Pamela Hartigan, director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, died at her home in France last week after a battle with cancer. She was 68. Hartigan had served as head of the center, located at the University of Oxford’s Said Business School, since 2009. She is survived by her husband and two children.
Hartigan’s previous career stops include being a founding partner of Volans Ventures, a London, U.K.-based commercial social-service organization, and as founding managing director at Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
Hartigan, often lectured at graduate business schools in the United States, Europe and Asia and served adjunct professorships at Columbia Business School in New York City and the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. She co-authored the book The Power of Unreasonable People: How Entrepreneurs Create Markets to Change the World, which was published by Harvard Business Press in 2008.
John Elkington, chairman and chief pollinator at Volans, described Hartigan as both elegant and electrifying — capable of connecting with society’s elite and harder realities such as water scarcity and human rights abuses — a “living bridge between two worlds.”
“Like all extraordinary, and unreasonable people, she was passionately challenging, but widely admired for being so, and loved; among her younger students, often adored,” Elkington said via an email. “None of this went to her head and we have now lost one of the greats in our field.”
Sally Osberg, president and CEO of Skoll Foundation in Palo Alto, Calif., said she first met Hartigan 15 years ago when Hartigan was starting at Schwab and Osberg was beginning her tenure at Skoll. They bonded, she said, over a shared belief in social entrepreneurship building a better world.
Hartigan joined Skoll eight years later to lead the center while it was still in its earliest stages.
“The center was five years old and it — you know — the foundation had been laid, but what was really needed was the focus and the entrepreneurial perspective and the practical experience working with social entrepreneurs to drive it to the next level,” Osberg said. “Pamela took it to that level and way beyond it. I think she really found her greatest joy in working with the students.”
Hartigan became increasingly convinced during her career that the market and business could be used to influence society in a positive way, Osberg said. The notion that social entrepreneurship does not have to be limited to the nonprofit sector, but could be broadened, was an important contribution, she said.
“Pamela was impatient to see the world change and change for the better and I think that that impatience only grew stronger as she herself grew,” said Osberg. “And when her grandchildren were born a few years ago, I think that she saw an opportunity to make the world right so that they would grow up in the world that she envisioned for them.”