I've previously heard some people refer to the Skoll World Forum in Oxford as the 'Oscars of Social Enterprise' - an annual glitzy affair with celebrities and influential figures coming from across the globe to celebrate themselves and drink champagne - but that's not my experience based on the few times I've been lucky enough to attend. I consider it to be about learning, collaboration and storytelling.
It's an invigorating, optimistic and friendly space where people deep in their own challenging daily work within the 'social transformation' space globally come to hear about new ideas, make new friends, catch up with older colleagues, empower and encourage each other - and most importantly, learn lots about what's being done around the world by extraordinary and simultaneously regular people attempting to build a better world, often at great personal loss, and sometimes in the midst of social, economic and political calamity.
If you're new to it all - here are 5-tips to help make the most of it:
1) Meet new people - don't just hang out with people you know! That's boring and a wasted opportunity. Everyone is probably doing something amazing - find out what that is in-person. It's easier than it looks.
2) Be unafraid to ask dumb questions in the discussions afterwards. The dumber the question, the higher the chance someone else is thinking it and will let out a sigh of relief when you bring it up. There's hundreds of experts, with knowledge of thousands of ideas discussing millions of global concepts - you're not human if you have a perfect, vast knowledge of everything being discussed - so get involved.
3) Keep actual notes when someone recommends you meet someone. The chances are that you won't follow-up on every business card or even remember the discussion you previously had, so if somebody suggests you get in touch with someone else because it's perfectly aligned with what you're doing or needing - take a note in real-time, because it might be your best chance of making that connection happen.
4) Allow yourself the freedom to participate in sessions outside your comfort zone. The beauty of Skoll is the diversity of minds and experiences being shared - in our utterly interconnected world, having new insights on topics will help to reach new conclusions. Even if you're not an expert on the session, your voice is probably more valuable in this new context than you might know.
5) Ask people what they're looking for. Think of it as the crowd-funding of brains - by looking out for what other people are searching for and helping people connect with people they are looking for you're contributing to the spirit of the event and supporting others make the most of it too.
I'm happy to be attending again this year and I'll be me tweeting live from the forum on @asimhaneef