Reflections from the Skoll World Forum

Rachael Sears, SNHU VP and GEM Executive Director, at Skoll World Forum

SNHU VP and GEM Executive Director Rachael Sears shares her experiences, conversations, and takeaways from the global event.

In April, I traveled to Oxford, England to attend the 2024 Skoll World Forum, represent Southern New Hampshire University’s Global Education Movement (SNHU GEM), and share the importance of higher education opportunities for refugees and displaced people. I was thrilled to return to Skoll this year, where the community feels like a family united by shared values. Each time, I reconnect with old friends and meet inspiring new ones, forming partnerships that extend well beyond the event. 

At Skoll, leaders, innovators, changemakers, and social activists convene to drive action on education, health, food security, and other important issues. I was excited to join over 1,500 attendees at the 21st Skoll World Forum and participate in thoughtful conversations about refugee education, leadership in transition, and how we can build more inclusive and sustainable futures for displaced people around the world. 

I heard from Jacinda Ardern, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, during the opening plenary session at Skoll. She spoke to attendees about leadership and the importance of holding on to “high expectations” about the transformative change we can achieve through collaboration and good works. I saw George and Amal Clooney shine a spotlight on human rights violations, leveraging their influence to spark dynamic conversation about global challenges. Another highlight of the Forum was “Reshaping Power for a Shared Future,” a panel discussion about how we can reframe the narratives surrounding power. 

I participated in focused discussions around leadership in transition and navigating the ever-changing geopolitical and macroeconomic landscape. I also had the opportunity to participate in events and discussions at Marmalade and The Sidebar, both venues for connection, conversation, and collaboration at the Skoll World Forum. Leaving Skoll, I feel more connected than ever to a network of incredible changemakers and ready to tackle the world’s most pressing issues together.

My travels and conversations have been a continual reminder that our work would not be possible without the partnership of leaders and changemakers like those at Skoll – and the country governments, local universities, and on-the-ground nonprofits who provide displaced learners with in-country, wraparound academic and livelihood supports. Through these partnerships, SNHU GEM will continue to provide a global model for what’s possible and provide innovative solutions and degree pathways to displaced learners worldwide.

Since its founding, SNHU GEM has grown from one site to 15 and served more than 3,500 learners across Africa and the Middle East, but our work does not end there. At the UNHCR Global Refugee Forum last fall, SNHU GEM renewed its commitment to educating refugee learners by pledging to extend scholarships to an additional 5,000 learners – providing a path to higher education that may not have been possible otherwise. 

I am excited to watch SNHU GEM continue to grow with the help of our partners, and provide thousands more refugee learners with access to higher education, meaningful employment, and brighter, more secure lives.