I was invited to represent Mental 360 at the Skoll World Forum 2023 in Oxford UK through our partnership with the Segal Family Foundation. I was set to participate as a delegate and also sit on a panel to discuss mental health funding in Africa. For me this was a massive opportunity as in-person attendance can prove to be a challenge for many due to the restrictive costs involved such as airfare, visa acquisition and accommodation costs. Securing a visa is one of the more exacting activities and I quickly set about applying for one which thankfully was approved just 3 days to the event!
The Skoll World Forum is an annual gathering of social entrepreneurs, innovators and change-makers from various industries and sectors around the world. It is a unique platform that brings together individuals and organizations that are committed to creating positive social and environmental impact on a global scale. Attending the Skoll World Forum can be an incredibly enriching and transformative experience for budding change makers.
One of the primary benefits of attending the Skoll World Forum is the opportunity to network with like-minded individuals from around the world. The Forum attracts a diverse range of participants including social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, investors, academics and policy-makers, among others. This creates a unique environment to connect with people who share a common passion for creating positive impact and to learn from their experiences and perspectives. These networking opportunities can translate into valuable partnerships, collaborations and friendships that can last for many years to come. As a youth leader and innovator in mental health this was a most timely occasion.
This would be my first time in the UK. Aside from attending the forum in Oxford, I was keen to explore London and visit places like the Arsenal Football Stadium, museums and Buckingham Palace. Luckily I have relatives in the UK who were more than happy to show me around, ever watched the Nigerian drama Usofia in London? That was not going to be my story!
I landed at Heathrow airport on a cold morning on the 11th of April 2023. While Nairobi can be quite cold in June, London was freezing in comparison. The central bus station was close by so I immediately proceeded to book my bus ticket to Oxford. The bus provided a much needed reprieve from the freezing temperatures. One and a half hours later I arrived in Oxford, a neat and well-manicured University town. The population was clearly made up largely of students as most people moving around were young-looking and had an air of purpose about them, either rushing for a lecture or heading to the library.
While still trying to get my bearings I looked for a restaurant to sit, have breakfast and enjoy Wi-Fi access. I located my hotel and checked in later that morning. I quickly took a shower, a short nap and headed out at around 10am to start my day. I was attending Marmalade events that were running concurrently with Skoll. Most of these events were geared towards empowering thought leaders and making connections. I ended my day by registering for Skoll and securing my delegate tag. Now that I was officially a few hours into the Forum Programme I knew that the next few days were bound to be hectic.
I woke up early the next morning to run over my talking points for the panel. I was also keen on attending a few Marmalade events, a key one being about bridging the racial gap in philanthropy. The discussions were insightful across the board. I was able to make connections with organizations from across the world. In the afternoon I was informed that my speaking event had been sold out necessitating a change in venue to accommodate the large numbers. We had an engaging panel and an equally receptive audience with whom we dissected mental health issues in Africa and the funding needs.
The Skoll event ended on a high note with a keynote speech from the US based Maryland Governor Wes Moore who spoke about his journey in social entrepreneurship and philanthropy touching on issues of race, equity and opportunity. The key takeaway was that communities already have solutions to their problems and only need to be empowered to actualize them. He remarked that indeed the belief that poverty is a choice is true but not the choice of the individual rather, that of society. It is a policy choice, a choice regarding just how much pain we are willing to watch our neighbours endure. This was what motivated him to join the government in order to influence policy and be at the centre of decision making at an institutional level.
We also had a panel moderated by Cheryl Dorsey of Echoing Green, Darryl DMC McDaniels of rapping group Run DMC, Dr Olajide Williams of Hip Hop Public Health, Sister FA a rapper and producer and Ali aka Mind also a rapper from Colombia to discuss the role of Hip Hop in social change. This panel discussion highlighted the role of hip hop and generally the arts in inspiring social change. This struck a chord for me as our organization, Mental 360 coevolved an Arts for Mental Health project dubbed Cradle Festival.
There were many high points during the forum, from Al Gore the former US Vice President addressing the audience to the Skoll awardees who were recognized for doing amazing work across the globe and finally my fellow delegates, each with a powerful story and initiative. Skoll World Forum leaves you inspired and motivated to be of service to your community. I left the UK with a renewed drive to continue to do the necessary and impactful work that we do at Mental 360.