“Betting on good people doing good things.”
The theme of this year’s Skoll World Form was FLUX: Seizing Momentum, Driving Change. The panels and presentations, as always, dealt with a wide range of topics meant to inspire, catalyze, challenge and re-invigorate global social entrepreneurs. From Transforming Health Care to Sustainable Capitalism and from the Neuroscience of Social Progress to Storytelling for Impact, each of the sessions also considered the concept of flux as a dynamic environment within which social entrepreneurs “navigate uncertainty as they pursue social change at scale.” It’s a wildly exciting week of inspiration and very meaningful networking.
Annie Lennox was there and did an amazing solo set for the hundreds gathered in Oxford—when she busted out with “sweet dreams are made of this… hold your head up, keep your head up” it was as if that song was written expressly for this group, to bolster the people whose work it is to eradicate global threats, keep people safe from torture and slavery, provide clean drinking water and toilets to those in need, help the poor start sustainable businesses, feed the hungriest among us, teach those who would be excluded from education. The changemakers. The social entrepreneurs.
A team from Tomorrow Partners attended the Forum this year—myself, Gaby Brink and Nathalie Destandau. We led a workshop for the five teams of social entrepreneurs and filmmakers who will be coming to Berkeley at the end of April for our Stories of Change Impact Lab with the Sundance Institute and the Skoll Foundation. They worked together to examine their organizational workflows, stakeholders and started prioritizing problem spaces worth solving. We then conducted one-on-one sessions throughout the week to help the teams identify and articulate the most pressing challenge they will bring into the Lab.
We were thrilled to unveil our new Tomorrow Venture Sparkwise— a free, cloud-based and open source data communication platform that collects and compares all kinds of metrics in all kinds of ways and combines those raw numbers with storytelling and links for audiences to take immediate action.
I also serve as a Media Advisor for the Sundance Stories of Change program and participated in the Storytelling for Impact panel moderated by Cara Mertes of the Sundance Institute. No matter what the activity, throughout the week, FLUX was the overarching focus—and data and storytelling was a recurring theme. Changemakers are drinking the KoolAid and embracing the urgency around leveraging big data for informed decision-making, audience engagement and transparent reporting. The challenges they face every day can seem insurmountable, and for them, there is no choice but to keep raising the stakes and demonstrating real impact. It was humbling to be part of these conversations in Oxford, and thrilling to see what happens when designers, technologists, storytellers and social entrepreneurs join together to start identifying barriers to success and imagining what’s possible.
The visionary folks at the Skoll Foundation are investing in good people doing good things; it’s more complicated than it sounds, more pervasive than we might expect, and more transformative than we can imagine. Illiterate grandmothers becoming solar engineers and lighting up rural villages, young people in India lowering polio rates with mobile technology, women in Africa eradicating HIV transmission from mother to child, low-income teenagers in the US building affordable housing in their communities—and so much more. The data is staggering and the stories are powerful.