Last week, 800 exceptional individuals from around the world gathered in Oxford, England, for the eighth year of the Skoll World Forum, an incredible conference dedicated to accelerating innovative, entrepreneurial solutions to the world’s most pressing social issues.
A few highlights from key speakers: Stephan Chambers started the conference by arguing that we cannot deny that the world is connected; the big challenges are urgent and the solutions require collaboration. However, he suggested, we continue to behave as if this is not the case. A primary objective of the conference was therefore to proactively promote this collaboration. Jeff Skoll contended that we should fight for our collective future rather than our national pride. Ngaire Woods further reiterated that collaboration between government and social enterprise was essential. She suggested that for multilateral organizations to work together more effectively, all governments need a seat at the table. Lord Sainsbury suggested that government is currently ineffectual at innovation. Pamela Hartigan said that a complete mind shift is essential, that change should be at the center of where we operate, and that we need to have an ecosystem approach to addressing problems in the world. She quoted French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “The peak of ourselves…is not our individuality but our person….We can only find our person by uniting with others.” She also suggested that we should focus on the values that connect us with one another rather than what divides us. She challenged us to rewire our focus and not compartmentalize our lives.
One of the best sessions at the conference for me was Deep Leadership: Interior Dimensions of Large Scale Change. This session reiterated the role that spirituality, faith, suffering, and learning from our failures have in our own personal development and in the development of the world. Another prominent speaker, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, argued, “One can never do it on their own. You are an instrument of a higher power.” Paul Farmer added, “It is important to be able to explain suffering and failure. Writing about this is a form of prayer.”
Each individual at the conference had their own exceptional personal story. Over the course of the next few days, I will profile some of the incredible individuals I had the opportunity to interview during the conference—each a leader in their field. Through hearing their stories, we can become inspired to direct our own lives toward greater social endeavors.