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Businesses for good debate solutions online as Skoll forum goes virtual

by Sarah Shearman | @shearmans | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 31 March 2020 19:49 GMT

A woman working from her computer at home is seen as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Oxford, Britain, March 31, 2020. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

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The Skoll World Forum is taking place online due to the coronavirus outbreak

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By Sarah Shearman

LONDON, March 31 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Finding solutions to the coronavirus outbreak was top of the agenda as businesses for good met on Tuesday for one of the key annual global conferences on social enterprise but there was a difference this year - it was a virtual event.

Organisers of the Skoll World Forum, that is usually held in Oxford in England, met online as social enterprises - or businesses that seek to benefit society or the environment as well as making a profit - discussed plans from providing meals for key workers to making basic face masks.

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"In this unique and difficult time for everyone, I have no doubt that our community will bring what we all need most: hope," said Jessica Fleuti, a director at the Skoll Foundation set up in 1999 to promote a sustainable, peaceful world.

"While the Skoll World Forum is cancelled, our community is not ... They won't let a crisis go to waste."

Announcing the cancellation of the physical event, Skoll Foundation Chief Executive Don Gips said the virus was "a painful reminder of the global challenges facing humanity".

"We are all feeling urgency to find and help accelerate solutions," he said in a statement.

"Even though our community may not have the chance to meet each other in person in Oxford, we will continue to find ways to build, support, and strengthen our ties in the year ahead."

The online meeting includes events focusing on countering corruption during the lockdown to online education during the crisis.

Other topics under discussion include climate finance, how to turn corporations into businesses for good, securing land rights for smallholder farmers, and strategies to close the gender gap.

The conference, which usually hosts about 1,200 leaders from social enterprises and non-profits from 80 countries, is in its 17th year.

Winners of the annual Skoll awards, presented to social entrepreneurs whose innovations have had significant impact on some of the world's most pressing problems, will be announced in an online ceremony on Thursday.

Social Enterprise World Forum, another major event on the calendar for social entrepreneurs, has postponed its global gathering due to be held in Halifax, Canada, in September to June 2021. SOCAP is on track for an October conference in San Francisco.

(Reporting by Sarah Shearman @Shearmans. Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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