Hilde Schwab, Chair and Co-Founder, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship
Too often, however, especially in those early years, they worked in relative obscurity in their home countries. Often they had trouble accessing high-level decision-makers who could help them scale their efforts, and they were frequently misunderstood by the press and the general public, who viewed them as traditional charities.
To change this, the Schwab Foundation worked with media companies and with search and selection partners in nearly 40 countries, holding annual “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” competitions to raise awareness about the concept of social entrepreneurship and, for the winners, providing unparalleled visibility and recognition among all participants of World Economic Forum events. We currently have nearly 250 social enterprises from 60 countries in the Schwab Foundation community, working on everything from renewable energy and sanitation to job training and access to higher education.
Today the situation is entirely different. Social innovation is rising to the top of the international agenda. The diffusion of proven models and policy experimentation across the globe is accelerating. The World Economic Forum and the Schwab Foundation are regularly contacted by governments and large corporations that want to learn from the social enterprise models in our network and to understand what policy environments and partnership structures are most conducive to lasting success.
That is precisely why this guide is so timely. I can attest from countless personal conversations that there is tremendous global interest among policy-makers at the highest levels to better understand social innovation and how it can be nurtured from a policy perspective. This guide aims to answer both of these questions.
While this guide presents a broad set of policy tools for governments to consider as their circumstances dictate, social innovation is fundamentally about changing our value systems and our mindsets. No single sector of society has the ability to solve today’s complex, urgent challenges, which is why the multistakeholder collaboration that has been at the heart of the World Economic Forum’s mission for over 40 years is needed more than ever.
All citizens – especially the younger generation – need to feel empowered and incentivized to apply their talents and creativity to generate more inclusive, sustainable growth. Governments alone cannot solve social problems, nor can the private sector, despite their respective resources and capabilities. But we can all collaborate to identify, nurture and scale models that have the greatest promise to transform opportunities and livelihoods for billions of impoverished or vulnerable human beings.
I hope that you will join us in this transformation.
Chair and Co-Founder,
Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship