Sunday, 29 April 2007

Report Summary

• This was easily the best conference I have been to in a long while ... it was well run, it attracted a unique diversity of participants, the content had a great deal of depth to it, and there was robust debate that was engaging and extending.

• There were 700 participants from 40 countries including a rich mix of social entrepreneurs, human rights activists, academics, business leaders, philanthropists and funders. Many of these people could be counted amongst the most remarkable change-makers of our generation. The Forum provided an unique opportunity for the exchange of legitimacy, insight and creativity between the different communities of these participants.

• The conference lived up to its reputation of being the main World Forum in the field of social entrepreneurship. As part of developing our projects with the Social Innovation Investment Group and the New Zealand Social Entrepreneur Fellowship, I have been researching and studying who are the key “movers and shakers” in the international scene of social entrepreneurship. Almost all of them were present at this gathering.

• There was so much going on, with up to seven workshops happening at the same time as well as breakfast sessions and Master Classes at the lunchtime breaks. But it still hung together well, particularly around the main plenary sessions which were held in Oxford’s historic Sheldonian Theatre.

• Highlights for me included:
— sessions from Geoff Mulgan, Bill Drayton, Charles Handy, Muhammad Yunus and Larry Brilliant

— the inevitable sharing of inspiring stories from the many social entrepreneurs, but particularly Gillian Caldwell and Peter Gabriel, Karen Tse and Taddy Blecher.

— the widening of the sense of social entrepreneurship from elite “celebrity” stories towards recognising the social innovation and entrepreneurship that is also found in groups and movements.

— a sense of the growing literacy about just what makes up the process of social innovation, understanding the life cycle of innovations and how to foster innovation more effectively in many different sectors.

— the “open source” example of Ashoka Changemakers, which represents a innovative model for sharing emergent knowledge and practice.

— the practical sessions aimed at Foundations and philanthropy about how to be more venturesome in giving financial support to new ideas and programmes.
• I’ve come away with an immense amount to think about, as well as links, contacts and ideas to follow up on. I’ve also had the opportunity to renew some of the international contacts I made at the gathering of “outstanding social entrepreneurs” organised by the Schwab Foundation at Davos last year, and at the Innovation Funders meeting in San Francisco.

• This report contains my personal diary notes from the Forum. It is a combination of a description of the sessions I went to, my thoughts at the time, and the links and research I have been doing on the people and their projects since the Forum took place.
— I have created a “blog” website of this report which contains live internet links of all the contacts and references mentioned in this document. You can also view video of the conference directly from these webpages at

— An online album of photographs which I took at this conference can be found at the Flickr photosharing website
• There was an obvious pressure from the sheer numbers of people around the world who would have liked to have attended this Forum, and the Skoll Foundation had an interesting process in stage-managing just who was going to be there. You could apply to go on a pre-registration list, and the organisers obviously did some digging into backgrounds before inviting a core group of people to come. After this, the formal registration gates were only open for a very short time before it was announced that the Forum was full.

• Beyond the 700 people attending at Oxford, there was a large “virtual” participation at this Forum, thanks to the live streaming of the plenary sessions and the blogger contributions of many people involved with the website.

• One of my roles as Executive Officer of our Investment Group and the NZSEF is to help build our international links and relationships with other social entrepreneur networks and philanthropic foundations that are fostering social innovation. At our first NZSEF Fellowship retreat in February, there was some discussion about how our local work in New Zealand needs to be put more into an international context ... and that there was much that we could learn from in the good ideas and practical strategies for change that are emerging overseas. Participating in the Skoll World Forum is an excellent entry point into these opportunities to network and learn.

• Beyond this learning and networking, the Skoll World Forum is providing a very timely focus of hope in a world faced with deep-seated and complex problems. It is nearly impossible to feel cynicism and despair when surrounded by the stories and examples of literally hundreds of inspirational people who are just getting on and making a practical difference.

vivian Hutchinson
Executive Officer
Social Innovation Investment Group
New Zealand Social Entrepreneur Fellowship

April 2007

— The website for the Oxford Said Business School Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship
— The Forum website homepage at the Skoll Foundation
— The Forum website homepage at Social Edge

— a PDF copy of this report (40 pages, 1.5MB) can be downloaded from