On April 7th we spent the morning at the Old Fire House in Oxford as part of Marmalade – the Skoll World Forum fringe event. Participants of our session came from all walks of life, comprising social investors, program managers and designers, start-ups founders and students. They impressed us with their camaraderie, honesty and enthusiasm to address what they saw as a looming challenge in social investment. We certainly left feeling like we had learnt some new ideas… and we hope the attendees did too!
We kicked off with a group exercise where we explored our multiple identities. We learned that, as a group, we were most proud of our education and gender identities. Our education and socio-economic identities led us to feel most included, which is fitting with our research that identified the importance of these “invisible” factors. Interestingly, we thought the least about our ability/ disability and felt most marginalized by our age and religious identity.
After this, we thought more about what we really meant by the terms “diversity” and “innovation”. One great insight was that context is important in determining how we define diversity, as it can be mean different things to different people and can change depending on the situation. Our group concluded that it is a highly subjective term that can be either “passive” or “active”. Participants saw innovation as a fresh perspective, an action which results in doing something a little differently and generally a creative approach to doing things.
Of course our group was not merely content to discuss the issues and the second half of set about devising solutions. Together, we came up with over 20 ideas to improve diversity in social investment, with recurring themes including diversifying advisory boards, incorporating beneficiaries in decision making and developing deeper relationships between innovators and their investors. The group selected 3 to develop further, including:
The day gave us a clear sense of the audience’s interest and urgency in addressing issues of diversity.
Here at TSIC we stepped away from the session refreshed and ready to further the conversation. Our session was only the tip of the iceberg, there is still much more to understand and do before we adequately address diversity. We are grateful to connect with those who feel as impassioned as we do, glad to offer the space to begin these discussions, and look forward to opening new spaces for further discussion in the near future.
Thanks to everyone who attended and made this a truly inspirational session!