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Skoll: ‘Changing Time for Philanthropy’

By Tom Watson on March 27, 2007No Comment

In his opening remarks at the conference that bears his name, Jeff Skoll returned to what many attendees and observers often focus on – what is a social entrepreneur. But he didn’t provide a straight-on definition; rather, he focused on the growing public role for social entrepreneurs in society.

"We often use Google results to track these things," he said, jokingly referring to the increase in Google hits that Britney Spears has had during her horrible year in the limelight. But social entrepreneurs like Bill Drayton of Ashoka and Victoria Hale of OneWorld Health have seen their Google hits rise as rate faster than Britney – and there was no public hijinks involved.

"What’s happening is that social entrepreneurship is moving from the margins of society to the mainstream," he said, touting another social entrepreneur he knows fairly well – Al Gore.

Skoll said that this "is a changing time for philanthropy," and that much of the focus these days is on bringing business practices to philanthropy. But he suggested that buzzwords like "philanthropreneurs" may miss the point: it’s not just about change in the nature of philanthropy, "but a movement from institutions to individuals."

Individuals, he suggested, can move faster and take more chances. "Wherever you find humanity at its worst in the world, you’ll find a social entrepreneur working for change."

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