Sometimes it only takes a poem, a garden and a few heroes.
A note from Oxford, Skoll World Forum.

Posted 29 April 2019 by Eva Wissenz.


I’m here, in the garden of Rhodes House, in Oxford. After three days only, I’m already adapted to this old town where so many amazing people have studied and lived, for the best and the worst. I’m missing our garden so much. One of the things we had to leave behind when we picked Finland to root our work. As often, I’m feeling lonely because my team of brave young hero’s is disseminated all around the globe, working hard to make it happen, and it’s a tough journey.

Yesterday, an impact investor suggested me to be reasonable and to adapt our model to be more conventional. It was a shock because I’m used to this kind of critics from the mainstream Venture Capitalist landscape but not here, not at Skoll World Forum for social entrepreneurship.

It was Autodesk Foundation who invited me to Skoll World Forum as a delegate. Started by co-founder of Ebay, Mr Skoll is dedicating his fortune to support social entrepreneurs. So who are these social entrepreneurs? Citizen like you and me who, one day, were moved by something and decided to solve the problem because governments wouldn’t, NGO’s haven’t, nor had enterprises done so. That’s what a social or impact or sustainable entrepreneur does. And it goes with being not visible and not understood for a long time, especially in Finland where all these concepts are very new.

So, the impact investors hit me pretty badly and when I spoke with GoSol’s co-founder Eerik afterwards on the phone, he said "never mind".
But I minded all night.
All night I took every piece of what we have built and I questioned it.

When dawn lightened Saint Clement’s, I felt new strengths. I felt that no matter how over ambitious we seem, no matter how broad we are, that we are moving persistently toward give to vulnerable populations the chance to replace rapidly dirty charcoal with solar thermal - to name just one of our interconnected goals. And when the sun started his working day, Eerik sent me his Why GoSol Essay and then it became even more crystal clear: the plan is good, simple, super feasible and amazingly impactful.

Yet, I was tired, happy but tired. That’s something all impact people know well. So, I took the energy left and I went to this Rhodes House, where I am now sitting in the shadow of a tiny old and elegant British tree.

There is a copper sun on the entrance floor of Rhodes house. The building is incredibly beautiful. The lecture room is spacious with portraits of old inspiring leaders all around. At the same time, four modern ones are sitting right in from of me, sharing their experience in becoming impactful entrepreneurs. And it’s impressive. The McNulty Foundation and Aspen Institute offered us this workshop. Three hours of "This Isn’t Easy: A Seminar on Exercising Moral Courage".

Super inspiring, strong and vulnerable entrepreneurs were speaking. For once, we were not talking about performance, challenges and trial and errors. Just sitting together and sharing openly about what really matters behind our actions: ethics, courage, virtues... At the end of the lecture, we all got a poem. Somebody read it out loud. It’s called "The Seven of Pentacles" by Marge Piercy. I had to go to the ladies room to cry afterwards.

No business card, no networking session, could have been as powerful as this poem for me at this very specific moment. I’ll find strength for a long time in the memory of the friendly and mindful faces sitting in the circle, reading, commenting, discussing, crying sometimes. It was such an intense and true moment.

"You cannot tell always by looking what is happening."

In Rhodes House’s gorgeous garden, I can see that one day no one on Earth will need to cut down a tree to make a fire because fire will be solar.

We are facing one of the most stressful crisis our species has ever faced. It’s crucial we stay focused and efficient.

The Forum ended. So many new connections, so much good energy, so much good will. I’m now back in Finland. I don’t know what the future will bring for us but a few days after my return, this quote appeared:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt

Pictures free and (c) courtesy of Aspen Institute.
The lecture is available online by following this link.

Other links:
Autodesk Foundation
Skoll World Forum
McNulty Foundation
Aspen Institute


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