Meet a Sandboxer: Robyn ScottJanuary 11th, 2011 by Antoine Verdon
Sandboxer Robyn Scott is a writer and a social entrepreneur. She’s currently launching her second start-up, OneLeap (to help solve the problem of a world full of people with great ideas and talent who, because they are outsiders, lack the connections they deserve) and finishing her second book, Big Like Coca-Cola, about prisoners who’ve adopted AIDS orphans. She grew up in Botswana, lives mostly in London and is a British, South African and New Zealand citizen. Find Robyn on Twitter and Facebook.
1. Tell us the story of your latest project / occupation.
OneLeap is an online platform which enables talented people with good ideas – whatever their background and connections – to get a short message directly in front of decision-makers: employers, investors, clients, advisers. Users pay a demand-based fee to send a message to the person they want to reach. The fee signals their seriousness. If they don’t receive a reply in 10 days, they get a full refund. If they get a reply, 80% of the fee goes to charity, split equally between the sender’s and recipient’s charity. Our mission is to democratise access. At the same time – also related to the problem of outsiders, but at the extreme end of the spectrum – I’m writing the extraordinary true story of a group of maximum security prisoners in South Africa (most murderers) who’ve adopted AIDS orphans – a programme that has profoundly changed the lives of both.
2. What are you doing and how did you get there?
Energetic opportunism – an approach to life unavoidably instilled by my eccentric childhood. I was home-schooled in the Botswana bush, where my father was a flying doctor, and our first house was a converted cowshed. Not going to school until 14 gives you a lot of time to develop a love of starting your own things – and making sure these offer lots of variety. Living in a successful African democracy and witnessing the devastating impact of AIDS also gave me both an optimistic approach to global development challenges and a passion for global health. I wrote a memoir, Twenty Chickens for a Saddle, about my family’s time in Botswana set against the AIDS epidemic and used proceeds from this to seed-fund Mothers for All, a social business that teaches income generation and entrepreneurship skills to the caregivers of AIDS orphans. The organisation, which is now almost self-sustaining, supports hundreds of orphans and their caregivers. I also work as an Ambassador for the Access to Medicine Index.
3. Tell us about the biggest successes and failures in your life. What worked, what didn’t, and what did you learn?
Successes: Invariably, on reflection, those ideas and projects I began with the nagging feeling that they were impossible. When someone suggested I write my first book, I thought I had no story to write – and moreover didn’t even know how to write the story that wasn’t. My classmates thought I was crazy to stop my job and attempt the book – mainly for the sake of at least knocking on every opportunity’s door.
My biggest failure, which I’m still guilty of daily, is spending way too much time focusing on trivial pleasures or trivial problems. Sometimes I feel so ashamed of myself when I look back on my life so far and imagine what else I might have done that really mattered, had I had enough perspective to ignore the consuming transient distractions that create nothing of lasting good. It’s a horrible feeling, but a good impetus to improve.
4. What do you want to achieve in a) the next week, b) the next year, c) the next 10 years?
a) Get Hour for Good off the ground. Watch a short video on http://www.youtube.com/thedavosquestion (search for “hour”). If you like it, please vote too and help me pitch the idea at Davos.
b) Build OneLeap into a successful business, double the size of Mothers for All, finish my second book.
c) Something that makes the world better and that surprises me. Sounds trite, but that’s as much as my crystal ball allows. If I don’t surprise myself with what I end up doing over ten years, I’d be pretty worried, given how rapidly the world and its problems are changing.
5. What was your most inspiring moment during the last two weeks?
Reading about how charity funding is drying up due to government austerity measures, which is inspiring in the mobilising sense; in terms of the challenge it presents. It is a critical time for businesses and individuals to help fill the gap left by the state, particularly through integrated (give while you live and work) approaches.
6. How could other Sandboxers and the outside world support you and why would that be exciting for them.
Sign up to OneLeap and help us make connections smarter, faster, and fairer. Tell people about Mothers for All or buy our recycled paper bead jewellery. OneLeap is a fantastic way to access, and be accessible to, amazing talent and opportunities, from anywhere in the world – all while helping your favourite charity. Mothers for All’s products are beautiful, environmentally friendly and every one bought helps build a self-sustaining organisation that is changing forever the lives of orphans and the incredible people who care for them. Also, I’m always thrilled to discuss collaborations and get ideas and feedback on my projects, especially from the perspective of different disciplines and cultures (one of the great joys of Sandbox!)
-Book: History of Western Philosophy (Bertrand Russell)
-Movie: The Secret in Their Eyes
-place on earth: Wherever I am
-travel destination during last year: The Alps
-Quote: Ah! Choosing a favourite quote is like choosing one vitamin – you need all types! But I guess much flows from this one, from Socrates:
An unexamined life is not worth living