Skoll World Forum 2019 Opening Plenary | Prince Gyasi,  Anab Jain,  Ai-jen Poo,  Edgar Villanueva


– The great majority of
the population in the world don’t have to benefit to
operate on a daily basis with infrastructure around. – There isn’t a single country
that has achieved equal pay. There isn’t a single country that does not have violence against women. – [Woman] We as a global
community are losing. All that creativity, all that energy. – If girls don’t give to school right. – Right now, nearly a billion
people don’t have access to that opportunity,
that safe water brings. – As these water shortage has began, and as they are already ongoing, it’s gonna be the communities
that are already at risk that are impacted first and worst. – Our inability to deal with difference, is really destroying all of us and we cannot succeed in a world where we simply try to wall
each other off from one another. – The biggest problem is how
media can drive the masses how it’s used as a tool
to brainwash people. – There are people who are sick and they don’t know they’re sick because it’s all they’ve ever known. – The reason human trafficking is thriving is because traffickers know
that they can get away with it. – We have 65 million
people around the world fleeing from danger, terrorism, hunger, and trying to save their life. – Four million women and
children die each year because of inhalation
of smoke from cooking. The most basic of things
that all of us do everyday. – If farmers don’t become more productive, we’re gonna have to
clear more and more land, which would be environmentally disastrous. – We’re playing a very
dangerous game with nature. – The mountain, you
have to climb is so high and we still have so much more work to do. And I wonder sometimes
if we’ll ever actually be able to achieve our mission. – We are so much more powerful. We are capable of so much more
than we can possibly imagine. – It doesn’t matter how
much your problems are, the determination to
overcome them and hard work, is what makes a difference. – I think every social entrepreneur had someone multiple times
tell them you can’t do that. And when people said that to us, at first we’re like, why not? And then we thought, well, you’re just saying we can’t do
that because nobody ever has. And so we’re going to, and
we’re gonna prove you wrong. – Hopelessness is our greatest enemy. – At times, there is no hope, but I do believe that you cannot take out the determination from people, and determination is the
concept that keeps us going. – It’s hard to even imagine
anything we’re doing right currently that didn’t stem
from several previous failures. – What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? – I believe when your
passion outweighs your fear, that’s when you have the
opportunity to be successful. – There is a force that
keeps us as humanity, as humankind moving forward. We have been improving
human kind for years. – It is possible to create a world in which we prioritize
every single person. Don’t tell me I can’t do it. Don’t tell me it’s never
been done because that’s just an invitation to do it. And then seeing the magic that happens when you do go in those
uncharted territories. – Look, it is possible to
have conversation starters instead of conversation stoppers. It’s complicated, but
it’s not intractable. – You’ve gotta shake a system and if you keep shaking it multiple ways, something’s gonna crack. – Creating change takes a long time. – You don’t have to make big, big changes. Each one would add up. – When you put groups of people together, something greater than them emerges, something transformative. That is the most powerful
thing I’ve ever seen by far. – Start by doing what’s necessary. – Then do what’s possible, and then you’re suddenly
doing the impossible. – [Narrator] Power lies,
not in marking boundaries and differentiating between cultures. Power lies in embracing our differences and offering hope to each other. So we urge all of you
powerful people out there to take an oath of spreading happiness, by truly believing in
the fact that our unity lies in our diversity. ♪ Zamina mina e e ♪ ♪ Waka waka e e ♪ ♪ Zamina mina e e ♪ ♪ Waka waka e e ♪ ♪ Zamina mina zangalewa ♪ ♪ It’s time for Africa ♪ ♪ It’s time for Africa ♪ ♪ Zamina mina ♪ ♪ Waka waka ♪ ♪ It’s time for ♪ ♪ It’s time for ♪ ♪ It’s time for ♪ ♪ It’s time for Africa ♪ ♪ Silence ♪ ♪ Drums ♪ – Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the
stage Lindsay Spindle and meet Peter Drobac. – Thank you Desi Hoppers for
that extraordinary opening to the 2019 Skoll World Forum
on Social Entrepreneurship. – For those of you who are
attending the Skoll World Forum for the first time,
welcome to magical Oxford. And yes, a little bit of
rain is part of the magic, so just embrace it,
it’s not gonna go away. You’re all in for something
special this week. This year’s forum is our most
globally representative, yet our 1200 delegates hail from
81 countries around the world. This includes 75 Skoll World Forum fellows accomplished social and
environmental change leaders from 34 much sunnier countries who are joining us for the first time. – To those of you who have been to the Skoll World Forum
before, welcome back. It’s wonderful to see your smiling faces. Peter and I are humble to have the honor of raising the curtain tonight, but you may be wondering
where is that smooth voice, silver haired, warm hearted British bloke who has so graciously
welcomed us from this stage for so many years, where
is Stefan Chambers? Has He made a Brexit? – Too soon Lindsay, too soon. Not to worry, not to worry. Stefan is right here in the front row, sitting alongside the fearless former CEO of the Skoll Foundation, Sally Osberg. And we’re really honored
to welcome you both as you join the forum this
year officially as delegates. – If there was an award for
most treasured delegate, it would surely be a tie
between Stefan and Sally. Creation often begins in odd ways. Take the Skoll World Forum , for example. Jeff Skoll recently
reminded me that the forum was hatched amongst friends, our most treasured delegates included on the back of a cocktail Napkin at the old bank hotel here in Oxford. Speaking of Jeff, he’s incredibly sad that health has forced him to miss his second World Forum in a row. In his absence, I’m delighted to share some of Jeff’s reflections
in his own words about what this gathering means to him. In the Skoll World Forhumble beginnings, we invited about 250 social entrepreneurs to a three day program here in Oxford. Much to our surprise, everyone came. While their specialty and geographies, race, age, religions,
and gender were mixed. They had two things in
common, passion for their work and the sad belief that they
were alone in what they did. The first forum was a
little like Woodstock. People realized that they were not alone, that they had others
with whom they would soon form a special bond like
finding long lost family. Our hope was that we
could support a community where social entrepreneurs
would help each other. That’s gone from 250 to 1200 attendees from a few events over at
the Said Business School to now taking over much
of the Oxford campus. My dear departed friend Jake Eberts once to find and not to
be named global event as a lot of big shots who
talk a lot but do very little. Whereas the Skoll World Forum, was all about the little
shots who talk a lot less but do an incredible amount
of very important work. Over the years, we’ve been proud to host both the big and little shots. from President Carter and Malala to the young leaders of tomorrow. There had been marriages
and baby carriages, a volcano and a fire. Star musicians and late night
tone deaf karaoke singers. There’s been fun and hard
work and deep mutual respect. All of these things grew
from a simple cocktail napkin at the Old Bank. The theme of the forum changes annually, but to me it’s always
been about the finest and most dedicated people in the world doing their best to make
the world better for others. On behalf of Jeff Skoll, the Skoll Foundation Board
of directors and team, and Oxford University, we
are delighted to welcome you the world’s finest and
most dedicated people to a week of discoveries
made and friendships formed. – At this forum, we’re celebrating the 15th anniversary of
the Skoll Scholarship, a program that supports
some of those little shots promising and proven
young social entrepreneurs to earn an Oxford MBA
at Said Business School and with the support
of our global community these scholars have gone on
to create astonishing impact. Their social ventures are democratizing access to renewable energy
for hundreds of thousands of families living off the grid, promoting financial
inclusion for the unbanked offering, legal services to
social change organizations across Latin America. And that’s just a few of them, imagine what the other 70 are doing. But most importantly, the Skoll scholars have cultivated a really
close knit community to support one another. And as we celebrate the 15
year milestone this week, many of the scholars are
here with us tonight. Please join me in giving
them a round of applause. Our theme this year is
Accelerating Possibility. Social Entrepreneurship begins with a sense of
recognition of possibility, a way to overcome an obstacle,
break a vicious cycle, expose an injustice. Accelerating Possibility
begins when we refuse to accept an unjust status quo. As we sit here today, we’re
moving at eye-popping speed orbiting the sun at 67,000 miles per hour. Can you feel that? That’s the energy we need to harness because we need to move even faster. We know now that we
have less than 12 years to begin addressing the damage we caused to our planet before the
effects become irreversible. And meanwhile, around the world, millions of families are
impatient to enjoy the peace, prosperity, and opportunity that some of us take for granted. Accelerating Possibility happens when optimism meets urgency, when imagination and counters grit, and when ambition converges with humility. The 16 year old climate
activist Greta Thunberg has taken the world by
storm with a brave call to make climate change with system change, yeah, clap for her. “If solutions within this
system are so hard to find,” she says, “Maybe we need to
change the system itself.” Greta is speaking the language
of the social entrepreneur. You see, social entrepreneurs treat the system not the symptoms. And when we summon the vision
to look at entire systems, new possibilities emerge
for entirely different and better futures. Buckminster Fuller once said, “There’s nothing in the caterpillar “to tell you it’s going
to be a butterfly.” Social entrepreneurs are in the business of
building butterflies. – One thing that gets in the way of Accelerating Possibility is doubt. Can I create this? Do I have the right solution? Can we beat the clock? Am I the right person for the job? I recently read a book
called How to Fly a Horse by Kevin Ashton, that sheds
light on these questions as it explores topics of
invention, creation and discovery. What I love most about this book, is that it breaks down
the myth that creation is a sacred act reserved
just for geniuses. Instead, it showcases the less dramatic but far more hopeful truth
that anyone can create. Ashton says, every object in
our life, however old or new, however, apparently humble
or simple holds the stories, thoughts, and courage
of thousands of people, some living, some dead, the
accumulation of 50,000 years. Our tools and our art, are our humanity, our inheritance and the everlasting
legacy of our ancestors. The things we make are
the speech of our stories, stories of triumph, courage,
optimism, adaptation and hope. Tales of not one person here or there, but of one people everywhere
written in a common language, not African, American, Asian
or European, but human. This week in Oxford, in this
gorgeous theater and beyond, we will celebrate your
new stories of triumph. We will listen to those who
exhibit remarkable courage. On occasion we’ll adapt, but most of all we will be bound together
by a warm hug of optimism that is sustainable,
peaceful, and prosperous world for all remains within our reach. Oh, thank you. If you are harboring any
doubts, please suspend them. Your next creation could
be a cocktail napkin away. – I do my best work on cocktail napkins. So how will you use this week to accelerate your sense of possibility? We’d like to highlight a few things that you won’t want to miss. Tomorrow evening in this space is arguably the emotional highlight of the week as the winners of the 2019 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship,
grace the stage and share their powerful stories. – Speaking of amazing stories,
you won’t want to miss the Thursday evenings film screening of Participant Media’s The
Boy who Harnessed the Wind, right here in this theater. Talk about a story of
Accelerating Possibility. – This year, the forum will be spilling into the streets and colleges and pubs of Oxford like never before. There are over 50 ecosystem events happening all over the city. These are your events designed by you addressing the issues
that you care about most. We’re grateful to all of the organizations that have stepped forward
to lend your voices and make this our biggest form yet. – Accelerating Possibility also
means expanding opportunity, especially for rising generations. That’s why we’re thrilled about the Skoll Emerging
Leaders Initiative, which this year has brought
15 young change makers from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East to Oxford. You can hear more from
them Wednesday and Thursday in Story Studios. – There’s certainly no
shortage of things to do, and if you’re like me, you’re probably
experiencing a little fomo. But make sure, most importantly
to expect the unexpected. Your most important conversation this week may well happen with someone
you had no intention of meeting and that’s what makes
this community so special. So just be sure to strike up
some unlikely conversations and be open to serendipity. – Before we move on to tonight’s program, let’s return one last time
to How to Fly a Horse. Ashton closes with a reminder that feels just right as we begin. All stories of creators
tell the same truths that creating is extraordinary,
but creators are human. That everything right with us
can fix anything wrong with us and that progress is not
an inevitable consequence, but an individual choice. Necessity is not the mother
of invention, you are. With that please join us in welcoming someone who designs futures for a living. Anab Jain as a designer, futurist, and educator and the co
founder of Superflex studios. Please welcome Anab and
enjoy the Skoll World Forum. Thank you.
– Thank you. – Thank you. This is a photograph from the scene of Donald Trump’s
inauguration, following his win in the 2016 US presidential elections. In an NBC interview, soon
after the inauguration, Trump’s advisor, Kellyanne Conway, defended the White House Press
Secretary Sean Spicer’s claim that Mr. Trump had attracted
the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration. When told that that wasn’t quite true, she’d relied airily,
“Don’t be so dramatic, “He gave alternative facts.” Almost immediately after
Conway’s interview, George Orwell’s, classic novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four spiked to number one on Amazon. The critist fear responded
to this with allusions to this particular quote from the book, “The party told, you to reject
the evidence of your eyes “and ears, it was their final
most essential command.” After sales for the
novel, shot up by 9500% Penguin announced plans for
a special 75,000 copy reprint of Orwell’s novel. What is it about such works of fiction that resonate with people in
a way that hard facts don’t? How can something written in
1949 be so relevant today? Given the events happening in the US and widespread anxieties
around post truth, fake news and political
disenfranchisement. People were looking for fables and stories to make sense of and navigate
this strange new landscape. Unlike abstract analysis stories
like Nineteen Eighty-Four are so powerful because
they are harmonious with the way we relate to the world. They resonate with the deep
core of our experience. Because even at the level
of direct engagement, the world as we experience it,
is a narrative construction. What we call reality is more
like a narrative masterpiece rather than anything objective. And I think deep down we know this. We rationally understand how subjective our sense of the world is. But practically forget as
we go about our daily lives. From the way we perceive our day unfolding to our history and politics,
it’s stories all the way down. That said, we need to make a distinction between allegory and deception, between stories that seek to blind us and those that enable us
to navigate the world. If stories are the structure of the world and emotions are the primary
motivating force in our lives. This is not to say that data and modeling and analytics are not important. Rational thinking is deeply important and the power of that is evident in myriad ways all around us, but what is also evident is the fallacy that what moves us to act as individuals is deep scientific rationality. We are not called rational
actors in a Newtonian universe as much as we like to believe it. It’s just not how we live, it’s just not how we’ve evolved to live. We are emotional beings inhabiting a world of mythology and stories. Antonio Damasio challenge
descartes logical fallacy, I think Therefore, I am,
in his groundbreaking work Descartes in Error, emotion
reason, and the human brain. Damasio argue the Descartes’ Error, comes from this duelist separation
of the mind and the body, nationality and emotion. Damasio wrote that emotions
and feelings are not a luxury. They are a means of communicating our states of mind to others, but there are also a way
of guiding our own judgment and decisions. Emotions bring the body
into a loop of reason. Now more than ever, it is essential that we acknowledge and build
on our emotional embodiment. Today we are in a period
of accelerating change and distinct potential for both huge transformation and
catastrophic failure. No wonder many of us experience feelings of overwhelm from the increasing speed and volume of information
we are exposed to. The rate of change in the world
around us is disorienting. Currently, the main way we analyze and talk about these complex challenges, is through world’s clouds of data points. All the data can look scary. It’s somehow to embodied
detached from what it references. Despite the alarming warnings
about climate change, it is evident that we are having trouble acting upon this disembodied data. And data, especially about the future feels even more disembodied and distant. FMRI studies suggest that when you imagine your future set self, your brain does something weird, It stops acting as if you’re
thinking about yourself. Instead, it operates as if you’re thinking about a
completely different person. This is what behavioral economists called temporal distancing. Our tendencies to want
things now rather than later. Studies by Kim and Zauberman suggested the extent to which one
discounts a future event is closely linked to how
far in the future it feels. That is it’s temporal
distance from the present. Perhaps if people were
able to pre experience the future, or if it were possible to create mental
simulations of the future, that would trigger episodic memory, reducing the temporal
distance from the future. Episodic memory is part of our memory that helps us remember
key events of the past. Neuroscientists call this
the prospective brain whose primary function is
to use past experiences to anticipate future events. And this is what I, my partner John Arden and my colleagues at Superflux do. Our work focuses on
empower of embodied stories and visceral experiences to simulate different possible features and bring them into the present,
into the here and the now in order to catalyze
and embodied engagement with the vast potential of the future. So how do we do this? It all starts with what
we call sense making, a wide ranging process of
analyzing data, watching trends, scanning emerging technologies, looking for ethnographic and
anthropological insights, following intuitive hunches, exposing ourselves to new ideas and getting a sense of
their emotional content and reflecting on our
own emotional responses. All of this to find what
we call weak signals, the spits of the feature that arrive early into the buzzing noise of the now. Finding threads of possibility
in this complex chaos and then drawing these threads out to see where they connect in order to expose the rich tapestry
of what lies ahead, and that’s where the real work starts. Embodying the future
potential in the present. But rather than explained the process, let me take you through a few projects to give you a sense of
what this feels like. A project called drone Avery
done in 2015 is prescient. Even today, for the project, we wanted to explore the growing potential of invisible and increasingly autonomous technologies. Through the lens of drones, because of the drones dual function. A technology that has potential for good but also great harm. Our interest was specifically on how the presence of these machines will change our lived
experience of urban spaces and what it means to interact
with algorithmic intelligence because drones had the power
to see things we can’t, to go places we can’t, and to do so with increasing autonomy. To understand the technology, getting our hands dirty was crucial. So we built many different
drones in our studio. We gave them names,
functions and flew them. But not without difficulty. Things came loose, GPS signals
glitched, drones crashed. But it was through such experimentation that we were able to construct one very experiential slice
of one possible future. So now let’s go to that future, let’s imagine we are living
with drones like this one. It patrols the streets often spotted in the evenings and at nights. Initially, many of us were
annoyed by its low dull hum. But then, like everything
else we got used to it. We call it the nightwatchman man. Now, what if you could see
the world through its eyes, see how it constantly logs every resident of our neighborhood. Logging the kids who play
football in the no ball game area. And marking them as statutory nuisances. And then see how it
disperses this other group who are teenagers with the threat of an autonomously issued injunction. Another one is the root Hawk an autonomous traffic management agent. At first glance, a
seemingly harmless machine with a giant LED display providing dynamic warnings to drivers, but then they multiply their everywhere, constantly logging traffic
violations and forcing penalties, continually searching and
capturing the smallest offense. A tireless flock of automated
revenue generation machines. And then there’s the news breaker. The media drone which
feeds on our growing hunger for the very latest breaking
news, as they happen, constantly monitoring emergency services and social media in real time. These nimble media devices
push the boundaries of what has come to be known
as high frequency journalism, pash across the city they war into action as soon as the new story breaks, filming and streaming in real time. Story writing, algorithms pass imagery, audio, web and radio traffic, into rapidly growing and
continually edited column inches. And then there’s this giant hovering disk called the Madison. It’s glaring presence, is so empowering. I can’t help but stare at it. But it feels like each time I look at it, it knows a little more about me. Like it keeps flashing all
these ad words from Brianair as if it knows about the
holiday I’m planning. I’m not sure if I find
this mildly entertaining or just entirely invasive. Whilst drone like Madison
and nightwatch man in these particular
forms are not real yet. Most elements of our drone future, are in fact, very real today for example, facial recognition
systems are everywhere in our phones, in our smart gadgets and in public city
infrastructure, everywhere. Constantly keeping a
record of everything we do, whether it’s an
advertisement we glanced at at or a protest we attended. These things are here and
we often don’t understand how they work and what
their consequences could be. We’ve engaged with
numerous diverse audiences for the drones and the
film making such work a critical tool for public engagement. There’ve been on tour
for the last four years and we’ll continue to do
so for three more years. Moving across countries,
screenings and debates, catalyzing the imagination
of unknown thousands of unknown viewers and
hopefully nourishing an appetite for questioning
the power of technologies and speculating on the
near future potential. Public engagement is critical, but can we also use these methods for augmenting policy decisions? Because when you are
making policy changes, you’re not just affecting
numbers on a graph. These numbers mean something very real. I wanna share a project with you, we did with the Ministry of Energy and the government of
the United Arab Emirates. They invited us to help them
shape their energy strategy all the way up to 2050. Based on the government’s
economic metric data. We’d created this large city model and visualized many different
sustainable futures on it. As I was ecxitably taking a
group of government offices and the prime minister through one sustainable
future scenario on our model, one of them told me, I can’t imagine the people in the future,
will stop driving cars and start using public transport. In fact, I can’t even tell my own son to stop driving his car, but we were prepared for this reaction. Working with scientists in a chemistry lab in my home city in India, we
had created approximate samples of what the air would be like in 2030 if our behavior stays the same. And so I walked the
group over to this object that emits vapor from those air samples. Just one wave of the noxious
polluted air from 2030, brought home the point
that no amount of data can, this is not that air, you would allow your children to breathe. The next day, the government
made a big announcement. They would be an investing billions of dollars in renewables. We don’t know exactly what
part our future experiences played in this decision, but we know that they’ve changed their energy policy to mitigate such a scenario. Through such work, we are learning that one of the most powerful
means of affecting change is when people can directly, tangibly and emotionally experience
the future consequences of their decisions and actions, today. Let’s zoom out further
from a specific decision around air pollution to something that’s far more complex
that climate change. Looking at data and projections like this, it is hard to imagine
the unsurmountable amount of problems we might face. I’ve found that most people
in their everyday lives are at a loss of how to
make sense of such graphs. For something quite so
complex, Timothy Morton has coined a term hyper objects. According to him, we have created things that we can hardly
understand, let alone control, let alone make sensible
political decisions about. A new word to understand
how mind blowing it is, is hyper objects. Hyper objects are phenomena
like radioactive materials and global warming. Hyper object stretch our
ideas of time and space Since they far outlast
most human timescales or they are massively distributed and are so unavailable
to immediate experience. At Superflux, we want it to condense the worst amorphous form of the
climate change, hyper object into something recognizable,
tangible and understandable. One of the things we zoomed in, was the implication of climate change and global trade and food. Climate data projections
suggest that by 2050 per capita food consumption will go from 32 kilos to 52 kilos,
along with increased volatility in price and production, not to mention heavy rain fall events
leading to flooding, destroying crops as well
as devastating food stores, assets and so on. Based on such projections, we
explored one possible future where the Western world has moved from abundance to scarcity. We imagined living in a future
city with repeated flooding, periods with almost no
food in supermarkets, broken supply chains and
economic instabilities. What can we do to not just survive but prosper in such a world? What food can we eat? To really get inside these questions, we did a ton of live prototyping. We explored the possibility
of transforming our homes into spaces for growing
food or food production, gaining knowledge on new and
emerging ways of growing food. And so we started building
food computers from scratch using the technique of fogponics, so just using nutrient
fog, no water or soil to grow things really quickly. And we wanted to build them
in the cheapest way possible. Using salvaged, abandoned,
and repurpose materials. Turning today’s waste
into tomorrow’s dinner. This is a glimpse of our early experiments with John and our son, and now I’ll take you
to the final outcome. It’s an apartment, that
people are transported into. In around, maybe say 2050 or so, then my six year old son,
will be around my age. At first glance, a seemingly
comfortable living space designed for a world of automated living, global trade and material abundance. But then on closer
inspection, a realization that the apartment has been adapted to a future it was never meant inhabit. Discarded newspapers
and a radio show reflect the tensions of this new world. A smart panel constantly asks
the fridge to refill milk, but where is the milk in this feature? Amongst the detritus of
now obsolete smart devices and designer goods, lives a new reality formed by the impact of climate change. Recipes in the kitchen reflect the change in food production,
storage, and consumption. Experimental food production
now occupies space once given to relaxation,
transforming the apartment to a space for growing and producing food. Resourcefully hacked
together Ikea shelves, decorated fogmakers,
programmable microcontrollers, plumbing supplies, LED
lamps, computer fans. Fog oozing out of these
contraptions, blinding purple light. Mycelium, droning sounds of water pipes. Snares, fox skin,
chilies, algae, spirulina all bearing fruit in the
blasted ruins of capitalism. Looking beyond there lies
a city familiar yet alien. This project was shown at the Centre for Contemporary
Culture for the last year and the intention of such
a speculative approach with hands on experimentation, is that it offers us the
opportunity to very directly step into a familiar space
to confront our fears. Not to scare or overwhelm, but to help people critically
reflect upon their actions in the present and introduce
them to potential adaptations for living in such a future. The evidence in the apartment may reflect a different future, but
all of the food computers were in a completely working condition. No speculation there. Whilst many of us saw
this as an early warning, we also want it to empower people by demonstrating that
the potential to rise to the challenges that the
future may hold exists today. We’ve started putting up the recipes of how to build these food
stacks on instructables and we’ll keep doing
so in the year to come. We are at a pivotal point in history where we have everything to
play for and everything to lose. In Times like this, there’s a tendency to look towards existing
knowledge for answer to rely exclusively on the rational and the scientific for solutions, but increasingly it is becoming evident that this is just not driving the widescale behavioral change needed to effectively navigate this
critical point in our history. I believe they’re finding ways to directly and viscerally experience, different possible futures
and future directions is a very important part of the solution for dealing with our current crises. We need to bring the future
close enough to feel. We need to engage both the
intellect and the emotion to harness the full power of our innate embodied intelligence. We need to make informed, thoughtful, and nuanced longterm decisions and most importantly to act upon them. Not just for ourselves,
but for our children and grandchildren and the
world they will inhabit, so that we can become proud ancestors for the generations to come. I leave you in the hope that together we can find the necessary tools to transform our greatest challenges into our greatest triumphs. We can be remembered as the generation that looked the future square in the eyes and acted upon what it saw. Thank you. – Thank you Anab. Einstein famously said, imagination is more
important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited,
but imagination encompasses the entire world. It’s a theme we’ll return to
again and again in this forum, the role of imagination and storytelling and Accelerating Possibility. But first, as a British person, I want to offer you a very special welcome to Brexit Britain. You don’t have to be mad to live here, but believe me right now, it really helps. I’ve talked about Lewis
Carroll on this stage before, the Oxford mathematician who
wrote Alice in Wonderland, but his work seems more
relevant than ever. Our entire country has
disappeared down the rabbit hole and our parliament taken
over by March Hares and Mad Hatters, Confusion abounds because
as the Cheshire cat says, if you don’t know where you’re going, well any road will take you there. And I wanna say a very special thank you, to all of you for coming
here to this United Kingdom. You are an extraordinary gathering of people working for equality and justice from all four continents. And our country needs you more than ever. We need your ideas, your experiences, we need your internationalism
and thank you for sharing them with us. As populism and nationalism
threatened to drag us backwards. We’re gonna have to work together, we’re gonna have to
work harder and smarter if we want to go faster and forwards. And on that note, it’s with much pride that I now introduce our
next guest at the forum, an American Labor activist
who’s focus of work for the past 20 years,
who’s been the demographic, perhaps most vulnerable in the workforce. Domestic workers, nannies,
housekeepers, caregivers. As the founder and director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, she organizes for their power, respect and fair labor standards with
extraordinary effectiveness. Please welcome Ai-jen Poo. – Ai-jen, I’m already such
a big fan of your work. – I’m a huge fan of yours
too, I’m so excited. – Captive fear, I can find out even more. Welcome to Oxford, welcome
to the Skoll World Forum, I think it’s your first forum. – It’s my first forum
and I love it already. Everyone I’ve met here has
been so brilliant and so warm. – Look at them, they’re an
absolutely lovely crowd. – Hi, everyone. – They are beaming at us. So, I wanted to start by asking what led you into the work? It’s a classic question,
but actually in your case, when I was reading your biography, I was really struck by the fact, you went straight into this work pretty much from university. I felt like even at university you were beginning to
kind of conceptualize that this is where you wanted
to put your contribution. But what led the young
20, 21 year old Ai-jen, to have her imagination
captured by domestic workers because it wasn’t
something that was popular or much talked about at the time. What led you to it? – Well, I was raised by a
long line of really strong, amazing women starting from
my grandmothers and my mother. And growing up as a child, I just thought they could do anything. And then growing up watching,
just everywhere I went, women underrepresented
in positions of power and decision making, and overrepresented in positions of vulnerability and abuse. And so I just became
interested in women’s activism and understanding why things
are the way that they are. And, so I joined women’s organizations, I became a women’s studies major and started volunteering
at different organizations to learn about how we change
this unbelievable inequality, that didn’t make sense to me. – But there’s so many different directions that people can go into
when they’re thinking about women’s activism
and gender inequality. But your domestic worker focus
is very kind of razor clear. And as the conversation goes on, I think people are gonna understand how foresighted actually
you were, 20 years ago to kind of locate yourself there. But it’s a very specific
demographic that you saw and thought, wait, hang on. what are the issues going on here? Can you kind of speak to
what you saw back then? – Well, it in New York City, there’s a very large immigrant
community in New York and that’s where I was. And I was volunteering at
a domestic violence shelter for Asian immigrant women. And because my grandparents
raised me, I’m bilingual and I speak Mandarin. And so I worked the
hotline for the shelter. And many of the women who called, were calling in crisis around abuse. But there were also calling
in just the daily struggles of trying to make ends meet, working incredibly hard
in low wage service jobs and still unable to find housing, put food on the table for their children. And I just wondered how when these women have overcome the odds and are working incredibly hard, is it that they still
can’t make ends meet? And that is just the case. There’s so many occupations where women are working full time and more and still can’t pay the bills. And then what I saw was women whose work was in the care industry, that this entire part of the economy is basically in the
shadows and underground. And so in addition to low wages, there were no standards, no guidelines, it was like the wild west. Because we as a society and as a culture and ultimately as an economy haven’t accounted for the
incredible amount of work that goes into caring for families. And the collateral damage is millions of women
working without protections. So the first organization that you founded was very much New York
based and you started, I think, working at a city level and ultimately became
a kind of state level, but really focused on New York. Can you talk about what
the work actually was, in terms of the organizing
that you were doing and also how it led to the policy changes that you managed to achieve? I mean, I really did not know. I was never professionally trained as an organizer or activist. I just kind of figured it out with other women along the way. And literally you would have found me in the late nineties going
from playground to playground in Central Park or in Riverside Park, talking to the nannies who
were there with the children in the playgrounds and just
listening to their stories and hearing about what
they’re worried about, what their hopes and dreams are. And organizing meetings and trainings and kind of meeting by meeting,
gathering by gathering. We started to build so
that every single meeting there were more women and
more diverse groups of women. And pretty soon asking the question, why is it that when we know the work that we do is so
important, it’s so undervalued? Why is it that we can’t, if we’re expected to
take care of the families that we support, why can’t we take care of our own families doing this work? And so that just started the question of we should have rights. We should have recognition
as real workers. – And that led you to
realizing that you needed more than just, to kind of raise
the kind of consciousness or the awareness of rights of the women that you are working with, but actually you needed
to have policy change. – Yes, so in New York we organized the first Domestic Worker
Convention in 2003, and had nannies and house
cleaners and caregivers from all over the state gather and identify if they could
rewrite the labor laws in the United States,
what would that look like? So we had 250 women in small groups with simultaneous interpretation
in seven languages actually hashing out and
re-imagining labor law in New York state. And it was a seven year campaign, but ultimately New York
became the first state in the country to have a
Domestic Worker Bill of Rights in 20 times. And New Mexico just last week, New Mexico became the ninth
state to pass legislation. – And I feel like at
that point you realized that you needed to be
working on a national scale in a way you use New York, perhaps as a kind of proof
of concept to yourself about the work that you were doing. And at that point you
launched the organization that you’re running now with
this big national focus. The theme of this conference
is Accelerating Possibility. And we’ve just heard from someone who has been talking about the future. And I feel like now that you
have this national scope, you’re also thinking about literally the future of the American labor force. And I wonder if you could kind of speak to how you see the role, the changing role of domestic
workers in that view. We talked about it before and
I think it’s just kind of, you blew me away with a perspective that was right in front of me, but somehow I hadn’t grasped it. And I wonder if you
could share that with us. – Well, one of the things
that’s been so profound working with this workforce is that, I often actually refer to domestic workers as the ultimate futurists because even though domestic workers have been working in the margins and in the shadows of our economy, they have really been on the front lines of so many of the major trends that are shaping our future
in the United States, and perhaps globally. Everything from trends in migration to really looking at the future of work. When I first started organizing
domestic workers in 1998, the conditions that define
domestic work were somewhat, at the edges of the
economy, almost exotic. Lack of control over hours,
lack of a clear job description, no access to a safety net
or any kind of benefits. No training, no job security. And now when I look around
at the American workforce, more and more workers are
having that experience being defined by that level of procarity. Domestic workers were the
first to actually alert us to the incredible age wave, the change in the generational demographic
in the United States with the boomers aging into retirement at a rate of 10,000 people
per day turning 70 in America, and living longer than ever because of advances in healthcare. It was domestic workers
who came to us and said, we need training in elder care so that we can support the
growing older population in the families who are
needing us in this way. And so if we look to the margins, we can find clues, indicators of what’s to come, and we can also find incredible solutions. In some ways, our national movement was formed out of the failure of many civil society organizations, even the Labor movement, and our democracy to really represent the
interests of this workforce. And so in that exclusion, has been an incredible
amount of innovation. I mean, we just launched our very first portable benefits platform
for independent workers out of our innovation lab where we’re able to now provide benefits
like disability insurance and paid time off to independent workers like domestic workers
for the very first time. – And when we fast forward
these trends as you’re saying that the signals for these trends can be picked up at the margins and are, or were picked up by these workers and by those who organized with them. But fast forwarding to 2030, we need to be ready for
a different configuration of workforce, right? – Absolutely, so many of us have been hearing about how the technology will shape the future of work in America and we’ve been thinking
a lot about automation and artificial intelligence
and there’s a lot that’s unknown about what
the future will hold, but one thing we do know for sure, is that there’s gonna be a
huge need for elder care, a huge need for childcare. These are jobs that are
not outsource-able right, and they won’t be automated any time soon. My colleague Pollock
Show talks about the fact that there’s a lab in Los Angeles that’s been trying to develop
a robot to fold a towel for 11 years and still been unsuccessful. So I do believe that
we’re gonna have humans, real people like you and me caring for the growing older population. These will be a huge share
of the jobs of the future. And in fact, many
economists are predicting in the United States
that by the year 2030, if you take childcare and
elder care jobs combined, it’ll be the largest occupation
in the entire US workforce. So we have got to make
these jobs good jobs, and what an incredible opportunity to create a pathway to
real economic security where one generation can
do better than the next, just like we did with manufacturing jobs in the twenties and thirties. Used to be dangerous poverty, wage jobs that a lot of immigrant women did. And we made them pathways to real security and prosperity for millions of families, we can do that again with these jobs. – Bravo. And so we need to reimagine these jobs. And coming back to this theme of imagination and storytelling, I want to bring into the
conversation the film Roma, yeah, who has seen Roma? Right, okay. Everyone else who didn’t
put their hand up. You have to immediately
rush back after this and catch up with the rest of us. Can you please describe
to me your feelings when you saw the film, and then I want to talk
about the partnership that you’ve gone into with
participant with the film. – Yeah, well, a little bit of context is that as a movement, our
job is to put more power in the hands of more everyday
people to shape the future. And there are many
different kinds of power. And because of how
dis-aggregated and isolated our workforce has been,
we’ve had to be very creative about how we think about
power and how we build it. So there’s political power,
which is the more obvious form which we’ve been building
and it’s enabled us to pass legislation in nine states. And there’s economic power,
which we’re developing through work in our innovation lab. And then there’s what
we call narrative power, which we define as the
ability to tell the story of why things are the way that they are in the world on your terms. Essentially, the power to define reality. And as a workforce that’s
almost defined by invisibility, to actually be able to seize
upon and tell our own story, tell the story that humanizes, and that gives texture
and real human dignity to this workforce has been an essential part of our strategy. So when our partners at Participant Media called us and said, hey,
there’s this film, Roma we think you might be interested in, we literally did a happy
dance all across the country. And participant media and
the director Alfonzo Cuaron actually invited myself and
a domestic worker from Texas, one of our leaders named Rosa
San Luis to the world premiere at the Venice Film Festival. And so we got on a plane
and we were excited and quite nervous actually, because we didn’t know
what it would be like, like, what if we didn’t like it? But instead it was the most extraordinary, telling of an extraordinarily human story with a domestic worker, an
indigenous domestic worker as a protagonist, and it was literally a gift from the heavens for us. – We’ve got a, a short trailer, which just talks a
little bit about the way that you’re gonna be
working with the film. I think it’s got a few couple of moments from the film as well. So we’ll, play that now. – Everything that we do is
going to convey a message. The idea manifested to tell the story of the real life person who the character of Cleo is based upon. Her name is Libo. – [Libo] When I saw the
movie Roma, I saw him myself. And this is for coloring. This is what I do, this is my life. – To see your own story reflected back on the big screen is a transformative experience. – When she saved these
kids, as part of her job, it was risky, but she did it. I’m not ashamed to say
that I am a caregiver because this is the job
that makes all jobs possible and this is a noble profession. – [Ai-jen] Representation really matters. We have to change policy and politics, but we also have to change culture. – You need to change hearts and minds before you can turn to policy. – Especially hearts. – Let’s remember when we
talk about voiceless people, we’re not talking about
people who lack strength, we’re not, so let’s not
be confused about this. We are talking about strong women. – [Narrator] This film
sparking a new wave of activism for a bill of rights on behalf of two million domestic workers. – Roma offers us this opportunity to really shine a light on that. – You’re going to Los Angeles to attend an Oscar Watch Party. – We’re having our first
major Oscar Watch party. – [Female] This was a
party with a purpose. The very special guests
here were domestic workers from around the country. – Honoring and supporting. – One of the 70 million
domestic workers in the world. – Roma. – As artists our job is to
look where others don’t. These responsibility
becomes much more important in times when we are being
encouraged to look away. – It’s such a beautiful film and really where art meets social justice. Can you talk a little bit
more about how you used the kind of moment that the
wave, that the film has created and how by being involved early enough you were able to kind of craft a strategy which kind of rode the
Roma wave if you like. And also if you could speak about what colleagues have done in Mexico that’d be great too. – Absolutely, well, we have
this incredible partnership with Participant Media
and with the director of the filmmaker Alfonzo Cuaron,
who really wanted the film to be a platform for the
movement to build its power, its voice, and its impact. And that just became such
an incredibly fertile ground for real impact in ways that we couldn’t really have imagined. The first thing we did
was actually put the film in front of thousands of domestic workers. So we actually screened the film early on for domestic workers in
communities around the country, and also for employers, so that they could actually use the film to populate the narrative environment in their local communities
and with the local media to tell the story. Use Roma as an opportunity
to tell the story of what it is like today,
in the United States for domestic workers
and these relationships, what would support these
relationships to be healthier, to be stronger, to spark a
conversation in communities? And then we had this opportunity to work with Senator Harris and
Congresswoman Jayapal to introduce the first national Bill of Rights
for domestic workers. And we timed it so that the conversation and the announcement
about national legislation would come out at around the same time that the film was being released, so that the two could be
talked about together. And also at the same time, our portable benefits product Alia, right, which is a technology platform
that enables thousands of domestic workers,
hopefully million soon to get access to benefits
for the first time. We’ve launched that nationally after being in Beta for a year, and actually three years of development. We launched it nationally
at also around the same time that Roma was released and the award season buzz was starting. And so all of this allowed us to not only change the narrative and spark and important conversation in communities, but also to start to pivot audiences towards real world social impact in policy and in products and in
actual market adoption of this important solution for benefits. – So the platform is still relatively new in its national launch. I know you were piloting
and kind of getting it ready to scale it for like two or three years, but it’s quite relatively
new in it’s national reach. What do you need to keep
pushing forward to that? What kind of partners or other help do you need with that? – Well, we need people to sign up. We need employers, if you
employ a house cleaner in your home, the
beautiful innovation here is it allows for house
cleaners with multiple clients to all contribute in a
prorated manner to benefits and a benefits account that the worker then gets to decide which type of benefits she wants to apply the money
in her account towards. It’s portable, it goes along with her. And it’s something that if
we can actually scale it for domestic workers, it’s unlimited in terms of the fields where
lots of different types of workers are piecing
together independent work, sub contracted work to be able to give them access to benefits. So we need people to adopt it, to sign up. It’s called Alia, and you
can sign up at myalia.org – Great, thank you. And with a little bit of
time that we have left. I wanted us to pull back
out to the bigger picture. Let me talk before about this panel, and the meaning of
Accelerating Possibility. I really liked what you had to say about the challenge that we now have about who leads and where power sits. And the role of women in this work. The reflection really that you can bring from having been in this work for 20 years to this moment and to this
question of the future. And I wonder if you could
just share a little bit about what we spoke
about with all of them. – Well, in the United States, we are in the most severe
political crisis of generations. And when I think about
Accelerating Possibility, the immediate image that comes to my mind, is an image of all of
the women who marched at the women’s marches, all of the women who have been organizing
in their community calling congress to protect healthcare. Running for office, voting
in unprecedented numbers. Women who are essentially
accelerating possibility in the midst of the greatest crisis, existential crisis in our
democracy of generations. If you’re from the United States, you might be familiar in the
southeast and in the Midwest there’s a weather phenomenon
called a sun storm. And it’s when you have torrential
rain and maybe even hail, but the sun is still shining
through really brightly. And I often talk about
what we’re experiencing in the United States as
a political sun storm, and women are the sun. In that we’ve been holding
space, we’ve been showing up, we’ve been Accelerating Possibility in the midst of an incredible storm. And if you think about the
way that we’re showing up, if you were at one of the
first women’s marches, it was multigenerational, multiracial and women were holding signs
about every issue under the sun and there was room enough for all of it. We didn’t have to choose,
there wasn’t a hierarchy. It was about human dignity and the future in the most holistic sense. And I trust women to keep
Accelerating Possibility. Along with all of you in the room. I think we are all the sun in this incredibly
tumultuous time in our world. – Ai-jen Poo, we’re
out of time, thank you. Bravo. It’s amazing, beautiful. – Thank you. – [Narrator] Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the
stage Edgar Villanueva, and Sarika Bansal. – Hi everybody, I hope you’re having a
great opening plenary. Thank you all so much for coming, and thank you so much Edgar,
for joining me on stage today. Edgar Villanueva is the
author of Decolonizing Wealth, which is a provocative and really beautifully written analysis of the colonial attitudes that are really present in philanthropy and more generally in finance. And, the impact that these attitudes have on these sectors. And also he talks a lot
about how money can be used, not just to divide and
exploit, but also to heal. So, first of all, thank
you so much, Edgar, for being here today, and for agreeing to talk about your book. Absolutely, it’s an honor
to be here with you guys. – So in your book, you talk a lot about, three aspects of your
identity in particular. One is you’re being native American, two is you’re being southern, and three is you’re choosing a life in philanthropy. I’d love to know a little bit more about why these identities
are so core to who you are and how you operate in the world. – Wow! Well, what a Combo of identities, right? My identity is a really important to me for a lot of reasons. another identity that I have is that, I’m the son of a domestic worker, so I’m feeling a little emotional from that last conversation,
it was so beautiful. And, so yes, my identity
as a native American as someone who’s from the US
south is really important. Because for the most part, indigenous people around the
world are very invisible. And especially in the United States native Americans are quite invisible, particularly in the US south where we were the first point
of contact for colonization. And so I’m actually being a part of maintaining that identity, and especially working
in a space that has had, quite a bit of forced assimilation to how I show up as a leader, working with a lot of people with wealth and institutions with wealth. Being grounded in that
identity of where I’m from and remembering that,
and bringing that with me into the work has really
shaped my analysis around how I show up as a leader. – Yeah, I love the concept of forced assimilation and philanthropy. I feel like there is a such
a tending towards the norm that you often see,
which you bring up a lot. I mean, the core of the book is really about colonization
and decolonization of course, that’s the title. So why use these terms
that, for so many people are very provocative? Like what’s the power
of talking about wealth in these kinds of ways? – Well, I had to go on my own journey to learn about colonization,
although I’m native American because when I was growing up in school, we were not taught the accurate history of the United States. I sort of bought into the
fantasy that pilgrims came over and then my ancestors met them there, and we all sat down and
ate turkey together. And, so it wasn’t until much later in life that I actually learned
the accurate history of what happened in the United States. And frankly, it’s a dark history that folks don’t want to revisit often. It’s easy to kind of
sweep it under the carpet and wanna look forward. But what I realized as an adult is that there’s a lot of
trauma in my community, in my immediate family. We have mass incarceration and abuse. We see, violence and a lack of education. I’m the first person in my family to graduate from high school. And so the cycles of trauma that exists in indigenous communities and my tribe is the Lumbee
tribe in North Carolina, are the result of a history,
that was not that long ago. Actually, my grandparent’s generation, native children were forcibly
removed from their homes and put in boarding schools, and not allowed to speak their language and not allowed to
identify with the culture. And so those types of atrocities, colonization was absolutely atrocity, have lingering impacts. And as we’re thinking about the future and talking about progress, we have to do that with the lens of, well, what is the historical context of the issues that we’re trying to solve? Because that history, whether
we are honest about it, whether it makes us uncomfortable, whether we are kind of agnostic to it. The history happened, and
it is absolutely connected to the problems that we’re trying to solve currently day. – How do you think the
history is connected specifically to philanthropy? – In philanthropy there’s
a lot of manifestations of what I call the colonizing virus. So we often think of colonization as something in the US
that started 500 years ago. And it’s often that something
that we think of with pride. In fact, there was a
study that I referenced in my book in the UK from 2014, that interviewed folks in this country about their impressions about colonization and Great Britain’s history
with the British empire. In the 20s not that long ago, this country controlled a third or fourth of the world’s population and controlled about a fifth of land. And, most people responded, about 59% of those
respondents in that survey said that colonization was a good thing, and the world is better off. And so there’s a mindset
that I liken to a virus that still is being perpetuated. And it shows up in our
policies, in our systems and who gets to be a leader,
who is esteemed as an expert. Who gets to control
allocate and manage wealth. And so as it pertains to philanthropy, colonization was about,
accumulating wealth, right? And so fast forward to
present day with foundations, and folks who are
investors, there’s a history there about how that wealth
was accumulated, right. On whose back was that wealth earned. And now we are part of these institutions and making decisions about
how that money is given out. And where we see those colonial
dynamic showing up is one, who gets to make decisions
around how investments are managed, who gets
to allocate that money and who’s benefiting from that money. We see still a very small percentage of philanthropic dollars being invested in communities of color. Thank you. It feels really, sort of an injustice, when do you think about the history and the role that communities
of color have played in the margins, in helping to build wealth around the world through,
genocide and stolen land. Things that are kind of
uncomfortable to discuss, but it’s a reality that
wealth was accumulated in this ways in many places. And so we owe it to ourselves, those of us who manage and allocate funds and invest philanthropic dollars, we owe it to ourselves
to understand the history of how wealth was accumulated and then to allocate and
invest and give money away in a way that respects that history. – Yeah. It’s such a beautiful perspective. So speaking of like how
wealth was accumulated and who controls it, you talk a lot about how white the philanthropic sector is, and how little money is flowing
to communities of color. And how there’s just a status
quo that’s being perpetuated. So, what do you mean by
worshiping the status quo and how that plays out in philanthropy? – Well, worshiping the status quo. I think of the opposite of the status quo is progress or change, right? And change is hard for all of us. We have to get really,
uncomfortable with change. And I think within philanthropy there can be quite a bit of comfort working in those institutions. I did not come from wealth obviously and have to admit that I
have been quite comfortable working in the field with the perks and the incentives that it provides. However, I think, to see change happen and especially in those institutions that are in some ways like
a bubble of privilege, like a microcosm of
privilege and in wealth, we have to be willing
to get uncomfortable. And sometimes actually super uncomfortable and lean into that discomfort
in order to see change happen. And where we need is to change happen, is in so many ways, but
you mentioned sort of, whiteness and of course,
where we see where white folks around the world hold
the majority of wealth. Therefore, foundations that are started are most often started by white folks, who then sit at the
leadership of foundations. The majority of foundation
boards in the US are white men. The majority of CEOs of
foundations are white folks, the majority of staff. And then, you see about,
95% of grant making dollars going into institutions
that are white led. And so, we have to really examine that, and if we really want
to see change happen, as we heard earlier today, change is happening in the margins. There’s a lot of solutions
and really good ideas and brave thinking happening from folks who have not been privileged
to be a part of those circles. And we need to tap into
that in order to see change. And that means shifting the status quo. – Absolutely. – So, I’m also curious
about how, of course, your book and your experience
are largely American. I live in Nairobi, Kenya,
which is also sometimes called the Silicon Savannah. Other people in, from Nairobi here. And so it’s called the
Silicon Savannah sometimes because of the large number
of social enterprises there and a lot of the change
making that’s taking place. Though even within those circles, and even within who gets funding there, I feel like I see a lot of these themes that you’re mentioning
be replicated over there. So I’m wondering if
you’ve seen in any way, ways that your findings
that while writing the book, how they may translate internationally? – Yeah, I mean, absolutely the concepts in the book, when we’re
talking about colonization, I mean, that’s a global phenomenon, right? It’s something that’s been happening. And, there’s also this idea
of what I call bleaching, which is really this forced
to, like forced assimilation. As we were saying earlier, this force to take out anything that is not sort of the dominant culture. And so we see languages, being erased, we see cultures being erased. We see people that, are not
empowered being eradicated. This is still happening around the world. And we may not see in some
places colonization happening in quite the literal visual way that you might be imagining it. But it’s still happening in subtle ways because as like any virus
the colonizing virus, mutates and expands it to
different ways of operating. And so we have to be really attuned to those dynamics at play. So absolutely what’s happened in the US are foundations and in many sense, us and senses are a US construct because of our tax
system there that allows major incentives to start foundations. But the dynamics of colonization, the dynamics of white
supremacy that show up and our policies and systems and who have, and who haves and the have nots,
the haves and the have-nots is absolutely something
that is across the board in every country, where we
see people who are in power and people who are not in power
and who controls resources. – So thank you so much. So I’m so grateful that the
second half of your book is focused, not just on the problem and all of these really deep seated issues that you’re talking about. But the second half of the
book is called how to heal. And it’s a very difficult long process. I don’t wanna just try to say that, oh, just follow these five
easy steps and you’re there. But there are things that people can do in their everyday lives to actually think about decolonizing
themselves and actually healing. And one of the themes that I really love that you talk about is
how money for so long has been used in many ways
to divide and to exploit, but then we can redirect money and that it’s not, that
money itself has no value. It only has the value
that we attached to it. And that money can be
used to heal and to love. So I’d love to know a little bit more about what you mean about that. – Sure. So, being native America and working in philanthropy now for 15 years, which I know I don’t look
a day above 30, right? But, you know, I’m a rare phenomenon. A native American from a poor family that works in philanthropy. And I think when I started
there were about 10 of us, in the US and I think
there’s probably 25 now. We’re growing in numbers. And so, I came into this work, because I really wanted to see
change in communities, right? Passionate about change. I was hired because of my experience, real world experience in the communities that these foundations cared for. And it wasn’t very long before
I became very frustrated and felt a lot of pain actually, about trying to do this work that, with institutions that
had a mission for change and even social justice. But the actual realities
of doing that work, were quite complicated, quite complicated. This is complicated work there
are lot of contradictions. And so initially I at
times, felt even angry because I wasn’t able to
respond to the community in the way that I wanted to. And I was caught in the
middle in a sense, right? ‘Cause I worked inside
the bubble of privilege, but I was also accountable
to my own community. And that frustration at one
point even became anger. And I had a sense of a
loss of my own identity because I had assimilated so much to the type of leadership
that have been modeled to me. What had been lifted up, as a good leader. And, when I took a break
from working in philanthropy for a little while and writing this book, I went back to my home community, the Lumbee tribe in North Carolina, and just immersed myself in my culture, talking to my relatives, talking
to elders in my community. And I ask questions like,
what is philanthropy? No one knew what that word was. Like, what does that word mean? What I realized during that time is that, the way out of this for all of us, not just for me but for all of us. The way out of this was really
an indigenous perspective, indigenous wisdom of really understanding that we all have a gift,
a contribution, right? And I know that in the audience and I, you all are entrepreneurs
and you’re working, that you have a gift and a calling, something that you feel
really led to do to, to make the world a better place. And I was conflicted
because I was like my gift is like moving money. Like isn’t money light bad and dirty, or like there’s a lot of
negative connotations with that. And I had an elder to say to me that the medicine that
had chosen me was money. And in my culture we say that you don’t choose your medicine,
the medicine chooses you. And so I had this paradox moment where I had to understand that the medicine that chose me was money, and by medicine, what we
mean in our culture is that something that is sacred, something that brings balance to you. something that’s a life giving force, your vehicle for change in the world. And so the moment that I realized that it wasn’t about the
money, money was neutral. Money is just a proxy for relationships. It’s a symbol for something. Money has been used wrong in the past. It’s been used to dominate, to oppress, to separate, to divide. But we all have a choice that we can make, that we can use money as medicine. We can use money to facilitate healing, connection, belonging,
and actually responding to the harm and the trauma that has been left
behind from colonization, by moving money in ways
that help to heal that past, by moving money to where
the heart is the worst. And that is in communities of color. – That’s so beautiful, thank you. So, that leads me so well into this quote that I have from your book
of regarding proximity, which was actually I believe last year’s, Skoll World Forum theme
about the Power of Proximity. And you talk about, just
being in communities. So you write deep, authentic knowledge does not come from reading
statistics or reports. It doesn’t even come from a
site visit to a community center or interviewing someone
from the affected community. It comes from living inside that community and experiencing that
issue for oneself, period. So tell me more about
the power of proximity and being with community in order to facilitate
this healing process. – Proximity is everything we are all traumatized by history, right? Even folks who may be
descendants of colonizers, there’s trauma that has left behind with all of us by subscribing
to that idea of dominance, of oppression, and for
participating in various ways. However, our ancestors may have
been a part of that, right? And so when we fast forward
now to the 21st century, we’re all here and we
all have experienced pain as human beings. We’ve all experienced trauma. And so there’s the
opportunity to think about how can we get in
community with each other, although we may be very different, right? But understand that those of
us who are from the margins, those of us who have long histories of being resilient, right? Like my tribe, we are resilient 500 years and we’re still here, right? And so we kind of have
a corner on resilience in a lot of ways, right? So understand that when
you come from privilege, often that privilege can
blind you to solutions that work for everyone. And so, it’s not a licensed that cap out. We all have a role to
play in decolonization. We all have our role to play in healing. We all have a role to play
in shifting our thinking to a way that’s not a white
dominant way of thinking, but a way that is inclusive
of all perspectives. And that’s only gonna happen
when we sit down together and begin a conversation around things that are
often uncomfortable. – Yeah, absolutely. Here’s to getting uncomfortable. So that leads me, actually, I would love for you to leave the audience with some actual practical advice. So this beautiful, amazing
audience here today includes many philanthropists, includes many social entrepreneurs, community organizers, nonprofit leaders, and there’s a lot of
conversations that happen. There’s a lot of
conversations between people with money and people
who are looking for money that happened this week. So what are a couple of
things that you think in particular the philanthropists and the audience can do this week to begin to put some of
these ideas into practice to begin to decolonize themselves? – I think, acknowledging the power dynamic that I understand that some deals might be happening this week, right? And so let’s move beyond the transactional
relationship with each other. Talk Business, make
your pitches, whatever, we are gonna do this week, but let’s try to see each
other as human beings, right? No one’s an ATM, no one is a person who is an asker or a taker, right? Let’s come together around
centering communities, centering change that needs
to happen across this globe. And try to start there
around some connection. I think we often sit down
and there’s the anxiety of like, I’m gonna be asked for something that I can’t give. Or I need these resources. If we can kind of put that
game and that dance aside to really connect with each
other on a very personal level that is actually what decolonization is. It’s actually just radical listening, radical connecting with each other. Put your phones down for a minute and engage with each
other as human beings. Listen to the stories of folks, that come from a different
community than you. Allow your mind to be open. If you feel uncomfortable, lean into that and just sit in that and know, wow, like I’m actually growing
and stretching as a person because I feel uncomfortable. Those are all parts of decolonization. It’s not that radical or
sophisticated of a notion when you think about it, it’s actually just going back to a state of being in a circle together, understanding the concept
of all my relations. We are all related, right? Our suffering is mutual
and our thriving is mutual. – Thank you, thank you so much. So, I hope this week, if any
of you do feel uncomfortable, that you do lean into it, that
it is ultimately productive. Don’t shy away from it, don’t run away, but actually think to yourself, is this a meeting I would have normally and maybe take something
that you wouldn’t do. So thank you, thank you
again so much Edgar. – Absolutely, it’s an
honor to talk with you all. Thank you so much. – So next, we’re going to hear
from a very special guest. Prince Gyasi is a 23
year old visual artist who’s come here from Accra, Ghana. And using an iPhone, he captures a colorful moving side of his hometown. He’s also founded a nonprofit
organization called Boxed Kids that helps children from a
poor neighborhood of Accra lean into their inherent creativity and turn to education instead of work. So please welcome to
the stage Prince Gyasi. – Good evening. My name is Prince Gyasi,
I’m a visual artist and co founder of Boxed Kids. I’m from Accra, Ghana,
West Africa to be precise. I usually tell stories
through my iPhone lens, and with the use of color. The big question is why do I use an iPhone and why do I use color? I don’t use an iPhone just
because I wanna to be unique, but I use an iPhone because
I believe as an artist, you can use whatever tool
or whatever equipment you have to tell your stories. I also use color because I
want people to be mentally and emotionally healed by just looking at my images on my art pieces. Let’s see the first image. This is a little kid, a six year old black American who is the first black
American to be accepted in an all white public school. She is Ruby Bridges. I think she’s the old now. So I usually tell stories with a theme of around the themes of
education, hope, love, care, guidance and so on. As an artist, I think for me to be able to contribute to the solutions to the problems of Africa or Ghana, I have to use my art or my
iPhone to tell these stories, to create awareness in Ghana. So I decided to create something around this theme education. This shows that education
has been a problem for a very long time for people of color. So I created a present visual
representation of education, which is this one. It’s from the faces series, and it’s called ignorance costs money too. In Ghana, people usually
say education is expensive, forgetting that ignorance
is expensive too. It costs way more money than education. In an old district called
Jamestown in Accra, which played a part in
slavery back in the days, there are kids who are
indulging in fishing when they are given birth
to this earth actually. When their parents give birth to them, they go through a cycle of fishing and they never make it to school. And they grow up to become
fishmongers or fishermen. This is contributing to poverty in Africa. People forget that education could be a bigger
solution to our problems. This is a kid who has to sell these stuff and give the money to their parents for his or her parent to be
able to provide food for them. This is a kid who has to sell oranges, give the money to their parents as well, for their parent to provide food for them. This is the shore of Elmina, which also played a part in slavery. With the same background
story that the kids in Jamestown are facing. This is a visual
representation of strength. I’m saying that if we’re able to solve the problem of education,
this kids could be better, a better people or
great leaders in future. This is the wait two from
the Boxed Kids series. I wanted to talk a little
bit about Boxed Kids, Boxed Kids, is a nonprofit organization. I’m a co founder, my partner is Kukwa, she’s based in the US. These kids, I found them at
6:00 a.m in November, 2018 these kids were hungry and I asked them, why are you sitting there? They said, this is something that we go through every single day. We never know what we’re
gonna eat in a day. All we know is we’re gonna
join our parents in fishing in order to eat at the end of the day. I found it very sad and as an artist I thought there’s a need for me to tell these stories through my art. This is an evidence. The kids are fishing,
if they don’t do this, they don’t eat at the end of the day. The reason why I play with colors a lot is because most visual artists, tell African stories in a negative way. Even though we’re going
through difficulties I think for the new
generation, especially me, I have to tell these stories
in a more beautiful way. So these kids, when they see them, they know that I can be, or they can be great people in future because this signifies hope. These are twins in Jamestown. I know. Yeah, so this image right
here, before I get into it, I have mild synesthesia, I don’t know if you know about that. I see words in colors. Yeah, so I see words or
alphabets in colours. So A is red, B is yellow, C, is white. D is black, E is Brown. F is orange, G is dark green. H is peach, I is white. J is dark green as well, and so on. The reason why I use red, the reason why I’m speaking about this is because red signifies labor, black, sacrifice and I think this piece called Fatherhood, which is one of my most powerful
pieces I’ve ever created. It’s telling a story of a kid who doesn’t have a father
figure in their lives. This is a true story from Jamestown, but obviously this is not
the kid who lost his parents. But I wanted to use the
early stage of a kid to depict the story of
this kid from Jamestown. And this kid lost his parents. And has no father figure in their lives. Education being a problem already, imagine not having a father in your life. You will not be able to
go to school, number one, and not be able to eat as
well, you’ll go hungry. So I thought I should create
something about fatherhood to show that we don’t have
to be biological fathers or biological siblings to these kids, but we can still show the love a father would show to a child. The reason I use red is
because like I said, labor, and the reason I use blue is
because I want to tell you that if you are able to show
this love or care to this kid, blue signifies calmness, all these mental health
issues they’re going through, they’re definitely gonna be calm and everything will be great for them. This is a continuation of fatherhood. This is called Almost Home. It also tells us the journey of the kid having a father figure who’s
guiding them through life and showing them what is
right and what is wrong. Before I get to that, I also see the days of a week in colors. Monday is Brown, Tuesday
is Orange as you can see. Skoll Forum is also orange. Wednesdays is blue, Thursday is gray, Friday is red, Saturday
is white, Sunday is green. I see these things and has helped me develop my use of color, so every thing I do with
color is meaningful. I don’t just choose them. This is called Agony of Orphan. It shows the pain that losing a father in your life brings to a child. This is the burden they go
through, the burden they carry. The stone signifies a burden. Of course, I can’t put too many stones. he can’t carry them. This is a powerful piece
called patients and purpose. Mostly people fight the process of life. I believe that if you trust the process and you work hard and you focus, everything you’re creating,
when it comes together, there will be a greater picture. You can see two guys
looking at one direction because they believe that
if they trust the process, they’re gonna be great people in future. So as you can see, I use blue
because it signifies calmness and white because it signifies victory. So whatever you’re creating,
if you’re calm, you’re patient, and you trust the process,
you’re gonna be victorious at the end of the day. This is a visual
representation of kids playing, and I call it Seeds
because, it’s a continuation of what I showed you earlier. It simply means that
seeds take time to grow. So whatever you’re
creating, don’t give up, keep going, keep going, and you’ll definitely
reach your potential. This is a man of many nations. As you can see all these colors represent every color of a country in the world. This man is a great leader now, because he trusted the process. So it’s definitely, it’s
just conceptual story telling that I usually do with my eye. This is comp was zone
from the control series. Control series is I just
wanted to let people know that certain times we have weaknesses and we give too much,
strengthen the weaknesses. I believe we can channel
our energy to our weakness and turn them into strength. So that’s why I created this, because usually in Accra,
Ghana, I’ll tell you a story. In Accra Ghana, usually when you’re late you take a motorbike because you wanna
maneuver your way through. And I believe that if we focus sometimes, there will be bad situations,
there’ll be obstacles that we have to do certain things to be able to achieve
what we want to achieve. So for me in a abstract idea,
I decided to use helmets. Because in in that way
it’s telling you run fast but don’t run out of gas. This is energy is contagious
from also the Control Series. you can see these zippers, usually zippers open a way to certain parts
I don’t wanna mention, but I wanted to use this
to be able to tell you a story of how we can protect ourselves from certain energies, because these are what
contribute to our mental health. And if you are having
mental health issues, don’t be afraid to speak out to a friend or talk to a friend. This also talks about
what goes on in Africa. Sometimes I know all over
the world it happens. When people are pushing through something. This water signifies
hope and the sacrifice that this guy has put into
his life or his career. But there are certain people who are usually pulling you back because they don’t want you
to be where you want to be. Obviously bondage, mental
slavery, like I said. And this is from the faces
series called Mood Swings. As a visual representation of how people who have mental health
go through mood swings, different emotions. And I wanted to show that visually because I always thought,
how can I show this? How can I help people
to be able to see this? I see all emotions in colors as well. This is very important for
every woman to see this. In Africa, in Ghana, women
usually go through a lot when they are growing up. They have a lot of responsibilities. They take care of the
kids, they sacrifice. And when they get married,
before even when they have a kid, when they get married, they take care of their husbands as well ’cause some husbands
are a bit, disorganized. So, I’m showing this as
responsibility, that’s the name, the name of is Responsibility. So I’m showing how women
from Africa, are responsible and how they strive to helping men grow, because every successful woman, there’s a woman behind that man. This is Dignity, it’s also the same story. If we’re able to solve this problem, which Boxed Kids is doing,
if we’re able to do this, these kids are gonna come
out with flying colors. This shows the strength
of motherhood in Africa. This is how visually mothers
carry babies in Ghana, I mean we’re in the modern world now. People Push, but we still do this. We still do this because we
believe this is more safer. This shows a strength of women. Women have to sell stuff in Ghana to be able to provide food for their kids. It’s very important that we all know this. Because I know most people haven’t been to Africa or Ghana yet. But I always wanted to
tell a story of how women, how powerful women are from Ghana. This is also a modern way of
showing the strength of women. As you can see, this is called
the Symbols of Womanhood. It’s self explanatory. Yes, for that. So Boxed Kids is basically
trying to help kids get an education. It was inspired by when my
partner and I went to Jamestown and we found a kid making
boats out of stalks. We thought this is creative, but this kid doesn’t know what he’s doing. He doesn’t know this could
be the purpose of his life because he doesn’t have education. So for me, in 2016 my mom is a singer. She got donations from other people where she did a fanfare
for these kids in Jamestown and she was giving them food and drinks. But for me as an artist, I thought, food and drinks doesn’t solve the problem. So what can I do when I make money? I’m gonna give education to these kids. But I found out in 2017, that
I don’t need money to do this. I can always use art
to tell these stories, create awareness, and create a system that can solve this problems. So, that’s what Boxed Kids is. And Boxed Kids simply means a kid who’s trapped in a situation
that they can’t get out of. And in other words,
the situation is a box. Ladies and gentlemen,
my name is Prince Gyasi, and this is my story. – [Narrator] When things feel hopeless is all too much and you can’t take it anymore, that’s when to reach out.

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