Category Archives: conference/symposium

Skoll World Forum 2017 Fault Lines: Creating Common Ground


The 14th Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship took place on April 4-7. This year’s theme was Fault Lines: Creating Common Ground. As boldly described in their welcome message;

Globally, rifts are emerging along cultural, class, and political lines as globalization and the digital revolution have benefited some, and left some behind. The divide grows in how people perceive-and experience-the world which represents a threat to a peaceful and prosperous future. Can we design a world where our common humanity outshines our ideological, cultural, and political differences? Together we’ll rise to new ideas, new perspectives, and ultimately, new relationships built on trust and a mutual desire for human progress. We’ll highlight innovators around the world creating common ground through their drive, creativity and leadership.

It was not only an inspiring forum but a very rich and powerful gathering with bold and innovative ideas and exchanges happening, one of the best that I have attended in the past 11 years.
Highly recommended videos to watch… and if you would like to see more here is the entire playlist.
-Jeff Skoll talks with Jim Kim, President of World Bank Group (29min)

-Jess Search talks to Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder and CEO of Chobani (22min)

-A chilling and fascinating analysis by Michael Porter of HBS on what is the problem in the USA: Porter on Populism (90min)

Meet the Skoll Awardees of 2017 (link includes a 5 min intro to all 4 Awardees)
-Kola Masha: Babban Gona is an investor-owned social enterprise serving networks of smallholder farmers in Nigeria with a model created specifically to attract youth. The first for-profit company to receive the Skoll Award
-Elizabeth Hauser: Build Change trains homeowners, local builders, engineers, and government officials to construct or retrofit disaster-resistant houses and schools in emerging nations vulnerable to earthquakes and typhoons.
-Rajesh Panjabi: Last Mile Health partners with government to deploy, support, and manage networks of community health professionals and to integrate them into the public health system. Working in Liberia.
-Bradley Myles: Polaris systematically disrupts human trafficking networks and restores freedom to survivors. With experience and expertise from direct victim services such as hotlines and resource centers, to policy advocacy, Polaris provides a data backbone for the sector.

A big thanks to Jeff Skoll, Sally Osberg, Stephan Chambers, the Skoll team and the Saiid Business School for their awesome work.

Takeaways from the seif Impact Investing Congress 2017

IMG_8675The 2nd Impact Investing Congress organized by seif took place in Zurich on Jan 24th.
Some takeaways and highlights
-The space continues to grow rapidly and somewhat chaotically as new players from all segments with different aspirations and products enter and push for mainstreaming impact investment. Growth is great and as a result you can’t avoid some growing pains. Some big banks such as BBVA and Barclays are becoming more active in this field.
-Rod Schwarz, CEO of ClearlySo introduced the recently launched ClearlySo Atlas, an impact assessment solution for private equity investors and venture capital investors. Atlas asseses the impact of portfolio holdings enabling investors to map, track and report on their impact and sustainability. What is great about this tool is that it targets the mainstream investments managers/portfolios (not only the impact investments) to improve on its impact. This goes along with Rod’s and ClearlySo’s belief that we are moving from the two dimensional investment criteria (return vs risk) towards a three dimensional one adding impact as a feature to all investments.
-Antoni Ballabriga , Global Head of Responsible Business at BBVA made an impressive presentation on how this large bank has recently gone through a transformation involving 28,000 of their employees around the globe to (re)define their purpose. The bank’s purpose is now “To bring the age of opportunity to everyone” and thus their new tagline is “Creating Opportunities”. With the WHY being cleared, the WHAT and HOW follows. These opportunities will be offered through: financial products that meet individual customer needs; financial education programs; transparent, clear and responsible communication; commitment with the environment; support to entrepreneurship; and promotion of culture and science, among other initiatives in favor of society. Let’s see how the initiatives of another large financial player reshape the universe – for the time being let’s give them the benefit of doubt.
-Phyllis Costanza, CEO of UBS Optimus Foundation updated us on the positive results so far of their first Development Impact Bond, an innovative instrument which brings in new money and cross sector partnerships for development. They are working on a new DIB and hopefully many other DIBs would be launched by other institutions in the future.
-The closing was a very interesting panel that debated on the now and future of impact investments in Switzerland which gave us much hope but equally cautions as the industry grows and mainstreams with differing views on the extent of the impact (improving some things vs solving the real problems) that the organizations would like to create.
Thanks seif for organizing this productive Congress.

SOCAP 16

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAdQAAAAJGM1MDEyMWU4LWNkNDctNDlhYi05YWNlLTFkOWVmYjMwOWRkMAThe ninth SOCAP, the conference at the intersection of money and meaning took place Sept 13-16 with 2500 attendants, 10 tracks and 12 parallel meetings. It looked overwhelming how this conference has grown but judging from the plenaries and sessions, it has grown in breadth and depth in a solid remarkable way and whilst expanding keeping its feet on the ground. The Opening Plenary discussions and talks made us reflect that the “why” is as important as the “how” on impact investments was a great way to set the tone for the conference. The sessions on impact evaluation and measurement, mapping the impact investment landscape with collaborative data, gender lens investing, a total portfolio approach on fossil investing and B Corps, show the richness and evolution of this movement. Congratulations to Rosa Lee Harden, Kevin Jones, and Lindsay Smalling for the tremendous work!
There are many talks and sessions you can find of SOCAP16 in youtube. Some of my favourites were:
Jed Emerson, Blended Value
Impact at Scale
Shifting Culture Towards Equity
Also the following three sessions were very interesting but it requires a bit more time to watch.
The Transformative Edge of Impact
Navigating Impact Investing: the Pursuit of Clarity and Simplicity
Evolving Impact Measurement over the next decade

The First European B Corp Summer Summit

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The European B Corp Summit, a celebration for People Using Business as a Force for Good, took place in Rome on June30 & July1. Two energetic days of learning, sharing, networking amongst the rapidly expanding global B Corp community (currently 1809 companies in 50 countries). The focus was on brainstorming and action planning on how can we continue to accelerate this movement. Powerful messages through numerous inspiring speakers including: Pedro Tarak of Sistema B, Lorna Davis of Danone, Thomas Van Craen of Triodos Bank, Bryan Welch of B the Change Media, Mirella Zuidgeest of thermaflex, Corey Lien of DOMI, Pablo Sepulveda & Eloisa Silva of Birus, and Christoph Barman of Loyco. Thanks to the B Lab Europe team and Nativa for organizing such an impactful event!

Skoll World Forum 2016: Fierce Compassion


The 13th Skoll World Forum on social entrepreneurship took place on April 13-15. It was my 10th Skoll and it was one of my favourite forums so far. There are many sessions that can be seen on video. This year the theme was Fierce compassion and the topics most highlighted were “climate change” and “refugee crisis”.
Highly recommended videos to watch:
Al Gore: A Climate of Change: Fueling a new future
Alexander Betts: Refugees as a Resource
Profile of the 2016 Skoll Award Recipients:
-Mallika Dutt and Sonali Khan (Breakthrough)
-Bryan Stevenson (Equal Justice Initiative)
-Chuck Slaughter (Living Goods)
-Vivek Maru (Namati)
-Oren Yakobovich (Videre)
Sessions:
-Refugee Crisis: Roots and Remedies
-Getting Beyond Business as Usual: Paving the way for social progress

The musical performances during the Forum were just awesome and inspiring starting with Malek Jandali, Syrian-American Composer and Pianist, Juanes, and Sonita Alizadeth.

The most moving performance was of Sonita, rapper and child marriage activist. The two videos Sonita’s performance and the interview that followed are the must sees of this year’s Skoll.

I would like to thank Jeff Skoll, Sally Osberg, the whole Skoll team and the University of Oxford for hosting again such an inspiring and powerful rich content forum.

womeneffect.com – a platform accelerating investments in women and girls

IMG_5016Every year very interesting forums and meetings take place in the second half of January here in Zurich as these are scheduled before and after the WEF forum in Davos. This year we had the seif Congress on Impact Investment and Social Innovation, a nice venue providing an overview of the current state of impact investment in Europe and promoting the building of an ecosystem in Switzerland. Coinciding with this Congress there was a meeting launching the Women Effect.

We believe that investing in women and girls is not only right, it is smart. It leads to positive returns for investors and better social and economic outcomes for everyone. This is the women effect.

– Suzanne Biegel, founder of womeneffect and a pioneer in gender lens investing.

Women Effect is a global community of generous men and women, individuals and institutions (investors, philanthropists and wealth managers) who have come together to accelerate the women effect in the most strategic and efficient way. It is a platform to learn connect and collaborate, accelerating investments in women and girls. Suzanne’s article on this subject.

Skoll World Forum 2015: Belief

SWF2015_mobile_logoThe 12th Skoll World Forum took place April 15-17th in Oxford. It was my 9th Skoll in a row and it is still my favourite forum for its great content, inspiring conversations and unlimited networking opportunities. This year two of the topics that were most emphasized were girls’ education and the continuing need to collaborate amongst the three converging worlds; private, public and citizen sectors. Another positive,this year, many of the sessions were recorded (more than ever) so subscribe to the youtube page of Skoll so that you can check on the videos that are being uploaded. Check also content through their Facebook and twitter page.

Update on impact investing

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Some recent great reads
1) Willy Foote’s article on agricultural finance, How To Help 450 Million Poor Farmers–Without Destroying The Earth
2) WEF’s report on mainstreaming impact investments: From the Margins to the Mainstream
3) Morgan Stanley’s commitment to Investing with Impact platform, 5 year target 10bn USD of client assets
November was a month of conferences with TBLI, EVPA and Lugano Fund Forum. The first two are very much focused on impact but LFF is a more conventional Fund Forum for accredited investors and wealth managers in Ticino and Italy. It was therefore great to see that they incorporated a panel for Impact Investments where I had the opportunity to give a presentation introducing this topic “Managing Wealth for Impact and Profits

Changing mindsets… importing innovative models made by emerging and developing economies

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Just back from the “Partnering for Global Impact” a two day forum by EBD Group in Lugano. Key areas covered were agriculture, education, healthcare housing, financial services and water.This forum facilitates outcomes in impact investing and philanthropy through one to one meetings alongside great keynote addresses (such as Sir Ronald Cohen) and panel discussions. It was a well organized event with very good content and great for networking.
Having attended numerous events on impact investment and philanthropy and having been fortunate to learn from outstanding social enterprises over the past 10 years I believe that one new topic should be added to these events.
These great forums such as Skoll World Forum, SOCAP, TBLI and PGI are playing a critical role in helping to solve the most serious problems we face through bringing together ideas, people, capital and promoting the more efficient use of resources. Find sustainable solutions which are working in emerging economies and scaling it. Funding and capacity building to be provided by impact investors, philanthropists and development finance institutions. It’s great but maybe we could do even better.
One different angle should be added. What could WE in the developed world learn and import from the emerging market innovative models that have been successful? Who has developed or is developing low cost high quality services in education, financial services and healthcare? There are successful education models developed in Latin America that could be used for low income communities in the USA. Perhaps vocational school systems or microfranchising business models that could be useful in reducing youth unemployment in The European Union? The increasing applications of mobile technology for payment systems in Kenya? There is so much innovation happening in emerging economies and we should be pragmatic and maybe a bit humble and change our mindsets to search and learn from the best available solution.
I talked about this idea to some veterans in this field, Suzanne Biegel from Catalyst at Large and ClearlySo, Jed Emerson of ImpactAssets and Blended Value and to Hans Wahl of INSEAD and they all thought it made sense! This topic is worthwhile to dig in further and much more research is needed I hope it will be included in future forums.

A must see video from the Skoll World Forum 2012

This year’s Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship was titled FLUX: Seizing momentum and driving change. This forum continues to be one of the best venues to meet up, update, share, collaborate and form new partnerships between all the players, social enterprises, private sector and public sector. One of my favourites talks at this year’s Skoll Forum was Hans Rowling’s presentation on the future of world population.