Category Archives: empowering people

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.

ACUMEN: boldly changing the way the world tackles poverty

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Acumen started operations in 2001 with a pioneering concept, a non-profit venture capital for the poor, using philanthropic (patient) capital to invest in entrepreneurs that would be capable to create sustainable solutions to big problems in poverty. For the past 15 years, they have been helping to build companies, developing leaders and sharing ideas. Their impact to date: $103m invested in 96 companies, 200 million lives impacted, 310 leaders developed, 17 Acumen Chapters, and 320,000 people have signed up to the Acumen leadership courses. Impressive figures! However, why Acumen continues to be one of the leaders/innovators in this field is because they can’t be content on just seeing these figures. They go deeper in trying to understand the real impact (qualitatively) by developing impact measurement/metrics.

Our Impact Framework: We work to understand impact from the moment we begin due diligence on a company throughout the lifetime of the investment. Working closely with our companies, we generate, analyze and use data that enables them to understand and improve their social performance. Our aim is to unlock their full potential and achieve the greatest social change for the customers they serve. (source Acumen)

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As Acumen defines its success as how well their investments are enabling the poor to improve their own lives for the long term, they measure the social performance across 3 dimensions: 1) the focus on the poor 2) the breadth (the number reached) 3) depth (improvements). So they look at impact from all these fronts. They use lean data which has made it much more efficient, faster and cost efficient to understand their impact. Another great contribution of Acumen is how they share their ideas and findings. +Acumen which comprises online free leadership courses and is rapidly becoming “the world’s school of social change”.

Acumen’s Dr. Ambika Sampat spoke about Acumen’s journey on Nov 16 “Zurich Social Investment Breakfast Club” facilitated by Rianta Capital and hosted by RobecoSAM. Thank you all and congratulations to the amazing team of Acumen!
Additional info and suggestions
Jacqueline Novogratz Ted Talks She has delivered 5 TED talks.
Acumen’s manifesto
Writeup on Jacueline Novogratz’s book ” The Blue Sweater”

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

Prime Minister Modi meets the Solar Mamas in Tanzania trained by Barefoot College

On July 10th, Prime Minister Modi of India interacted with 40 Solar Mamas trained by Barefoot College in Tanzania. PM Modi took great interest in all the vocational and entrepreneurial activities that the Solar mamas are conducting such as solar electrification, tailoring, bee keeping and honey making. In fact he was very happy to take home some of the products like robes and honey which are now sold commercially in Zanzibar.
Barefoot College has trained solar mamas in 74 of the least developed countries. This project is done in collaboration with the Indian government. The founder Bunker Roy has lead this organization for 42 years and recently handed over the operational responsibilities to Meagan Fallone, CEO of Barefoot College International. In the last 2 years BCI has started to scale the vocational training activities by building training centers outside of India. The first such training center was launched last year in Zanzibar. 5 more training centers will be launched in Africa and a few in Latin America, Asia and South Pacific.
Congratulations Bunker, Meagan, and the whole Barefoot College team!
(disclaimer: the author is a board member of Barefoot College International)

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.

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative: bold, inspiring, mindful and impactful

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On Dec 1, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan made the announcement welcoming the birth of their daughter Max and their decision to give 99% of Facebook shares (currently USD 45bn) to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation. This was posted (in Facebook)through an awe-inspiring and mindful letter “A letter to our daughter” that should become a must read for people in the private sector, public sector, academia, citizen sector, basically everyone as it articulates with clarity the challenges we face and how to tackle these. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is set up as an LLC which has attracted both praise and criticisms.

I personally believe that their decision is great and inspiring as it would give them much more flexibility in achieving their goals by being able to do both: invest and donate with impact. This Initiative is bold and it will provide a major boost to both impact investing and venture philanthropy and hopefully one day it will go for B Corp certification!

Change is coming- launch of B Lab UK

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On Sept 24 B Lab UK hosted the event “Change is coming” the official launch of 62 certified UK B Corps at Proud Galleries in Camden, London. The B Corp movement is gaining momentum and now there are over 1400 companies across 42 countries that are B Corp certified and a number that is growing by the day. In this event it was inspiring to hear the founders of Bridges Ventures, COOK, Fairphone, and Streetlife talk about their businesses and their road to become B Corps. It was also a great gathering to network with the B Corp global community as many leaders were present such as Bart Houlahan, (B Lab Co-Founder), Marcello Palazzi (B Lab Europe Co-founder), and Pedro Tarak (Co-founder of Sistema B, B Corp South America).
There was also a big announcement made by Bart that B Lab is establishing a Multinationals and Public Markets (MPM) Advisory Council as of January 2016 as a strong response for the growing number of multinationals and publicly listed companies that are interested in joining the B Corp movement. In a video message delivered by Paul Polman, Unilever CEO, he announced that Unilever will participate in the MPM Advisory Council and invited others to join them to achieve a collective vision of a global economy where all businesses work to create a more shared and durable prosperity for all. Yes, change is coming!

B Corps- the accelerating global movement using business as a force for good

bcorpHaving followed the movement of B Corps and benefit corporations over the past 6 years it was with great joy to attend yesterday the Swiss B Corp Community Forum that took place at the Impact Hub. B Corps are a new type of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems (see the first video below to find out in less than 2 minutes). These companies aim to be not the best in the world but best for the world. The B Corp movement has been rapidly expanding with now close to 1300 B corporations in 41 countries and in 121 industries. B corps have started expanding also in Europe with now 70 B corporations. The 4 Swiss B corporations (3 Certified and one soon to become) that were presenting yesterday were: Abhati, Heidi.com, Montagne Alternative, and Opaline. To understand more about the B Corps please view the videos below. It is a movement that is definitely moving the needle in making business a force for good.


The Blue Economy – an action plan on improving the world through sustainable development

I had the greatest pleasure to meet on May 19th Dr. Ashok Khosla, a visionary & social entrepreneur at a private event (thanks Nina!) Dr. Khosla founded Development Alternatives in 1982 to purse his dream for sustainable development. Since then he has been innovating, demonstrating, and fostering the delivery of environmentally friendly and commercially viable technologies. He is also the Chairman of TARA (Technologies and Actions for Rural Advancement). He also presented the just launched 2 new books “To Choose Our Future” which he authored and “The Blue Economy Version 2.0″ by Gunther Pauli, for which he is a contributing author. Both books will soon be available to buy online. The Blue Economy is the sequel to “The Blue Economy: 10 years 100 innovations 100 million jobs” and it is a powerful movement that has only started. I recommend you to see the TED talk of Gunter Pauli and the simple intro on the concept and to find about the 100 innovations.

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.