Social Innovation

Announcing a new network of leaders changing the system together

Hilde Schwab

We need social innovation in every sector – from eco-businesses in the desert to community-based, tech-enabled healthcare. Image: Anthony Collins, World Economic Forum

Hilde Schwab
Chairperson and Co-Founder, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, World Economic Forum Geneva
Francois Bonnici
Director, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship; Head of Foundations, World Economic Forum
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Social Innovation

This article is part of: Sustainable Development Impact Summit

For over 20 years, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship has recognized social entrepreneurs as a new breed of leader – values-driven, inclusive, compassionate, entrepreneurial individuals who develop sustainable new models in business, social development and environmental initiatives. They have been at the forefront of R&D for society and civilization, accelerating how we solve problems and imagining new futures through experimentation, iteration and practice.

In these two decades, we have curated and gathered over 350 leading social entrepreneurs from 70 countries in the Schwab Foundation community and embedded them into the platforms of the World Economic Forum. Together, they have demonstrated significant progress on how we approach environmental sustainability and consumption, health and education, rural development and job training, and finding new ways to advance human rights and equality in different contexts around the world.

However, poverty, inequality and climate change are too large and complex for any single social entrepreneur or institution to tackle alone. It should be recognized that many of these issues are interconnected. The underlying causes also run deep in history, politics and culture, and our best solutions are often constrained by outdated rules and skewed power structures.

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We are seeing that, in order to create real change, dynamic interactions and multi-stakeholder partnerships across ideological divides are critical to making the radical changes that we know we need.

We need social innovation diffused within every sector so we can adopt, adapt, diffuse and scale what this societal R&D has shown to be possible and sustainable – whether it be self-sustaining eco-businesses in the desert, or community-based, tech-enabled healthcare. Those driving the social innovation ecosystem require imagination, compromise, resilience and, above all, committed, courageous innovative people.

Therefore, the Schwab Foundation has expanded its remit to recognize and support an ecosystem of pioneering actors who share a common purpose: to accelerate our progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and move the field of social innovation forward collectively. The Schwab Foundation is proud to honour 40 of these social innovators in 2019.

The 2019 awards

We are excited to bring together the first intersectoral community of social innovators at the World Economic Forum by introducing three new categories, in addition to our Social Entrepreneur awards, as we announce our 2019 awardees:

· Social Entrepreneurs are founders or CEOs who innovatively address a social or environmental problem, with a focus on low-income, marginalized or vulnerable populations.

· Corporate Social Intrapreneurs are leaders within multinational or regional companies who drive the development of new products, initiatives, services or business models that address societal and environmental challenges.

· Public Social Intrapreneurs are government leaders who harness the power of social innovation social entrepreneurship to create public good through policy, regulation or public initiatives.

· Social Innovation Thought Leaders are recognized experts and champions who are shaping and contributing to the evolution of the field.

Citizens, activists and our youth are crying out for strong action, requiring complex changes within governments, business and our research institutions. We have seen this call answered by a committed group of social innovators called intrapreneurs: internal agents of change in large institutions of government and corporations. They use the levers and resources at their disposal for greater change, while striving for the internal changes needed in their institutions to achieve this.

“Public sectors around the world are having to ratchet up their capacity to innovate – opening themselves not just to the creativity of their own staff but also to the creativity of civil society and social innovators as well as tech and business” – Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive, Nesta, Schwab awardee 2019.

Large corporations inspired by the social innovation movement have built their own social business models and subsidiaries, and adopt principles of inclusion and impact into their core business services.

“When you want to develop and scale a business with a strong social impact component, I don’t think there is a better way to do it than from within a larger organization, with the resources and assets necessary to give you the space and time to do it well. That is, of course, if and only if the leadership has the indefectible will and ongoing involvement to make it happen” – Garance Wattez-Richard, Head of AXA Emerging Customers, Schwab awardee 2019.

Schwab awardee Fadi Ghandour back in 2010.
Schwab awardee Fadi Ghandour back in 2010. Image: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

Governments and multilaterals have also recognised the contribution social entrepreneurs can make to more inclusive societies, and are spearheading policies and partnership to allow this to flourish. The significant number of events focused on solutions for the SDGs during the week of the UN General Assembly in New York is a signal of a citizenry, civil society and private sector eager to work with policymakers to advance the Global Goals.


What is the World Economic Forum doing to champion social innovation?

As we gather our new community of change leaders at the Schwab Foundation Annual Summit and the World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Impact Summit over this week, we aim to develop a greater understanding of the strategies for collaborative work, and hope they seize the opportunities to build platforms for greater and more sustained change.

“Societal challenges require solutions from all actors, be they government or individual communities. Social innovation originates from these community actors, or social entrepreneurs, who are directly involved and have a local understanding of these challenges. As such, their innovations are relevant, implementable and effective” – Fadi Ghandour, Executive Chairman, Wamda Capital, Schwab awardee 2019.

Please see the list of the 2019 Awardees here:

Social Entrepreneurs: Jalil Allabadi (Jordan) Chief Executive Officer, Altibbi; Mehrdad Baghai (Australia), Co-Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, High Resolves; Sanjay Bhatnagar (India), Chief Executive Officer, WaterHealth International; Alex Eaton (USA), Chief Executive Officer, Co-Founder,; Mostafa Farahat (Egypt), Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Nafham; Roberta Faria (Brazil) and Rodrigo Pipponzi (Brazil), Co-Founders, Editora Mol; Phillip Goff (USA), Co-Founder and President, Center for Policing Equity; Prema Gopalan (India), Director, Swayam Shikshan Prayog; Lisa McLaughlin (USA), Chief Executive Officer, and Robin McIntosh (USA), Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer, Workit Health; Enyonam Nthabiseng Mosia (South Africa), Co-Founder and Chief Marketing and Customer Experience Officer, Eric Silverman (USA), Co-Founder and Chief Operating officer, and Alexandre Tourre (France), Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Easy Solar; Kennedy Njoroge (Kenya), Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer, Cellulant; Christopher John Ralph Sheldrick (United Kingdom), Chief Executive Officer, what3words; Joseph Thompson (Ireland), Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, AID:Tech; Hla Hla Win (Myanmar), Chief Executive Officer and Founder, 360Ed.

Corporate Social Intrapreneurs: Rob Acker (USA), Chief Executive Officer,; Amar Ali (United Kingdom), Chief Executive Officer, Africa Improved Foods (Royal DSM); Khalil Daoud (Lebanon), Chairman and Managing Director, LibanPost; Salah Goss (USA), Head, Mastercard Labs for Financial Inclusion, Mastercard; Pranav Kothari (India), Vice-President, Large-Scale Education Programmes (LSEP), Educational Initiatives; Harald Nusser (Germany), Head, Novartis Social Business; Garance Wattez-Richard (France), Head, Emerging Customers, AXA.

Public Social Intrapreneurs: Ann Branch (Belgium), Head of Unit, European Commission; Kim In-Sun (South Korea), President, Korea Social Enterprise Promotion Agency; Christophe Itier (France), High Commissioner for a Social and Inclusive Economy and for Social Innovation, Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition of France; Geoff Mulgan (United Kingdom), Chief Executive, Nesta; Maryam Uwais (Nigeria), Special Adviser on Social Investments to the Vice-President, National Social Investment and Welfare Programmes; Jonathan Wong (Thailand), Chief of Technology and Innovation, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).

Social Innovation Thought Leaders: Julie Battilana (France), Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Kennedy School of Government; Marie Lisa M. Dacanay (Philippines), President, Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia (ISEA); Cheryl L. Dorsey (USA), President, Echoing Green; Fadi Ghandour (Jordan and Lebanon), Executive Chairman, Wamda Capital; Filipe Santos (Portugal), Dean, Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics; Peter M. Senge (USA) Senior Lecturer Behavioral and Policy Sciences, MIT-Sloan School of Management; Christian Seelos (Austria), Director, Global Innovation for Impact Lab, Stanford University; Frances Westley (Canada), J.W. McConnell Emeritus Professor of Social Innovation, University of Waterloo.

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