2019 Skoll World Forum – Day One

I’m in Oxford, England for the 2019 Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, taking place from April 9 through April 12. This year’s theme, Accelerating Possibility, is focused on exploring how humanity can accelerate a future that is fair, inclusive, and sustainable.

If you’re interested in watching the plenaries, sessions, interviews, and other content coming out of the Skoll World Forum, you can get a digital pass here and check out the Skoll Foundation Facebook page for conversations on Facebook Live. Also, you can find links to my recaps of Day Two, Day Three, and Day Four here.

Press Reception

At a press reception immediately preceding the Opening Plenary, we were introduced to the five inspirational Skoll Awardees:

  • Crisis Text Line: Nancy Lublin
  • Harambee  Youth Employment Accelerator: Nicola Galombik and Maryana Iskander
  • mPedigree: Bright Simons and Selorm Branttie
  • mPharma: Gregory Rockson
  • Thorn: Julie Cordua

The Awardees each provided a very brief description of their programs, which you can learn more about in the multimedia press release here. The common thread: the remarkable individuals leading these organizations were not only transforming lives, but also systems. You can also catch the interviews with the Awardees on the Skoll Foundation Facebook page.

Opening Plenary

The opening plenary started (and ended) with a performance by the Desi Hoppers, a hip hop dance group from Mumbai that recently performed on The World of Dance television series.

Peter Drobac (Director, Skoll Centre) and Lindsey Spindle (President, The Jeff Skoll Group) provided an inspirational introduction to the Forum. They noted the Skoll World Forum’s modest (but classic Silicon Valley) start from an idea written on a cocktail napkin. The first year, it attracted 250 attendees bonded by a passion for their work and the sad belief that they were working alone. This year, the Forum attracted 1,200 selected delegates from 81 countries. The audience audibly reacted to the image of Greta Thunberg, the founder of the Youth Strike for Climate movement.

Anab Jain (Co-Founder and Director, Superflux) discussed the future and making it visceral and emotional to allow for full engagement and better decision-making.

Ai-jen Poo (Executive Director, The National Domestic Workers Alliance) was interviewed by Jess Search (CEO, Doc Society). Poo enlightened us about the invisibility of child care providers, elder care providers, and other domestic workers in terms of basic labor protections, dignity, respect, and professionalism. While this should be shocking, it’s probably very familiar to most of us … even though these workers will represent the largest occupation in the U.S. workforce by 2030. Fortunately, things are beginning to change. Nine states now have a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, and Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Pramila Jayapal announced a federal bill of rights for domestic workers late last year. Poo and Search also discussed the critically acclaimed, award-winning movie Roma and the critical attention it has brought to domestic workers and the intimacies and complexities of their lives. You can read more about Poo’s thoughts of Roma and the collaboration among The National Domestic Workers Alliance, Roma, and Participant Media (founded by Jeff Skoll) here.

Edgar Villanueva (Author, Decolonizing Wealth) was interviewed by Sarika Bansal (Editor-in-Chief, BRIGHT Magazine), who was clearly and understandably a huge fan of his book. Villanueva, who along with Anand Giridharadas (Winners Take It All) and Rob Reich (Just Giving) has been credited with raising big questions about the value of our current philanthropy, discussed how wealth has been accumulated and continues to be accumulated by enduring colonial structures of power. He emphasized that philanthropy needs to respect these truths and move money to heal the wounds of the past, particularly where the most harm has been done. This demands radical listening.

Prince Gyasi (Artist and Co-Founder, Boxed Kids) shared with us his art and his reason for cofounding Boxedkids, a nonprofit organization helping kids from Accra, Ghana get an education. Gyasi proclaimed: “Education costs money, but ignorance costs money too.”


I ate and conversed with some fascinating people doing some pretty incredible things. A nice way to end the day at a dining hall in Worcester College (kind of like a mini-Hogwarts dining hall). Looking forward to Day Two.