Getting Inspired to Change the World at Hogwarts

Skoll World Forum

The following is a guest post from Kim Sedmak, Executive Producer of AARP's "Your Life Calling" with Jane Pauley:

I had the wonderful opportunity to be present at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship March 28-30, 2012. Three days of being embraced, inspired and empowered by 900 delegates from 66 countries at the Oxford University's Said Business School. I was invited as a member of the media with the intention of trying to locate innovative examples of people 50+ who are either reinventing themselves or the world in new and different ways.

In its 9th year, eBay Founder Jeff Skoll brings together social entrepreneurs from all across the globe for the purpose of sharing information and networking to make the world a better place for all, culminated by the Skoll Awards Ceremony, where this year, four projects were awarded to those working to create a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world by working to end human trafficking, alleviate forest degradation, etc. These three days have been intense, but well worth the trip. As Jane Pauley is fond of saying, all reinventions big or small start with testing assumptions. These folks are not afraid to fail, they are not afraid to be bold, and it's all seemingly done with a gentle touch.

Dinners the first night were held in the halls of various Oxford Colleges. I was assigned to the New College. Think of the dining hall at Hogwarts Hall from Harry Potter. A long trestle table seating 100 people with proper silver, china, linen napkins and candelabras down the center of the table. The interior beams of the room must be at least 500 years old. Seated to the left of me was someone from the Gates Foundation; to the right, someone from the Aspen Institute. Across from us was a British family with their adult children wanting to learn more about how to give their wealth away in a responsible way to do good in the world.

As the days wore on, I met more and more people sharing their thinking on how to initiate change in the world. I particularly enjoyed the session "Victors not Victims: Women Driving Social Change and Striving for Peace in Conflict Zones" moderated by Pat Mitchell and joined by Eve Ensler, Tony Award-winning playwright and three women representing Somalia, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Empowering women throughout the world is top of mind. If women can earn money in developing countries, become trained and then educate their children, they have a better chance at a quality life.

This is just a quick snapshot of an extraordinary event that hardly captures the entire energy, and brain power represented for social change. It wasn't all serious. Rock star Annie Lennox dropped by after the Skoll Awards were announced, and performed several of her hits including "Here Comes the Rain Again" and "Sweet Dreams."

The backdrop of Oxford University with its history of being a place where ideas are born is certainly true today. As former  British Prime Minister Gordon Brown expressed to us "new times need new ideas." And there is certainly no shortage of them at the Skoll World Forum. I look forward in the coming months to share many of the stories I gleaned from my time here this week on behalf of AARP's "Your Life Calling" TODAY with Jane Pauley.

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