Wednesday, March 30, 2005

I'm in Oxford, at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.

It's been pretty cool for me, here at the Forum. As a Skoll grantee, we got to do some exciting pre-Forum stuff. The first night, we had a dinner in Exeter College. Apparently, Tolkien studied here as an undergraduate. The dining hall looked like a smaller version of the Harry Potter Hogwarts dining hall set! I also got the chance to hear Jeff Skoll speak for an hour on why he does what he does, and on what he's doing now. Pretty exciting to hear about where all this comes from!

The opening of the Forum was last night, and Vaz covered it well. I got to sit behind Sir Ben Kingsley: imagine sitting within touching distance of an avatar of Gandhi! Sir Ben described Jeff as a "living Silk Road," invoking the image of the original Silk Road making connections between Asia and Europe and bringing trade and knowledge. eBay to Participant Productions.

I'm an engineer, so I don't usually wax eloquent. But, it was definitely exciting!

I wrapped up the evening with dinner with some of the attendees, and three of the five Skoll Scholars. Two of them I know well, Keely Stevenson, the mother of the Edge, who many of you have met on-line here and Social Edge. And, Jesse Fahnestock, who Benetech lost to Oxford. Our loss, the planet's gain! It was great to see Jesse and hear about how his social entrepreneurship MBA program is turning out.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

I am in the middle of a big travel sequence. Last week, I attended the N-TEN Nonprofit Technology Conference, which is where nonprofit techies get together and talk about how technology can make the best impact on the social sector. The highlight of the conference for me was getting to sit down and spend an hour with Esther Dyson, talking about some new nonprofit concepts. She's a legend in the technology field. As usual, I came away from the conference with gazillions of ideas of what needs to be done, thanks to the incredible group of people who attend this.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The CSUN conference in Los Angeles is the biggest U.S. disability technology event of the year. We are having a great time showing off Bookshare.org, and announced our newest collection of Spanish language books

Sunday, March 13, 2005

I just completed a short paper on Google Print Accessibility. The potential of the huge scanning effort Google Print is undertaking is especially exciting for the community of people with print disabilities. However, we need to get Google thinking about this (they are now) and get the publishers and libraries to provide Google with permission to make this information accessible.

Feel free to share links to this white paper with people who would be interested:
Google Print Accessibility white paper.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Met with Pamela Hartigan, the head of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, on Friday afternoon, after the end of the Global Philanthropy Forum at Stanford. Pamela's job is to find top social entrepreneurs around the world and bring them together at two annual events: the Schwab Foundation's Global Social Entrepreneurship Summit and the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

This is my one chance a year to get Pamela one on one, since the events are so busy for her. We covered a lot of ground, but the one point I wanted to mention was Pamela's problem with the concept of "building the field." This caused me a bit of concern, since I thought that was something important.

Her point is that there is no field of social entrepreneurship like there is a field of medicine, law, engineering or science. Social entrepreneurship is an approach to problem solving, not a field where you can go to school to learn to be a social entrepreneur. The doctor who becomes a successful social entrepreneur gets there by being innovative in her thinking and coming up with original and bold solutions: usually in her field of medicine.

We talked about how Silicon Valley is a great place to be a regular entrepreneur, but how most people here aren't entrepreneurs. However, the Valley ecosystem is great for entrepreneurs, because there are systems for spotting and supporting them.

Our goals to promote social entrepreneurship are similar: to spot and support social entrepreneurs to help them on their entrepreneurial mission. And organizations like Schwab (and Skoll, and Ashoka, and Avina) are there to help build the movement and assist SEs in making bigger impact.

An idea worth chewing on: how does this distinction drive what we do to build the movement?