Imagining a social fiction at Skoll World Forum
There were some fantastically inspiring stories at the Skoll World Forum Awards in Oxford.
Based on three broad categories - peace and human security, access to education, and healthcare knowledge and access - six individuals were honoured for their tireless contribution to tackling global social injustices. The audience was treated to Malian music by musicians in exile, as well as a passionate address from Annie Lennox about her SING campaign and vehement disdain for the Kardashian family. Sadly she didn't perform Why or Sweet Dreams.
Jeff Skoll's final 'Global Treasure' tribute was awarded to Muhammad Yunus, Founder of Grameen Bank, for his extraordinary achievements. I've been an admirer of Yunus for years but could not have predicted the power of his message during the acceptance speech. It was met with enormous enthusiasm, in fact at one point the chap next to me turned wide-eyed in disbelief; "What an amazing guy!"
For 20 minutes Yunus spoke of many things and one thread in particular really resonated. He made an enlightening paradox; that while the unimaginable developments in science and technology have kept pace with an imagined science fiction (even if the visions have played out slightly different in reality), advancements to society have been decidedly slower. What about futuristic visions of society, a "social fiction"? Yunus urged the social entrepreneurs in the auditorium to imagine the possibilities.
He raised some very pertinent questions: What does your social fiction look like? What if we re-imagined many of the societal structures and norms that we take for granted? What possibilities could be achieved for the society to come?
It's a fascinating thought. I reflected on how timely Nesta's forthcoming FutureFest will be; the opportunity to create stories, images, and visions of possible worlds in which we might live in generations to come, and to encourage people to think about how they can shape a future society rather than being shaped by it.
Imagine the unimaginable.