I am participating in the Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin as one of the new Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurs – my first experience with the World Economic Forum.

When I left Denmark, my expectation was to learn about the Forum and how I can use this platform in the efforts by my organization, Specialist People Foundation, to create 1 million jobs globally for people with autism and similar challenges.

When reflecting on my expectation and my experiences at the Meeting, I realize how important the platform provided by the Forum can be for a social entrepreneur like me.

I learned that, through the Forum, you can be lucky and meet people and organizations that can challenge your strategy and open doors to other routes towards your goal. The amount of know-how combined from the Social Entrepreneurs, Young Global Leaders and Global Shapers is phenomenal. And when you add the Young Scientists, Technology Pioneers and Global Growth Companies, you get an explosive source of innovation and scalability of global proportion.

It is obvious from speeches at the Meeting that the world needs new business models for growth. World leaders addressed the need for environmental solutions, socially inclusive results and sustainable models for doing business.

The world is experiencing a “burning platform”, with financial crises, high unemployment and huge environmental challenges.

Despite these challenges, I leave the Meeting with optimism that the world is full of great technological and social innovators who are clearly aware of the challenges and thrive on developing new, scalable solutions which, through new business models, can make a change locally and globally.

I shook hands with prime ministers, had meetings with top business people and state representatives, shared experiences in workshops and corridors with fellow social entrepreneurs, and learned from presentations from thought leaders.

I am bringing concrete next steps with me when I return to Denmark and I am ready to follow up on them next week already. However, I think I will need some time to digest the cultural splendour of Tianjin, as this was my first trip ever to China.

I hope to be back next year and to work with my existing contacts and with the next new “kids on the block” in making a better world.


Author: Thorkil Sonne, Founder and Chairman, Specialist People Foundation, Denmark; Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2012 

Specialisterne provides a neglected population with job opportunities that capitalize on the unique characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder. The Specialist People Foundation trains people with autism to work as IT consultants for Specialisterne, a for-profit, private IT consulting company.