The Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship kicks off today in Oxford, United Kingdom. I have been lucky enough to be living in Oxford since September, and now feel even more fortunate to be part of the social media team for this exciting event.

For coverage from past years, check out posts from other SSIR writers from 2007 and 2009.

This year’s theme is “catalysing collaboration for large scale change.” While “collaboration” seems to be a logical operating choice for social entrepreneurs who are pursuing common goals, it often doesn’t happen in the field. It could be due to alternative approaches or methodologies, specialties in the field, or simply a lack of time, but collaboration is a true challenge. And let’s be honest, even though social entrepreneurs may not be after the financial bottom line, they are still working in a world of limited funding, talent and media space. Scarcity rarely breeds collaboration.

However, this site and numerous like it are a testament to the fact that this field values collaboration and the exchange of ideas. Previous SSIR posts on collaboration can be found on the Lodestar Foundation here and here and on leadership here. The field collaboration obviously also goes beyond websites and grants. Cross-organization efforts such as ANDE (Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs), the Global Impact Investing Network, and Impact Reporting and Investment Standards have sprung up in recent years to attempt to address the need for more systematic collaboration and coordination, especially around field-wide issues such as impact assessment.

While collaboration will be at the forefront of the event, there are other important foci. The environment is prominent on the agenda, as it should be with global concerns of climate change. I plan to attend sessions on water and food scarcity, both issues that have affected and will continue to affect many at the base of the pyramid who are most vulnerable to availability and price fluctuations of these vital lifelines.

Sessions related to the environment include:
Water Scarcity and the Human Right to Water
Oceans in Peril: Catalyzing International Collaboration
Climate Change Post-Copenhagen: Collaborating From the Ground Up
Climate Change, Societal Demand, and Food Security: Social Entrepreneurs at the Intersection

I also plan to attend session on issues that are top of mind for social entrepreneurs in any sector, such as talent management and social media. Talent management and the HR challenges that are particular to mission-drive organizations have been discussed on SSIR, including posts on leadership and the volunteer workforce.

Sessions on talent management include:
Local Talent on a Global Scale: HR Strategies for Sustainability
Collaborative Leadership: A Practical Toolkit

Social media is also a hot topic at this year’s forum, as entrepreneurs struggle to strike a balance between communicating to followers, promoting their work, and collaborating through Twitter, blogging, and hosting an interactive website and attending to the other critical items on their never-ending list of to-dos.

Interesting sessions on this topic include:
Compelling Action: Social Change Media in the Age of Information Overload
Reimagining Networks for Innovation and Impact
Next Generation Social Media for Greater Programmatic Impact

In the spirit of collaboration and the power of social media, there is more of an effort with this year’s event to involve those who are not able to attend the Forum, so please check out the Virtual Forum and Social Edge for live blogs, Twitter updates, live discussions and ongoing information from the conference. I will continue to blog on SSIR over the next few days and welcome all suggestions for stories, interviews, and topics from the community.

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