This year's forum organized by the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship filled the foyer, lecture theatres and seminar rooms of Saïd Business School, as well as much of Oxford, with the energy and buzz of entrepreneurs, academics and policymakers from all over the world. I can't do the event justice here but want to reflect on some things I heard at the events I attended.
- The question of handling uncertainty. How do social entrepreneurs and investors/funders handle risk? Are the tools of corporate finance, grounded in traditional economic rationality, useful for those setting up social based ventures? What can we learn from how 19th century social ventures in sanitation, education and health in the UK, for example, developed into public assets?
- The question of scale. For policy makers who want to support or enable sociallly-based ventures, what are the things that can be exported from one particular context? What can't be replicated even if a regional government really wants to try to support social venture models that work elsewhere?
- The question of design. This year's forum included two sessions on 'Design Thinking' run by Debra Dunn and colleagues from Stanford's d-school who ran workshops in which participants explored ideas of user-centered design and visual, iterative methods of framing problems. Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management in Toronto, and an advocate of "integrative thinking" and "design thinking", chaired the closing panel. How can social entrepeneurs use design methods to frame problems and involve stakeholders in co-design?