It was while living and working in an orphanage in the highlands of Kenya that I first learned about The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Said Business School. In this unique place where social entrepreneurship and business acumen successfully collided, I learned, select social entrepreneurs could pursue MBAs at no cost.

I applied, was accepted, and cheered warily. For many social entrepreneurs, the high cost of financing an MBA – at Said Business School or otherwise – makes it out of the question. I was one such social entrepreneur.

For me, the scholarship was a prerequisite to the study.

I did my interview for the Skoll Scholarship from a ship off the coast of Antarctica. The line stung of static and every word cost a fortune. It was worth it, of course. In the hot summer of Buenos Aires, I got word that I had been named a Skoll Scholar. My husband and I toasted high.

The year I spent at the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship was one of the most dynamic of my life. I lived, breathed, and sang the incredible stories and feats of my classmates. The international environment fed me in ways it would take years to fully grasp, and my daily gratitude at being at such a unique and vibrant academic institution was palpable.

As such, when it came time for my first Skoll World Forum, I had high expectations. They were all exceeded. At that forum, I watched John Wood and Paul Farmer speak of their life’s work, and what drives them to build and innovate. These were the humanitarian heroes of my Africa days, and their words made flesh were inspiration beyond inspiration. For every one John Wood who stood on stage, ten more sat in the audience, sharing and extending their knowledge to those who would listen.

My year at Oxford didn’t end with The Skoll World Forum. Other things happened. I learned, and grew, and it was during that year that I met Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, and found a place at his then-small company, working to forge partnerships and connections between Twitter and the world of social good.  I maintain this role to this day.

Throughout my years, The Skoll Foundation has been a landline, a lifeline, and a port in every storm. And for reasons (even) more far-reaching than the overall success of the organization as a whole.

The Skoll Foundation – in my own life and ultimately in the world at large – excels because of the people who bolster it. The unique, high-caliber global community that annually rebuilds itself around this institution – and this forum – cannot and should not be undervalued.

The men and women who sit next to you this week in your panel, plenary, or coffee house chat are potential partners, collaborators and inspirations. Connecting with these individuals is the key to the week in front of you.

If you let them, they will change your life.

Attendees of the Skoll World Forum are invited to join Claire Diaz Ortiz @ClaireD in the Social Media Hub at 4.00pm Thursday for a Tweetup on using social media to accelerate organisations and causes.  Join virtally – #skollwf.