Early rise this morning to meet up with fellow Nordic delegates to the forum. FERD Social entrepreneurs was represented by Johan Andresen and Katinka Leiner. From Stockholm; Johan Oljeqvist, CEO Fryshuset, progressive community development and youth empowerment organization. Christian af Jochnick of Jochnick Foundation, Victor Jacobsson, co-founder of Klarna, Swedish payment service and startup miracle, and lastly myself, soft launching Leksell Social Ventures for Laurent Leksell and family.
The discussions on the topic of the Scandinavian impact ecosystem were stimulating. We recognize the need to connect the Nordic sector with the international debates and peers gathering at Skoll. There are great opportunities to learn from how the impact sector at large as well as individual operating and business models have been developed in other geographies. We observed however, that much of Skoll touches on less developed country (LDC) environments with a limited though meaningful coverage of issues and topics that touch developed country challenges. Perhaps next year we can spur Skoll to push the agenda on social innovation in the developed welfare state.
New encounters with Scandinavian colleagues in the hallways is indicative of the convening magic of the forum. Impact sector professionals from all over the world rub shoulders, many eschew the formal seminars to spend the time connecting with old acquaintances and making new ones. The facebook established for every event helps to seek out those you wish to meet and the atmosphere is generous and open hearted. Everyone is happy to make new connections and share their ideas, stories and concerns.
The morning’s seminar on ’digital equity and individual rights in the age of big data’ brought a sprawling discussion with among others Larry Brilliant, CEO of the Skoll Global Threats Fund and former VP of Google. The confluence of the many ways data offer opportunities, challenges and risks in todays world creates a complex landscape. Striking a balance of protection of individual rights while making use of the promises that data, big and small, has on offer, is a difficult challenge. We could track pandemics, stay ahead of terrorism, give early warning on natural disasters, democratize communication in less free societies, but we also risk expose vulnerable groups and making dangerous decisions based on black box calculated information.
Jim Fruchterman suggests that the data around us, that we create every day, is becoming critical infrastructure for modern society, and if so, should we consider it as public infrastructure to be controlled by government, provided control is possible he asks? Larry Brilliant contrasts with the risk of protectionist agendas of certain governments threatening a balkanization of the internet, to little use in mitigating risks but with certain limitations on the potential utility of data made less accessible.
Ken Cukier warns that impact sector organizations will do well do consider their gathering and storing of information on vulnerable groups, that might expose such people to dangers if leaked or stolen, taking the example of Ugandan police exposing LBTG individuals after raiding a pro LBTG activist organization. Nevertheless, ending on an upbeat note, the panel suggests that the surge in data promises opportunities for more cost effective reach and depth on interventions for organizations capable of leveraging technology, upgrading the impact sector from a traditionally human capital centric operating environment.
Lunch fills one large classroom with delegates keen to explore the topic of ‘Breaking silos: partnering with corporate intrapreneurs’. Group discussions yield suggestions that its easier for entrepreneurs to experiment but that entrepreneurs have an advantage in scaling solutions based on the institutional resources around them.
Collaboration is possible thus, for entrepreneurs to support larger organizations in a capacity of driving innovation, whereas intrapreneurs can help to scale successful models experimented forth by entrepreneurs. Collaborations may be challenging however, as several delegates account for with personal experiences. The great resources of a large corporate partner may be overwhelming for a small entrepreneurial team and cause undue mission shift to adapt to catering to the partnership in question, cannibalizing on other capabilities. Alignment of purpose for collaboration and solid foundational negotiation to ensure declaration and management of expectations are put forth as key considerations before engaging in such partnerships. Corporate partners in particular would do well to ensure a degree of supporting infrastructure in anticipation of the weight to be placed on an entrepreneurial partner to adapt to the partnership.
The afternoon seminar ’Future proofing business. Beyond CSR, OR and Charity’ brings together the corporate heavyweights of Marks and Spencer, Royal DSM and Unilever to discuss the evolution of corporate responsibility. Mike Barry of M&S speaks of the not entirely straight forward road toward achieving buy in for a global sustainability strategy for M&S. Among lessons learned – to make the strategy tangible and actionable for individual managers, decentralizing ownership of the strategy beyond central coordination, creating sustainability business cases for individual business units to visualize positive potential for P&L and to find ways of working with competitors as change to a market isn’t driven by one firm alone.
Marcela Manubens, Global VP for social impact at Unilever, echoed the need for engagement, stressing the importance even of individual employees understanding how sustainability strategy and considerations are actionable in every day work, especially in organizations of hundreds of thousands of employees where management push for intangible values per see has limited potential. DSM CEO Feike Sijbesma drew attention with his no-nonsense proclamations of the long term essentiality of sustainability for economic and organizational success in an increasingly interdependent business operating environment, ’responsibility should be mainstream, not CSR, not social entrepreneurship but enterprise for society’ says Mr. Sijbesma.
Ending the day with the Skoll awards for social entrepreneurship the proceedings were brought to an emotive halt with the participation of the young girls education activist Malala from Pakistan, difficult to describe in words.