Dear Jeff Skoll,
I always had you pegged as an ideas guy. I mean, co-founder of eBay, how cool is that?
But lately I've been starting to see you as a man of the people. The idea at the core of eBay was empowering, wasn't it? The revolutionary notion that everyone can become an entrepreneur.
And then, when your big idea made you very rich, you thought hard about what to do with those resources. And you got a great piece of advice, "Bet on good people doing good things."
Which is precisely what you've done. And, maybe because you deliberately have such a low personal profile, Jeff (I mean, you're not in boldface alongside Paris Hilton, are you?), I'm just starting to put it all together.
First, I watched the talk you gave at the TED conference. That helped.
I knew that you'd started the Skoll Foundation to help develop the emerging field of social entrepreneurship. (I've been writing about social entrepreneurs in recent weeks, Jeff, but need to do a quick definition for those who are new to this world. A social entrepreneur is someone who applies the approaches and spirit of the entrepreneur - things like innovation, leadership, tenacity, risk-taking, and vision - to help drive social change. Rather than focusing exclusively on making money, these entrepreneurs are driven to achieve social goals - like helping people start small businesses and secure access to health care, education, and clean water.) The Skoll Foundation has been investing in, connecting, and celebrating social entrepreneurs around the world for more than a decade.
And social entrepreneurs aren't billionaires (no offence intended), which is what people often think - "You have to be rich to do this work." In fact, one of the best-known examples was started with just $27. There's more in the Social Entrepreneurship 101 video your team produced.
Next, you created a way for the growing community of social entrepreneurs to connect. Social Edge is a site where social entrepreneurs can exchange ideas and information, and support one another. I particularly like the discussions hosted by these innovators and professionals in various disciplines, like marketing and finance.
All good, but not yet enough for you. Eager to reach even more people, you came up with the wild idea of starting a production company to make films with big messages, Participant Media. http://www.participantmedia.com. The best-known example? The one everyone calls Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth."
Here, I need to pause for breath, Jeff. Phew!
But before I sign off, there's another piece I need to mention. Each year, you host the Skoll World Forum - kind of like Davos, but for social entrepreneurs. This year, 800 people from 60 countries will convene at Oxford University's Said Business School to talk about how to advance social entrepreneurship, to network, and share best practices. It happens on March 25 - 27, and everyone can "listen in" by following live blogs on both the Skoll World Forum and Social Edge sites. Sessions will be recorded and aired after the event, right?
Jeff, I see social entrepreneurs as being of a larger movement I've dubbed the New Radicals -- that is, men and women who've discovered how to put skills acquired in their careers to work on the world's greatest challenges. New Radicals are people like you and me, Jeff, who truly believe that each of us can make a difference in the world. (For more, please see archived articles.)
I'm writing to say, "Go, Jeff!" - and that we look forward to your next big idea. I also want to ask the question that's on everyone's minds - What impact will the economic downturn have on all of this hopeful, world-changing work?
Julia Moulden, New Radical
P.S. As always, I invite readers to share their thoughts on today's post by commenting below, or by emailing me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org.)