Skoll Day 3: Get On The Bus
Well, readers, another year of the Skoll World Forum has past, and delegates departed today full of energy, optimism, and hope. In the closing plenary, Chairman of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship Stephan Chambers commented on the mood, saying “to feel the energy this week, all of it positive, all of it sustainable has been astonishing.”
The closing plenary speakers were so celebrated that they were escorted in from a side entrance rather than mixing with the greater crowd, particularly former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore, who addressed the group today (and received two standing ovations for doing so).
Gore spoke with passion and conviction about the need for, what he called, a “unified earth theory.” He spoke of a movement where environmentalists and social justice activists banded together, aware of the interconnectedness of massive global problems of climate change and poverty. His message was one of urgency, yet of hope as well, saying that new global challenges “offer the opportunity to find a purpose that will bring us together,” much as the world came together to support the rebuilding of Europe after the Second World War. Gore also announced today a large-scale launch by the Alliance for Climate Protection of a mass influence campaign to convey this sense of urgency and opportunity to the American public. Look in upcoming weeks for the beginnings of this three year effort which will feature tv, radio, print ads, billboards and other forms of media to get the message through.
Although Gore was the big-name draw of the closing plenary, I’d like to finish my Skoll posting series with the words of the man who got me on that early train to Oxford this morning – Dr. Paul Farmer (who also received a standing ovation!). As I mentioned earlier, I’ve read Mountains Beyond Mountains and followed the work of Partners In Health, but had never had the good fortune to hear Farmer speak in person and let me just tell you – if he doesn’t make you want to jump out of your seat and hop on the next plane to Kigali (while off-setting your emissions, of course) to try and help him change the world, no one will.
Farmer was humorous at times, thanking the Skoll Foundation (who, as mentioned earlier, bestowed one of its $1 million grants to Partners In Health this year) for “diagnosing” him as a social entrepreneur, and saying “we may soon see a global pandemic of social entrepreneurship.” Yet his speech was also critical of the social entrepreneurship movement, which he challenged as “a loyalist,” telling the room:
“It’s our culture that needs to change. Look around you – there are people of all hues, but no poor people. We need to include poor people in our movement and allow them to be social entrepreneurs.”
It was a statement that was met with a round of boisterous applause.
Farmer finished his talk by charging the environmentalists and conservationists to get on the social justice bus, and vice versa, because it’s only one bus, going to the same place. He finished by telling the audience, “I’ll see you on the bus.” Here’s to hoping there’s room for me on there too.