Oxford: Skoll Award Winners, Women at the Table and Highlights So Far

BELIEF.630X300.V2Earlier today I was standing outside the theater in Oxford, England, where the ceremony that celebrates the four winners of the 2015 Skoll Award For Social Entrepreneurship will take place later tonight. It’s a beautiful place — the whole city is, and right now it’s filled with attendees of the Skoll World Forum and Marmalade. I’m one of them.

The photo above was from the opening plenary last night. Tonight’s plenary honors disruptive leaders who are making real, measurable headway in four different areas: transparency regarding pollution, food sustainability, educating girls and land management for rural poor. I have the links below. There are so many worthy social entrepreneurs worldwide, to be sure, and I look forward to hearing more about these four who are so exceptional.

Really the exceptionality is present everywhere. Earlier today I was at Marmalade’s On The Couch event and before that their Women at the Table discussion — literally at the table were Musimbi Kanyoro (CEO, Global Fund for Women), Jensine Larsen (CEO, World Pulse), Meagan Fallone (CEO, Barefoot College) and others. Quite impressive.

One of the innovative social programs discussed was a radio network that uses cell phones and solar power to create an interconnected radio station so women in the middle of nowhere can have a voice. They’re using it to share stories, raise awareness, campaign for social action, mobilize — the kinds of activities that people in other parts of the world use can accomplish using other media. The radio network also streams online for those who can connect.

On the lighter side, here’s my favorite quote from that session: “A woman with a laptop can be more powerful than a man with a gun.”

Yesterday I was at equally interesting events and tomorrow I’ll be at more. In addition to the above, among the many highlights so far have been:

  • Insights about the role media play in social change
  • Marmalade’s Poverty Spotlight session
  • Comments from the CEO of Acumen, Jacqueline Novogratz
  • Absolutely great documentary called “Pride”
  • Updates on human trafficking
  • The view from my room and my morning walks/runs — it’s been sunny!

Here are the winners of this year’s Skoll awards (from the Skoll Foundation website):

Al Harris of Blue Ventures: Global fish stocks are collapsing at a time when the world’s people need them most. The decline of small-scale fisheries puts the nutrition and livelihood of half a billion people at risk. “Conservation doesn’t need to be about taking less. It can be one of the highest-yielding investment opportunities on the planet.”

Ma Jun of Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs: Economic progress in China has come at a cost – serious pollution and degradation of China’s air, water, and land resources, and threats to the health of its citizens, particularly those living in urban areas. Their loss in life expectancy due to pollutants has been estimated at 5.5 years. “Transparency is crucial to environmental protection, not just in China, but globally. It’s not about making the rules more stringent, it’s about requiring the companies to disclose their data.”

Safeena Husain of Educate Girls: There are more girls not in school in India than in any other country in the world. Despite national goals to educate all children, communities in remote and rural areas still do not place a high value on educating their girls, nor do they have resources to do so. “Not one girl has said to me, I don’t want an education, I want to stay at home, I want to look after the cattle. Every single girl I meet wants to go to school. And that is my biggest source of hope.”

Jagdeesh Rao Puppala of Foundation for Ecological Security: India’s common lands—about a quarter of the country–are not managed effectively. Some 200 million villagers who rely on these lands for their livelihood have no right of title, and thus every incentive to over-exploit in the short term. Government officials administering from afar have little ability to intervene. “We look at improvement in the hydrology, water availability, nutrient flows. Many people do not see the whole system, they only look at parts. We see the interconnectedness of the whole ecosystem.”

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