The Skoll World Forum is an international event, hosted in Oxford England each year. It brings together an impressive community of philanthropists, social entrepreneurs, foundations, NGOs, governments, corporations and individuals passionate about creating sustainable social change to address our most pressing global needs. Rather than having a singular format of speaker and audience, Skoll keeps it fresh with a mix of panel sessions, debates, delegate-led discussions, and plenaries. It’s impossible therefore to attend everything as a lot happens in parallel, and the most important conversations seem to happen between 10pm and 2am in various bars in Oxford. Here’s what I learned during my time there this year.
At End Of Road You are standing at the end of a road before a small brick building. Around you is a forest. A small stream flows out of the building and down a gully. Enter Command >
This is how the first arcade text-based adventure game began. You played by entering 5 letter commands – there were no visuals whatsoever, you had to use logic and your imagination to figure out what might happen next. Your navigation of the game were limited by a range of cryptic text-commands. It is also exactly how working in and managing a virtual team feels.
For most of the day, you have to rely on text-based cues from emails that you catch from people you care about separated by multiple time zones. Even when you speak with them during your weekly video calls you have to uncompress their week’s experience from the limited time you have together. How are they feeling, what’s going on at home you wonder, are they happy, are they overstretched, are they inspired by their work – these are just some of the questions that regularly cross your mind when you are running through the laundry list of tasks and team priorities. If you’ve ever had to work with someone who is not physically in the same room as you on a regular basis you know what it’s like to work in a virtual team. Why do we work like this and what can be done to make the experience smoother and more enjoyable for everyone?
This is a reposting of my recent Guardian article on improving health beyond the workplace.
The way we travel, eat, work and generally live today is having a profound effect on our health and that of those around us. Diabetes and other chronic diseases, including obesity, are on the rise. According to the WHO, there are 36 million preventable deaths every year from these health problems – leaving a devastating social impact and a major financial burden.
Businesses suffer as well through absenteeism and retention problems, affecting their overall success. The good news is they are in a strong position to help, but to be truly effective, this can’t just start and stop in the workplace.
Today is the official launch of a project that we’ve been watching very carefully at OpenIDEO. miLES is a great example of what can, just sometimes, emerge from creative collaboration on platforms like OpenIDEO.
This inspiring social venture started life in the OpenIDEO urban revitalisation challenge, which focussed on places that are depopulating – like Detroit for instance. This challenge was sponsored by Steelcase & CEO Jim Hackett. Eric Ho, of Architecture Commons in New York wasn’t participating in the challenge actively, but was monitoring it and saw three ideas that he thought could be combined to help revitalise places nearer to home, such as the Lower East Side of New York. He contacted us to help facilitate a virtual collaboration between these three ideas. He got a great response from Matt & Matt, Chloe and Sarah – active users from our community. They formed a team, created a plan, and applied for funding. They didn’t give up when they were turned down in their first attempts and last year they won the architectural One Prize 2012. With this encouragement and prize funds, they’ve been taking their human-centered approach to place-making and today have launched their first live prototype – a partnership with Fourth Arts Block to open the first miLES storefront at FABWORKS starting April 1, 2013 for a three-month period.
If you’re in New York at all over the coming months, FABWORKS is located at 75 E 4th Street between Bowery and 2nd Ave near many subway stations including 6, N, R, B, D, F, V. They will be hosting an array of programs in their storefront, including co-working on weekdays, classes and events on weeknights, and pop-up shops on the weekend. You can even apply as a miLES Co-Working Member to share the workspace or join miLES as a free miLES Basic Member to host classes, events, or pop-up shops.
Join the movement Help spread the word! See more details here.
See the newsletter of their announcement here.
It’s really amazing to see this kind of impact, from people who would otherwise never have met. We’re excited to see how collaborative communities like ours can come together to create a dent in some of the social issues we face.
Would love to hear what you think,
Diabetes and other chronic diseases, along with obesity, are on the rise – alongside rapid growth in levels of work related stress and mental illness. According to the World Health Organisation, there are 36 million preventable deaths every year from these health problems – a devastating social impact and a major financial burden.
Last year, IDEO, Bupa and the International Diabetes Federation collaborated on an OpenIDEO challenge that addressed the question: “How might we create healthy communities within and beyond the workplace?” The global OpenIDEO community developed some excellent concepts and you can check them out here.
Through the process we learned some amazing things about health & wellbeing, particularly within the workplace or other kinds of communities. I hope these are useful to you if you’re working in this area or even if you’re just trying to make or sustain a change in your own health:
In the snowy mountains of Switzerland, in the town of Davos, world leaders and thinkers have come together for their annual pow-wow to discuss how to address the world’s biggest challenges. Much of the dialogue emerging from the event seems to be pointing, somewhat predictably, to the recent economic crisis facing the world’s major economies, and to how we all need to become more resilient to massive change. Davos’ founder himself made a call for more strategic vision setting rather than temporary fixes. It reminds me of the 2012 Earth Summit in Rio, which I attended and was honored to speak at last year. Even at Rio (an event that happens much less frequently), the ability for our leaders to collectively address and agree on long term plans seemed impossible. And yet, with the challenges we face as a species we can’t carry on assuming this theory of change will work.
How many times do you find yourself in a situation that feels uncomfortable, perhaps with someone who you just can’t see eye to eye with? What is your first reaction? Do you feel that fight or flight sensation? Do you respond by looking for a way to agree with them, backing down your position in the argument or do you look for a way to convince the other party that they are being unreasonable? Or do you try to change tack and look for what you both share in common? In Richard Sennett’s new book ’Together: The Rituals, Pleasures, and Politics of Cooperation‘, he explores the history of cooperation and posits that most of these tactics are actually making it harder to reach a position of real cooperation. I went with some friends to hear him talk about his new book- here’s my reflections.
Last night I was invited to speak and debate about the world of Health and Design at big potatoes event in London. The setting was a basement room in a shoreditch italian restaurant.
The topic of the evening was a debate about design and its role in improving healthcare, particularly in Britain. It was part of the ongoing development of something called The Big Potatoes Manifesto. This seems to be an attempt at creating better awareness and public debate about design’s role in public service. In preparation for the event I was asked to put together some thoughts on healthcare space and how design can or should play a role.
From the WTO and G8 protests of 1999 (which was the largest ever anti-globalisation event at the time) onwards to the recent Occupy movement, skepticism to the role of the corporation has been matched by large corp’s own growth, and influence. It’s no surprise then that when many big firms try to launch corporate social responsible (CSR) initiatives, their motives are routinely challenged by critics.
“Even worse, the more business has begun to embrace corporate responsibility, the more it has been blamed for society’s failures.” Michael Porter
But CSR is a very one dimensional way of assessing an organisation’s social impact. Companies create value in many obvious ways that frequently get overlooked – job creation, boosting local economies, and providing infrastructure (of course these have to be weighed against the company’s negative impact – exploitation of natural resources etc.)
Imagine going back to the town where you grew up. You walk through the centre and find the shops boarded up, the streets are desolate, the shops where you used to buy candy or books – even your local post office is now gone – replaced with wooden boards and graffiti. How would you feel, what would you do – what you want to do?
Let me introduce Eric, he was born in Detroit, and grew up just outside of the city, and moved to Boston when he was 19. He settled down, got a job, and then last year he decided to go back to his hometown.