collective vision of a better world becomes the new reality. A future reality experienced in the present. Kind of like an alien abduction, a time when you?re transported to the future you know is possible.