The Magic Stories of Social Entrepreneurs at the Skoll World Forum

Only two people in the world know this story.”

In the hallowed corridors of Hogwartsian Oxford, magic happened. We held our hearts and collectively exhaled as one by one our group of strangers dug into their souls and emerged with deeply personal and poignant tales of vulnerability and imperative drive. Storytelling often brings people closer together, but when you ask social entrepreneurs to share why they do what they do, the effect is magnified and profound. An intimacy and deep connection rare in new relationships is propelled by the open exchange of raw reality straight from the core, stories that transcend the edges of our imagination and would challenge the dexterity of the best novelists.

“I was born in a refugee camp in Pakistan.”

A testament to the clarity and audacity social entrepreneurs possess, these stories are the fuel that compel (and often require) them to wake up every day, better the world, and create tangible impact in the lives of others. It’s like a calling, amplified by the power that comes from being part of a movement greater than yourself and manifested in action. This is an altar where I will happily worship any day of the year.

Facilitating a Stories of Change storytelling group and creating a space for these stories to be received was hands down one of the greatest privileges of my life, but it is also characteristic of the greater Skoll experience. An exhilarating week spent forgoing sleep and sanity was powered by a fierce desire to drink in more and more people’s incredible stories. By week’s end, it almost hurt to listen but every fiber of my being was alive, exhausted and beautifully full of new ways of looking at the world.

This was my third Stories of Change convening and while I already miss the gang, I have also learned that to be part of a convening is to be part of the Sundance/Skoll family. Relationships built at this and previous gatherings are deep and cherished. They continue to daily nourish my soul, inform my life, and inspire my practice. For this, I am grateful.

DEBORAH ALDEN is a design researcher, strategist, and educator. Deborah believes that engaging and understanding people and their communities is the key to creating lasting impact. For 15 years, she has worked closely with and within organizations to unearth opportunities that evolve their offerings. Clients have ranged from Fortune 100 companies to non-profits and start-ups across industries including healthcare, financial services, cultural, government, tech and education. A perennial nomad with a background in social entrepreneurship, communication design and architecture, she often works in cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary contexts, bringing structure and clarity to complex situations in the development of effective systems, services, stories and strategies.

Deborah is Co-Founder of The Comradery and has taught design and research in Singapore, México and currently at IIT's Institute of Design in Chicago. She also designed and led the pilot year of Firebelly U, an incubator for designers starting social enterprises and was a coach for Design for America.

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