Proximity is powerful. It’s a value that I’ve shaped my career around: bringing people from disparate places together, in person, to connect. While we live so much of our lives online, there is no substitute for the powerful bonds that can be made when meeting someone in person. It creates understanding, builds empathy, and ultimately drives collective action. The Forum is a magical convergence of people, purpose, and place where connections are sparked.
But proximity is about more than simply bringing people together. In order to create the most just and sustainable solutions, social impact leaders must get close to the communities affected by the challenges they seek to address. In proximity, we learn with humility and develop solutions that respect–and often leverage–existing values and customs. In addition to welcoming speakers and delegates who choose to “get proximate” in their work, we also sought out the leaders who have emerged from their own communities as powerful forces for change.
As Curator of the Forum, I wanted to dig deeper and seize the opportunity to hear from more voices from across the globe. I looked for those with lived experience who could share how their own proximity helped shape their vision for change. That means if you’re coming from the U.S. or U.K., you may see fewer familiar names in our speaker roster this year. You can’t import proximity, but we are certain that hearing directly from these leaders in Oxford will help us as a Forum community better listen, embrace nuance, develop a deeper understanding of the complex challenges communities face–and ultimately work together to develop more innovative, just, and sustainable solutions as a result.
While the Forum will maintain its usual breadth in topics, we designed the program to dive deep into the concept of proximity from a number of angles. To name a few:
When viewing the overall program through a proximity lens, it naturally evolved in a more diverse, inclusive way. In 2018, more than 60 percent of our speakers are women, and more than 60 percent of our speakers are people of color, hailing from nearly 30 countries.
I look forward to meeting each of our speakers this year, whether from London or Lagos. I’m confident that collectively, they’ll create a Forum experience that is rich, welcoming, challenging, and will ultimately move us all to be more proximate leaders, wherever we work.