Oxford Jam’13: Penguins and Social Enterprise

I know you have been for it.. so here it is: My key take-aways from Oxford Jam’13. For those who don’t know I go to I have been helping run Oxford Jam since 2011 and it’s a fixed event in my diary every year.There are many reasons why Oxford Jam is special but more on that later. I’m going to share what I learnt here with you.

1- There is always more talent in the room than on the podium

threadsEvery session began with this line and to date, it is what rings true most of Oxford Jam. The sessions that were least enjoyable were the ones which had a dominant speaker. The ones which shared most of the learning for me had a particular structure. Either there was a clear objective of the session and the moderator made sure it was achieved. Or the discussiosn were participant led and involved brainstorming along a definitive theme.

2- Learning something new can be as refreshing as a smoothie

Amanda leading a session on ballet and being comfortable in your skin

I love smoothies because they are cold and bursting with fresh fruites and yoghurt which makes them refreshing. In the space of three days at Oxford Jam, I learnt a little bit of ballet, how ethical stock markets work, tea can make you feel much better than water and how to speed-brainstorm a sales pitch.

3- Creating the Right Eco System:  As long as you have a good teacher and a supportive community, daring to go to new places can be rewarding

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I had the pleasure of listening to Hackney Pirates and it was so inspiring to see how learning pirate-style can increase academic performance of children. It’s a Steiner-esque idea of making use of the abilities and talents of kids of different ages to work on projects which can range from a magazine to producing a T-shirt collection. This is as applicable to adults as it is to 9-13 year olds.

4- There is a lot of unnecessary nomenclature in the business world. Strip it off like a plaster and things are simple to understand


It continues to amaze me how many useless abbreviations we can come up with and how alien they sound to most people.

5- Ethics are central to all kinds of interactions


60% of people said that buying goods from socially-responsible companies is important to them. Last year at Oxford Jam, the predominant theme in sessions was the importance of being commercial and competing in the market just like any business. However this year, the vibe at Oxford Jam was that social enterprises were failing to communicate their commitment to society through their brand.

6- It’s important to Self-Reflect

Monica tweeting a picture of session notes on what participants would like to learn

It is so important to have a work-life balance and self-reflect how far you’ve come and where and how to get where you want. For me, even though I graduated last year – I have a list of things I want to learn more about. I started doing three online courses to learn more about Operation Management, Gamification and Creativity. Through an amazing session with Mind Apples – I found tea is more uplifting than water; and laughter and cuddles are the universal now-I-feel-better techniques for most people.

Avoid being HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired.

If I had to say one thing that still rings true of Oxford Jam and any other conference/event I attend, then it is this:

Corridors are still the best place for networking…

What was your key take-away from Oxford Jam? I would love to know what resonated with you. Sound off in the comments below!  If you want to my compilation of the best tweets from Oxford Jam and figure out what penguins have to do with social enterprise and oxford jam, then check out my Storify.

And the best conference wrap-up video you may have ever seen:


gill tweet oj

This entry was published on April 29, 2013 at 7:39 am. It’s filed under conference, entrepreneurship, social change, social entrepreneurship, talks/seminars, women, work on purpose and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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