• The World Economic Forum is launching UpLink, an open platform to scale up bright ideas the world needs, created with Salesforce, Deloitte and LinkedIn.
  • The platform will forge new approaches to address the world’s most pressing challenges set out in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
  • UpLink will connect the next generation of change-makers and social entrepreneurs to networks of leaders with the resources, expertise and experience to create an impact.

The challenges facing the world are overwhelming, from the climate crisis to stubborn rates of poverty, inequality and ill health.

But what if we could tap into the network effect to unite the world's brightest problem-solvers with the clout of the World Economic Forum's community?

UpLink is an ambitious new crowd-engagement platform, open to anyone, which aims to speed up the delivery of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Davos 2020: UpLink unveiled

Once it's live, UpLink will connect the next generation of change-makers and social entrepreneurs to networks of contacts that have the resources, expertise and experience to help bring about change.

The platform was officially unveiled at the World Economic Forum's 50th Annual Meeting in January.

"Initiatives shouldn't just come from enlightened business leaders or governments. We have to engage people," said the Forum's Founder and Executive Chairman Professor Klaus Schwab.

"They have ideas. We have to give them the means to translate their ideas into action."

Fatima Azzahra El Azzouzi, an engineer who has worked on UpLink, explained how the platform aims to be inclusive and accessible.

The site allows users to identify challenges linked to the SDGs and submit ideas on how to tackle them. The best ideas are curated by the Forum.

Action groups then gather around the submitted idea to discuss how to support it and scale it up.

To get started, all you need is an email address or a phone number, while LinkedIn users can sign in immediately.

Minding the network gap

Speaking at Davos, Allen Blue, Co-Founder of LinkedIn said UpLink promises to fill what he called 'the network gap', by providing resources and connections to entrepreneurs working on the most important crises facing the planet.

"Some people have these strong networks, and some people do not."

Melati Wijsen, the 19-year-old co-founder of Bye Bye Plastic Bags, said the platform would allow young change-makers to have their ideas taken seriously: "We don't look at [today's challenges] as a burden, we look at them as an opportunity.

"We need a space like this to connect the dots. Suddenly solutions seem so much closer to our fingertips."


What is the World Economic Forum doing about plastic pollution?

More than 90% of plastic is never recycled, and a whopping 8 million metric tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans annually. At this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.

The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) is a collaboration between businesses, international donors, national and local governments, community groups and world-class experts seeking meaningful actions to beat plastic pollution.

In Ghana, for example, GPAP is working with technology giant SAP to create a group of more than 2,000 waste pickers and measuring the quantities and types of plastic that they collect. This data is then analysed alongside the prices that are paid throughout the value chain by buyers in Ghana and internationally.

It aims to show how businesses, communities and governments can redesign the global “take-make-dispose” economy as a circular one in which products and materials are redesigned, recovered and reused to reduce environmental impacts.

Read more in our impact story.

Early adopter

Badr Idrissi, Co-Founder and CEO of ATLAN Space, is one of the first UpLink users and wants to use the platform to scale up his work using drones to detect illegal fishing.

He said accessing funding and speaking to governments are really challenging for start-ups. But UpLink will provide support and help him apply his technology to other SDGs.

There's a lot of money going on NGOs for pilots, but there's no mechanism to scale them up, he said.

17 SDGs

There are 17 SDGs, covering everything from eradicating hunger and poverty to securing gender equality and safeguarding the environment.

Even if you feel strongly about helping the world work towards these goals, you might be forgiven for wondering if one person’s contribution could be enough.

UN sustainable development goals
The 17 SDGs include affordable and clean energy and decent work.
Image: United Nations

This is even more true if you are young or from a demographic typically underrepresented on the global stage.

But finding a network of like-minded people, perhaps with different skills and capabilities, while gaining access to powerful organizations could be the key to scaling up and creating real impact.

Speaking at Davos, Marc Benioff, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Salesforce, said: "Capitalism as I knew it is dead. There is a new capitalism, stakeholder capitalism: a fairer and more equitable capitalism. That's why I'm so excited about UpLink."

"Business has a dual role in society. It has to be a force for good," said Punit Renjen, Global Chief Executive Officer of Deloitte.

"We believe UpLink has the potential to get the community together to address the critical opportunities for this generation and the next generation. We're all in."