Kenny Low was an invitee at the recent social enterprise gathering at Oxford University, England.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF KENNY LOW|
In the growing world of social entrepreneurship, a few key players hold annual forums to gather the world’s best brains, and marry the best ideas with suitable investors.
The Skoll World Forum is one such, a yearly event that’s by-invitation only, to social entrepreneurs throughout the world. The three-day forum ran from April 14 to 16 at the Skoll Centre, Said Business School in Oxford University. The Skoll Centre—named after eBay’s first president Jeff Skoll—was opened in 2003, in the belief that strategic investments in the right people can have a lasting social impact.
Over 800 individuals from over 65 countries involved in social entrepreneurship attended the forum, which was themed “Catalyzing Collaboration.” Every social entrepreneur wants to create communities in which there is unity and collaboration for society’s greater good. However, these enterprises are often faced with the same basic “wicked” problems: climate change, water scarcity, poverty, education and health.
The role of the Skoll Forum is to provide a space for these social enterprises to find and form alliances across sectors.
Kenny Low, whose social enterprise City College works on a model that aims to improve the education landscape in Singapore via alternative schooling, attended this year’s Forum. For him, this first visit was a learning trip.
“The Skoll World Forum is quite different from the World Economic Forum, which covers a wide range of issues and featured experts across every sector. The Skoll World Forum is very much focused on social entrepreneurship, the schedule is also less intensive, allowing participants to network and forge collaborations,” he noted. “This year’s forum is very special to us because our Minister for Community Youth and Sports, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan is one of the main panel speakers and we had a quite sizable Singapore delegation. Singapore is pitching herself as a regional hub for social entrepreurship.”
Of all the social enterprises he saw, Low came back most impressed with V-Day, a movement started by American playwright Eve Ensler (of The Vagina Monologues fame). V-Day was started to end violence against women and girls. Through a host of events (members and supporters are encouraged to host their own V-Day event in their hometown, with part of the proceeds going to charity) including the staging of Ensler’s works, V-Day creates awareness of the violence against women that happens every day across the world, while ticket sales go to helping these victims.
“It is advocacy, but instead of shoving the message down everyone’s throats, it’s performed as theater that is highly scalable,” said Low, adding that it was a clever model that was win-win for all parties. “It creates an educational program, converts it to appeal to the mass market, and generates revenue at the same time.”
In September, Low will be heading for Tianjin, China, for the “Annual Meeting Of The New Champions,” also commonly know as “Summer Davos” of the World Economic Forum.