Skoll Forum 2005.   the more you know.

Just back from this year's Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship at the Sad Business School in Oxford.

Like last year, many of the scheduled sessions felt academic-heavy and practitioner-light, but there were more than enough interesting people and ideas to make up for it.

Some of the themes that stuck in my head, in no particular order:

* The power of the media to effect social change. Jeff Skoll's Participant Productions (from which we saw an extract of their New Heroes series), is pioneering this in Hollywood. Jamie Oliver has recently used the media to good effect in helping to win more money for school dinners in the UK. Michael Hastings, Head of CSR for the BBC, talked about the vast sums Comic Relief and Children In Need raise every couple of years. David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World, spoke about the need to develop patterns of social entrepreneurship that people can recognise and use in their own communities - and story-telling via the media is an ideal way to do this. But there were still many unanswered questions. How can groups without the budgets and influence of the people above effectively leverage popular media? New peer-to-peer distribution methods (BitTorrent, etc) were banded about, but how do you effectively use them and what are examples of people who've done so?

* The need for systemic thinking. Jake Chapman, author of System Failure, asserted that people need to think differently to solve the kinds of issues that government and other large-scale institutions face. While "difficulties" can be solved by conventional mechanistic thinking (typically a reductionist and positivist approach), "messes" can only be solved by systemic thinking (a more holistic and pluralist approach). Meanwhile, Skoll Fellow Charlie Leadbeater used the example of the Brazilian city of Curitiba's innovative approach to recycling, which has been implemented not by a social entrepreneur creating change from the bottom up, but by a forward-thinking city government innovating at the system (top-down) level.

* The potential power of social software. Tom Steinberg was promoting his excellent, almost-finished PledgeBank, a site that lets you say "I'll do something if other people will do it too" (and the latest concept to roll off the MySociety production line). Having also listened to the BBC's Martin Vogel talk about his iCan project, it strikes me there are a myriad of possibilities in joining these and other social software tools together. Why not have users posting a local issue on iCan and then using PledgeBank to galvanise group action? hooking into iCan also seems like an obvious move.

More coverage of the Forum at Social Edge and Learning Innovation.
01 Apr, 2005 | social & ethical issues

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Online musings of Richard Alderson: aspiring social entrepreneur, writer, photography-lover and closet geek.


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