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Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship

Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship


Dr Pamela Hartigan (1948–2016)

Dr Pamela Hartigan joined Oxford Saïd in 2009 where – as a pioneering Director, she initiated and built the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and was an inspiration to all. At our School, Dr Hartigan transformed the landscape of entrepreneurship, bringing to our student and alumni community not only her very deep and broad knowledge of social entrepreneurship and her expertise in ‘Intrapreneurship’, but also her passion that encouraged students, academics and entrepreneurs to use their talents, knowledge and energies to develop solutions to the complex challenges facing the world. She helped educate and excite an inordinate number of students to apply their business talents to creating or working for organisations that pursue business goals and financial success at the same time as supporting social and environmental objectives.

Whilst at Oxford Saïd, Dr Hartigan’s interest in governance of social enterprises led her to initiate Emerge, one of the UK’s leading initiatives to inspire and develop the next generation of leaders in social innovation. The Emerge Conference, held annually, has become the pre-eminent event for students and young professionals who are passionate about redefining the benefits that social entrepreneurs bring to business and society.  In addition, the Emerge Venture Lab, a rigorous six-month programme to develop student-led social ventures, has established itself as one of the leading programmes for accelerating the development of young social entrepreneurs.

Born of diplomatic parents and raised in Latin America, Dr Hartigan was a world leading proponent of social entrepreneurism and has been cited by her peers as one of the top 5 in terms of global impact and her contribution to this field.

Prior to joining the Skoll Centre, Pamela Hartigan was the first managing director of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, an organisation that engages its community of social entrepreneurs in shaping global, regional and industry agendas that address pressing problems in close collaboration with the other stakeholders of the World Economic Forum.

In 2008, Dr Hartigan co-founded Volans with John Elkington, an organisation focused on scaling entrepreneurial solutions to the world’s biggest problems through partnerships with corporations and social enterprises. She was also a Trustee or on the Board of Advisors of the following social enterprises:  Bamboo Finance (Switzerland), CAMBIA (Australia), Fair Trade USA, INDEX (Denmark), Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation (USA), Mobile Metrix (Brazil), Royal DSM (The Netherlands), SafePoint UK), SocialKapital Fund (Denmark), The Story Museum (UK) and Waste Ventures (India).

Throughout her career, Dr Hartigan held varied leadership positions in multilateral health organisations and educational institutions as well as in entrepreneurial non-profits. In the area of health, Dr Hartigan headed up the Department of Health Promotion at the World Health Organization (1999-2001); was Programme Manager and Area Co-ordinator for Applied Field Research in the Special Programme on Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) of the World Bank, WHO, and UNDP (1997-1999). Between 1990 and 1997, she worked in WHO’s Regional Office for the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), as Chief of the Gender, Health and Development and Manager for Special Initiative in the HIV/AIDS Programme.

As a leader in her field, Pamela Hartigan was frequently asked to lecture on social entrepreneurship and innovation at business schools in the USA, Europe and Asia, and – in addition to her role at Oxford Saïd – was an Adjunct Professor at the Columbia Business School. Her book, co-authored with John Elkington, and entitled ‘The Power of Unreasonable People: How Entrepreneurs Create Markets to Change the World’ was published by Harvard Business Press in February 2008. The book is constantly used as a reference guide in the field and has been translated into 11 languages.

Dr Hartigan had a PhD in Human Developmental Psychology from Catholic University Washington DC, an MA in Education from America University, Washington DC, an MA in International Economics from Institut d’Etudes Europeénes Université Libre de Bruxelles and a Bachelor of Science and International Economics from the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, Washington DC. 

She described herself as an optimist who sees opportunities in the current state of global flux. She considered this the perfect time to rethink business, with entrepreneurship playing a major role. Yet despite her passion for social entrepreneurship, she did not find the term itself helpful.

'I absolutely despise the term social entrepreneur. What is an entrepreneur? It’s someone who sees an opportunity, seizes that opportunity, is highly resourceful, in terms of how he or she leverages the resources needed to get that going. A commercial and a social entrepreneur, they’re two sides of the same coin—they’re basically cut from the same cloth. The difference is that the commercial entrepreneur usually gets investors on board that are looking for a return, whereas for the social entrepreneur, money is a means to actually drive social change. I dream of the world where every entrepreneur has to be a social entrepreneur, because we cannot continue the kind of path we’re on unless that actually happens.'

'Entrepreneurs are unreasonable: they never accept the status quo, see opportunities in almost everything, learn from failure, and change systems from within. But they also need partners to achieve success – team members, corporates and governments – and it is important to build bridges to enable these partnerships to flourish.'

Our thoughts are with Dr Hartigan’s husband and two children.  Having made such an impact on Oxford Saïd and the wider world, she will be hugely missed.

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