The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting is a potential setting for global change for a more optimistic and resilient future. We will discuss crisis and we will be challenged in finding positive solutions to severe societal problems.

In this work we can find inspiration from an unexpected source – the dandelion.

To most people, the dandelion is nothing more than an annoying weed breaking the image of a perfect lawn and flower beds. But what a lot of people don’t know is that, when cultivated, the dandelion is one of the most resilient, valuable, productive and useful plants in nature.

The term ‘weed’ does not say anything about the virtues of a plant – it just says that the plant is in an unwanted place. The same plant in a wanted place turns into a herb.

The dandelion reminds us that every one of us can decide if we see a herb or a weed.

My autistic son made me a social entrepreneur when I realized that he would not fit into the standard employee model as he lacks the skills to become a good team player, being flexible and emphatic. He would have so much else to offer like great memory, attention to detail and a structured way of working – but he would never be successful in a job interview. As parents we see him as a herb – but society sees him as a weed. We made up our minds that maybe it is not our son that is the problem – maybe it is our society that has been locked into a weed angle toward people who do not fit into the ideal model.

We setup a company where people with autism could be assessed, trained and employed in meaningful and productive jobs (read more).

I am in Davos as a Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur and I will invite every World Economic Forum participant to join us in using the dandelion as a symbol of positive change.

Our goal is to enable one million meaningful and productive jobs. We can realize this goal if you will join us blowing dandelions in Davos and work with us to demonstrate how weeds can be turned into herbs.


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

Specialisterne believes people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have special abilities that uniquely qualify them for certain types of work. The Specialist People Foundation trains people with ASD to work as IT consultants for Specialisterne, a forprofit private IT consulting company. Specialisterne consultants work for clients like Microsoft and Cisco doing tasks such as software testing and data registration.

Image: Dandelions are seen In a meadow near Hanau REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach