Cancelled by COVID: Skoll World Forum, Euclid Impact Summit and SE100 are called off

Ten years ago, Jeff Skoll, the billionaire philanthropist, former eBay entrepreneur and founder of the Skoll Foundation, gave his backing to a major Hollywood movie starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Marion Cotillard – who played Dr. Leonora Orantes, an epidemiologist with the World Health Organization.

It was called Contagion and its tagline was “Nothing spreads like fear”. Its subject was a global pandemic, and one of the experts consulted for the film was Dr Larry Brilliant, who participated in the successful World Health Organization (WHO) smallpox eradication programme.

Ten years on and the irony won’t have been lost on either Skoll or Brilliant – a board member of the Skoll Foundation – as they contributed to the decision this week to cancel April’s Skoll World Forum in Oxford, UK, for the first time since it launched in 2004.

“We believe the risks of COVID impacting this year’s Forum are significant and thus, we are making a decision on this now,” said Jeff Skoll in a message to more than 1,000 expected delegates from over 100 countries.

“The idea that delegates from all over the world can come together to make the world a better place has infused the spirit of the Forum since our first annual gathering in Oxford in 2004. The very essence of our global community is being physically together in the same physical space.

“This year we are reminded of the challenges that physical proximity can bring. While we cannot predict exactly how COVID-19 will play out, we have been following the situation closely since it first began. We feel a deep sense of responsibility to our community, the residents of Oxford, and the countries you represent.”

Organisers at the Skoll Foundation promised that registration fees would be reimbursed. The annual Skoll Awards will still be announced – and Pioneers Post will be sharing news and interviews with some of the awardees.

Meanwhile, the Pioneers Post team – based in London, UK – also spent some of the week contacting hundreds of applicants and participants in this year’s NatWest SE100 Social Business Awards – as our partners at the bank made the difficult decision to postpone the event that had been scheduled for 26 March in the UK capital.

And in Europe, the Euclid Network announced that its Impact Summit at The Hague on 25-26 March would also be postponed.

A message from the SE100 team said: “We know that many of you have already booked up to come to the celebration, and we are very sorry for any inconvenience that this decision may have caused, but we don't believe bringing together a group of this size in the current environment is the right thing to do.”

The SE100 top 100 list and eight SE100 Social Business Award winners will now be announced at some later point this year.

Similarly, the team at Euclid said they were “putting health and safety first” but were “positive that we are able to plan a great event for later this year or the next”. 

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