Sunday, 29 April 2007


• Well, that’s my notes from the week at the Oxford and from my time in London. There was so much going on at this World Forum that I would imagine that there could be 700 completely different reports of what happened and 700 different maps of connections to inspiring people, ideas and projects.

• As I was writing up my notes in a London hotel, I was struck by the contrast between the positivity generated by this global gathering ... and the much less hopeful headlines appearing in the daily British newspapers.

During the time of this Forum, the OECD reported that aid from Western developed countries to tackle global poverty had fallen by 5% last year, which was the first time that the level of aid had dropped in a decade. This was because the world’s richest countries were basically reneging on their Gleneagles pledges to give an extra $50 billion in financial assistance by 2010. (Remember Bob Geldof and Bono’s Live8 concerts?)

Also during the Forum, a report was released on Britain’s child poverty statistics. The latest government figures show that the number of children officially living in poverty in Britain has risen by 200,000 to 3.8 million children. These new figures mark the end of a sustained period of falling poverty since statistics were first collated in 1961. They also bring a bit of “reality” back to Blair and Brown’s ambitious social promise that they will abolish all child poverty in the UK by 2020.

These reports are a not-so-gentle reminder of just how far we still have to go. Larry Brilliant’s inspiring journey in ending Smallpox may prove to be a walk in the park compared the social justice struggle of ending the widening gap between rich and poor.

• Being my first Skoll Forum, I had no real way of comparing just how the social entrepreneur movement, at this series of annual gatherings, was evolving its own sense of balance between “hype” and “reality”. I was interested to read the following post-Forum comment on a Social Edge Blog by Dennis Whittle, the founder and Chairman of GlobalGiving:
“ Around 2001 there was a Cambrian explosion of ideas [on social entrepreneurship], and conferences were all about who had the best idea — and too often about why other people's ideas were dumb or inferior. Over the next couple of years, several of the people with ideas actually launched real initiatives, with great hopes and fanfare and excitement and hoopla, and often hyperbole. The conferences during those years were dominated by the swaggering of those people launching these start-ups.

“ [But] many of us have been through the wringer. We are making great progress now, but the last few years have been full of setbacks and reversals and S-turns. All of which have served to make us a lot more humble — and a lot more interested in reaching out to others to tell our stories and hear theirs in return. I think we all realize now that there is no silver bullet in this field — no “best idea.” Instead, we need — and are forming — a community of good ideas, and of good people. The way forward is through this community...” — Dennis Whittle
• I think this is a community we should be keeping in touch with ... and we should endeavour to maintain a New Zealand presence at these World Forums at Oxford. In future years I would like to try and ensure that both a member of our Social Innovation Investment Group and a member of the Social Entrepreneur Fellowship are able to attend. There is certainly many advantages to being on the spot, making connections with a huge diverse network, being within the dialogue, and having the time to think things through —away from home projects and responsibilities.

• But beyond this — bearing in mind all the carbon-miles involved in getting New Zealanders over to the other side of the world — perhaps we could also work with the Skoll Foundation or the Social Edge people to convene a satellite summit gathering at the same time in New Zealand. This would make it open to a wider range of New Zealand social entrepreneurs and philanthropists ... with the main plenary and keynote speakers from Oxford beamed into our satellite conference, accompanied by our own keynote speakers and our own workshop sessions.

Imagine if there was a whole network of these satellite summits in various countries ... with the best of their local keynote contributions being shared around the network. This would also be another way to extend the reach and impact of the important ideas and practical role models for change that are found within this Forum.

vivian Hutchinson
Social Innovation Investment Group
New Zealand Social Entrepreneur Fellowship

April 2007