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Introducing the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship.

"The Skoll Centre provides a focal point for social entrepreneurs from across the world. It plays an important role in furthering the development of social entrepreneurship."

Sir Ronald Cohen, Founder and Executive Chairman, Apax Partners

The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship was launched in November 2003 at the Said Business School, Oxford University, to promote the advancement of social entrepreneurship worldwide. It was created with a donation of GBP 4.44million by the Skoll Foundation. In addition to delivering innovative teaching programmes, the Skoll Centre has developed a portfolio of research which employs theory but that is also valuable to practitioners in the field. The Centre acts as a network hub for social entrepreneurship, linking together key actors in the sector and contributing towards creating new and effective partnerships for sustainable social change. It engages in social innovation and aims to have a decisive influence on policy.

INTRODUCTION

Social entrepreneurship is rising up the agenda of businesses and governments around the world. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Muhammad yunus, the Founder of the Grameen Bank, is just one illustration of that. The role of private, public and not-for-profit organisations in addressing social and environmental issues is now regarded as one of the main challenges of the twenty-first century.

We are proud that the Said Business School is in the vanguard of this movement. Thanks to the generosity of the Skoll Foundation, which endowed the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, the School is engaged in groundbreaking teaching and research on social entrepreneurship.

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The Skoll Centre is instrumental in growing a major new academic discipline in an area of immense practical significance. It has attracted world class academics, practitioners and policymakers to the School, and has set a research agenda that will have significant influence on the study and practice of social entrepreneurship.

WHAT IS SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP?

On a simple level we define social entrepreneurship as any organisational activity in the private, public, or third sector that includes some evidence of three key factors: sociality, innovation, and market orientation.

By sociality we mean evidence of an overriding social or environmental mission articulated across what an organisation does, where is does it, and how it does it.

Innovation shows clear signs of creative thinking and disruptive approaches to an undesirable social or environmental status quo.

Market orientation does not just mean taking part in competitive commercial markets--as social enterprises do--but also being focused on improving performance and effectiveness by a constant process of critical self-reflection against other organisations.

Of course, all of these dimensions can be interpreted in subtly different ways according to the cultural context in which a social entrepreneur operates.

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THE SKOLL WORLD FORUM ON SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Since it was launched in 2004, the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship has established itself as the leading global event in the social entrepreneurship calendar. The Forum provides an unparalleled opportunity for all those concerned with the development of social entrepreneurship as a discipline--scholars, policy makers, business leaders and social visionaries alike--to set the future agenda for the field.

BUILDING A NETWORK OF SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS

The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship acts as a network hub for social entrepreneurship, linking together key actors in the sector and contributing towards creating new and effective partnerships for sustainable social change. It engages in social innovation and aims to have a decisive influence on policy. The examples described below of The University Network for Social Entrepreneurship and Finance for Change show how this happens in practice.

UNIVERSITY NETWORK FOR SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP

The University Network for Social Entrepreneurship is a joint initiative of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, with active participation from the Social Enterprise Knowledge Network (SEKN). The Network aims to develop and legitimise social entrepreneurship as a vocation and a field of intellectual endeavour, and to carry social entrepreneurship principles into other academic disciplines and sectors. Members of the Network collaborate with research networks, professors and universities around the world to catalyse research, teaching, and active engagement in social entrepreneurship.

The Network's website at www.universitynetwork.org aggregates knowledge in social entrepreneurship and helps to disseminate this knowledge. It serves as a social entrepreneurship portal for teachers and researchers as well as an interactive tool for community-building.

The Network hosts research colloquia and events throughout the year to engage members and to further the debate about best practice in teaching and researching social entrepreneurship. For further information, please email Marina Kim at mkim@ashoka.org

FINANCE FOR CHANGE

The first Finance for Change (F4C) meeting was convened in March 2006 at the conclusion of the Skoll World Forum for Social Entrepreneurship. The driving force behind this gathering was the observation from many players in the field that the development of progressive social finance initiatives was being hampered by the fragmentation of the social finance landscape, and that an opportunity to network, share ideas and initiatives, and to set new objectives would be very valuable.

"We highly value our partnership with the Skoll Centre, as we work together to advance the emerging field of social entrepreneurship. In its brief history, the Centre has already made significant contributions to the dialogue around social entrepreneurship. Its success in establishing the Skoll World Forum as the largest, most diverse gathering of thought leaders and practitioners from around the world is impressive." Professor J. Gregory Dees, Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship, Duke University's Fuqua School of Business

TEACHING AND RESEARCH

Through its teaching and research, the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship is working to bring greater legitimacy to social entrepreneurship and to accelerate the capacity and impact of the field in furthering positive social change. Building on the best scholarly tradition of the University of Oxford, the Centre delivers world-class teaching and research. This work is multi-disciplinary and theory-driven, but also closely reflects the needs of practitioners. The Skoll Centre's teaching is informed by its research and mixes both praxis and theory, via the extensive use of case studies and 'expert witness' guest speakers as well as a range of academic writing.

Through the Skoll Centre, MBA students at the Said Business School can choose to study a large part of their course in social entrepreneurship. In all its activities, the Skoll Centre reflects an international perspective and recognises the role of examples and discussion driven by the south as crucial to the development of the field.

Furthermore, the Skoll Centre pays particular attention to types of organisations such as co-operatives, community finance initiatives, and mutual societies, and to political discourses that are not usually integrated into business school curricula and research.

To find out more about the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, including scholarships, please visit our website at www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/skoll/
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Title Annotation:RETAIL POLICY ISSUES
Publication:The Retail Digest
Date:Jun 22, 2008
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