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mindful innovation in oxford

Mindful Innovation in Oxford

The mind has always been key to Oxford’s successes, and it’s not just the university where this comes into focus.

Oxford is the birthplace of both Mensa and Oxfam, two pioneering companies that have had a huge impact on the way Britain thinks.

Mensa was formed in 1946 in Oxford by Roland Berril and Lancelot Lionel Ware, who decided that there should be a society for people with high lQs — a place where people from all backgrounds and educational levels could meet to discuss ideas. The name “Mensa” (meaning table) was chosen, and a new organisation started.

The official stated purposes of Mensa are:

  • to identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity;
  • to encourage research in the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence;
  • to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members.
The first two aims are met through activities such as the awarding of scholarships, and the gifted children programme and a 'stimulating intellectual and social environment' is available to all who want it through the many weekly, monthly, yearly and sporadic activities organised by local and national members.

Oxfam began as the national Famine Relief Committee and was set up in May 1942 to provide relief for the people of Greece who were blockaded by the Nazis during World War II.

Famine Relief tried to persuade the British government to allow essential supplies through the blockade, and they raised funds for war refugees and displaced people across Europe.

The Oxford Committee for Famine Relief met for the first time on the 5th October 1942. Among its founding members were Canon T R Milford of the University Church and Professor Gilbert Murray, a member of the national committee and former Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford.

Many of the Relief Committees ended after the war, but the Oxford Committee saw a continuing need and enlarged its objectives to include ‘the relief of suffering in consequence of the war’. Activity then centred on the provision of food parcels and clothing to Europe.

From 1948 grants were made to projects in Europe and elsewhere and in 1949 the committee’s objectives were again broadened to ‘the relief of suffering arising as a result of wars or of other causes in any part of the world.’ The committee gradually became known by its abbreviated telegraph address, Oxfam (this name was formally adopted in 1965).

Oxfam continued to work throughout the remainder of the 20th century to provide relief overseas to those who needed it most and today it continues to offer pioneering support in some of the world’s poorest countries.


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