Top Take-Aways From The Skoll World Forum 2016

IMG_9764I love going to conferences. Yes, I am one of those people who show up full of anticipation that I will learn something new, meet someone who will become my new best friend, deepen relationships with people I already know, experience something different, and leave fully fueled so that I can continue in my diverse efforts to help make the world a better place. As we all know, some conferences are better than others, but as I depart from my inaugural trip to the SKOLL World Forum in Oxford, England, I checked off all of the above!

In case you have not heard about it, what exactly is this special event? It is a by-invitation gathering that happens only once a year, and it is hosted by the team at the Skoll Foundation. They bring together nearly 1,000 top innovators from more than 60 countries for debate, discussion, and networking, and the conference is designed to accelerate entrepreneurial solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. What’s not to like about that? The theme for this year was fierce compassion as a driver of social progress. It just so happens that both of those words; fierce and compassion, happen to be on my top ten list of words that inspire me, so my expectations for this conference were very high.

To do a full debrief on every session I attended, every speaker I heard, and every new and awesome person I met would fill up a book, and indeed it did, so allow me to share the highlights in an unusual form. Included below are some of my favorite people, powerful words, calls to action, and more, all in chronological order. I hope you like it.

Utah to Oxford. 4810 Miles. Arrive in pouring rain. Surprised? England. Check-in. HI. Hey. HI. Hey. HI. Me? First time. You? My second. My fifth. My tenth. Me too. Walking tour? Sure! 38 colleges, some dating back to the 13th century? Cool. Understatement. Pub night at the Head of the River. Another please. Shining Hope for Communities. Find Me Unafraid. Love Story Jessica + Kennedy. New besties? Check. Sleep? Not really.

Excitement! First session. Higher Ground: Faith and Spirituality as Levers for Change. We cannot retreat to our silos. Dialogue. Fav? Molly MelchingTOSTAN. Include religious leaders in the process to discuss and change negative social norms. Human rights education. Lunch. Global Innovation Fund. New. Grounded in evidence with rigorous measurement. Follow-up. Introductions. Research. First Plenary. Stephan Chambers. For the next few days, you do not have to explain why you do what you do. What we combat does not get tired. Jeff Skoll. Climate Crisis. YES IT’S REAL. Mary Robinson. Paris Agreement. Get FIERCER. The Fierce Urgency of Now. Selina Leem. Marshall Islands. One of the most vulnerable places on earth to climate change. Annie Griffiths. Ripple Effect. If we want women to be valued we must show their value. Indoor pollution #1 killer of women in the developing world and children under the age of five. 4.3 million deaths per year. Hut Lung. Say what? Al Gore. #sofunny. #whoknew. Three questions. 1) Do we really have to change? 2) Can we Change? 3) Will we change? BAD News. Really Bad. Hope. Global wind and solar capacity. This is a moral choice. Pick a side. Let us not forget that the power of people is much stronger than that of people in power. Malek Jandali. Syrian American Composer and Pianist. Breathtaking. Next. The Neuroscience of Fierce Compassion. Can we grow empathy? Is empathy a choice? Academic debate. Way too many ideas and questions. Brain exploding. Finding your story and making it count: A Session with Sundance. Tabitha Jackson. #girlcrush. What makes a good story? Truth. Transcendence. Transformation. I get to work with her. Na na na na na na. Think about how things should fit together. Then fit them together. The world is full of free things that are delightful. Delight. Funders reception. Dinner. Sleep? Not really.

#soexited. Leading Through Adversity. Pat Mitchell. #bestie. Alaa Murabit.Mary Robinson. Mphu Tutu. Halla Tomasdottir. Running for President of Iceland and an absolutely amazing woman. Wish she was running here! What is the source of the power? From where does one derive it? When you specifically wrong you learn a lot, when you are vaguely right you do not. As a leader are you giving space, or taking it? Next. The News We Need. @jesssearch. Brit Doc. #girlcrush. What is news? …what someone does not want to be printed…helps us to understand who we are and what we care about…reveals truth…@wajahatali @zoesqwilliams @doctoryasmin @anasglobal!!!!! @anasglobal in a mask, deep investigative journalist in Ghana. Name. Shame. Jail. Justice sold is the most dangerous commodity on earth. On corruption. Google Raceboy. Islamophobia. Pay for quality journalism! Funders lunch. Women and girls table. Most crowded! WOO HOO. Plenary. Sally Osberg President and CEO Skoll Foundation. #girlcrush Do we have an innate desire and capacity for justice? Skoll Awardees. $1.25 mm each. GO HERE to view them all. AMAZING. Separate blog. Reception at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Technology. Stories of Change Dinner. The Slug and the Lettuce. Beer and networking. Networking and beer. Sleep? Ya right.

Last day. Private meeting. Molly Melching. TOSTAN. #impact #beautifulperson. Panel. Challenging Global Wealth and Inquality. Fav? Darren Walker, President Ford Foundation. #guycrush. New face? Nick Hanauer. Middle-up economics versus trickle down economics. What are the drivers of inequality? Persistent prejudice and negative cultural narratives… corruption…rigged rules…aspirational deficits…immoral capitalism…We need more rich white guys talking about inquality. Is revolution inevitable? Closing Plenary. Alexander Betts. Director. Refugee Center. Oxford. Research on Myths around Refugees. Need a paradigm shift. Man does not live on food and water alone. But on hope. Know the facts. Change the narrative. Create a just scheme to distribute refugees. #respect. #humanrights. Tabitha Jackson. Again! #awesome. Sonita. Sundance premiered documentary film. Yes I was there. Her story. Afghanistan. Iran. Girl rapper. WATCH THIS NOW. Seriously. WATCH. Activist. Must see. When you don’t have papers you don’t exist. I was not mad at my mom. I was mad at society. On social norms around child marriage. Official close. Stephan Chambers. The will to act is itself a renewable resource. Be clear that what you do is important. Last Thing. Henry James. Only three things are important in life. The First is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third? To be kind.

After the conference was officially over, I hung around for six more hours chatting with the other “slow to departers”. I had the pleasure of meeting up with Heather Mason, Founder and CEO of the Caspian Agency, who was responsible for executing this multi-day event. To say she is a conference planning rockstar would indeed be an understatement.

As I type now I am sitting at the Heathrow airport about to board my flight back home. Will I be back next year? Darn right I will! Congrats to the SKOLL team for a job incredibly well done, and for ALL the work they do in support of social entrepreneurs everywhere. Truly incredible! And if you are looking for incredible organizations to support, spend some time on the SKOLL website to read about their many awardees. I think you will be hard-pressed to find a better list of amazing non-profits that are worthy of our support.

Take a cruise through the TWEETS to get other amazing take-aways from SKOLL Forum 2016 using hashtag #skollwf . Follow @skollfoundation on Twitter for year-round conversations and news.

PS – definition of girl crush: feelings of admiration and adoration that a girl (woman) has for another girl (woman).  A nonsexual attraction, usually based on veneration at some level.

Photo with Pat Mitchell and Halla Tomasdottir, who is currently running for the President of Iceland.

Iceland 2012

10 days ago Greg and I traveled to Iceland and while I don’t normally do travel blogs this trip, this country, was so spectacular I simply have to write about it! It was a quick trip.  We departed Thursday night on the red eye, and returned Sunday late afternoon.

Iceland is a country that caught the world’s attention in 2008 as three of their largest banks collapsed.  (which I happened to blog about long before I ever considered going) The financial crisis took a serious toll on their economy, though as a tourist visiting in 2012 you would never know it.  Relative to the size of Iceland’s economy (2011 GDP $12.3 billion US around $13 trillion!)  their banking collapse was the largest suffered by any country in history (read more about it here.)  What is crazy is how small of a country it is! There are only about 320,000 people and the land mass is about the size of Maine.

The trip was organized by Mountain Taxi . If you are planning a trip to Iceland I highly recommend you book with them.  They were fantastic. The first day, before we even had the chance to get settled in to our hotel, we were whisked away in “super jeeps” which took us to rugged and expansive lave fields which we toured on ATV’s! We took the ATV’s to one of Iceland’s most popular attractions The Blue Lagoon (pictured above) where we had lunch and soaked in the geothermal waters. Saturday was action packed with more sight seeing and adventures, we got to see the second largest glacier in Iceland (Long-Glacier) and took snowmobile rides across the frozen ice fields!  I did manage to come close to killing myself after launching my snowmobile over an unseen hill but hey, I survived.  Did you know how much head injuries bleed?

After a  morning of riding the frozen lands (and getting bandaged up), we were treated to lunch which was served on an ice bar carved into the side of the glacier. (This was a ‘ you are kidding me ‘ moment!).  After visiting an amazing falls it was a long drive to our hotel and an amazing dinner with dear friends.  Our last day we actually got to go up onto the glacier with ice crampons and ice picks which was an incredible sight! Coincidentally, this was the same glacier that was featured in the film “Chasing Ice” that we just saw at the Sundance Film Festival this year.  The filmmaker uses time  lapsed photography to capture the melting of the glaciers to provide evidence for global warming.  This is a must see film and so cool that you can actually visit that glacier. After an amazing lunch it was back to the airport for home.  Greg and I have never done anything like this and to say it was an experience of a lifetime would be an understatement. It was for a VERY special occasion and we were so honored to be included.

Iceland is only about 40,000 square miles and it is almost completely bare of tress and vegetation. Exploring on the lava fields I felt like I was on the moon! The lava fields and lagoons produce geothermal energy which is one of Iceland’s most powerful natural resources. Geothermal and Hydropower plants are Iceland’s most vital resource and they provide nearly 80% of the nations total energy. Due to its sprawling bare land they are unable to raise large farm animals for their diet. They also have very, very strict rules around livestock which I want to learn more about. The country is known for its fishing and while we were they we definitely figured this out! The popular fish of choice? Salmon, salmon, and more salmon! Iceland is also known for their lamb and dairy products.

Though we clearly ‘did it up’  you certainly don’t have to to enjoy this amazing country. It would be spectacular to just travel by car and take in the amazing landscapes.  Hiking, biking, skiing and horse backed riding are all very popular.   (they have about over 100,000 horses on the island I was told)  Visit Iceland!

For more information about Iceland and travel information visit their website