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Skoll World Forum: The Skoll Awards

The Skoll World Forum always culminates in the granting of the Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship on Thursday evening. I came late, so I headed to the upper level, where broad wooden steps were vastly more accommodating than the benches downstairs.

Among this year’s award winners was Jordan Kassalow of VisionSpring, a social venture that Acumen Fund has supported since 2005. Jordan is truly a visionary, pioneering social franchising in India, wholesale partnerships with established organizations in Latin America, South Asia and Africa, and a lean supply chain to India. He is a new global capitalist, combining his business skills with his training as an eye doctor to reach the 400 million people in the world who suffer from being near sighted. The story that he told of when he restored vision to an older woman in Mexico, who had come to him clutching her bible wanting to some day read it again, brought tears to my and many other people’s eyes.

There were too many other memorable moments, including a stunning Jordanian women Soraya Salti, who is bringing business education to young people throughout the Middle East and a pair of human rights activists, Juan Mendez and Paul van Zyl, who have put their lives on the lines for the rights of the oppressed in their home countries, Argentina and South Africa, respectively, and 30 other countries transitioning from conflict to reconciliation.

But to prove Acumen Fund Sustaining Partner Donald Rubin’s point that you need both bread and roses (although it is hard to think of the Skoll Awardees as mere bread), the art stole the evening. KT Tunstall’s stunning voice and innovative rhythmic style lifted everyone’s spirits to join the angels on the ceiling of the theater.

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