I have spent the last several days at the Skoll World Forum in Oxford. This year’s Forum has had an exceptional slate of speakers and panelists. As usual, much of the value of the conference comes from side conversations at dinner and in the hallways. But I particularly liked a new feature they had this year called Consultancy Clinics.In this format, the experts don’t just talk – they primarily listen and give feedback to people who have ideas for new social businesses or initiatives. In the session I went to, these ideas ranged from producing films on human rights violations to producing comic books developed by children and illustrated by up and coming artists. There were also ideas for how to better facilitate funding for small businesses in developing countries.
I liked how interactive and real-life this format was. The people seeking feedback each got 5 minutes to describe their ideas, and they were not allowed to use powerpoint (thank heavens). Then the panel of experts (who had not previously heard the ideas) spent 15 minutes asking questions and providing advice and insights. The objective was to help improve the ideas, not simply judge them.Overall, this approach reduced elaborate preparation work and resulted in a far greater helpfulness-to-hot air ratio than usual. I was impressed.And if I were presenting an idea, I would be hard pressed to pick a better panel of people to give me feedback based on their experience: Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO; Clare Lockhart, co-founder of the Institute for State Effectiveness; John Goldstein, co-founder of Imprint Capital Advisors (and GG-UK board director); and Bunker Roy, founder of the Barefoot College in India. The panel was very well moderated by Bridget McNamer of the Skoll Foundation.