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5 ways social innovators are leading the reskilling revolution

Enuma creates learning apps for all children, including those with special needs

Enuma creates learning apps for all children, including those with special needs Image: Enuma

Pavitra Raja
Community Lead, CEO Action Group On Nature Pillar, World Economic Forum
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Future of Work

This article is part of: The Jobs Reset Summit
  • Social entrepreneurs are at the forefront of reskilling those who need it most to prepare them for the jobs of the future.
  • Here are 5 ways in which social innovators are leading the reskilling revolution around the world.

Social entrepreneurs are using their ingenuity to equip people today for the jobs of tomorrow. The Schwab Foundation For Social Entrepreneurship community has already made an impact on the lives of 622 million people in more than 190 countries, distributed $6.7 billion in loans or value of products and services to improve livelihoods, and improved education for more than 226 million children and youth.

Here are five innovative ways in which the Schwab Foundation's social entrepreneurs are leading the reskilling revolution:

1. Leaving no one behind

Women make up over two-thirds of the world's 796 million illiterate people, and many of them live in rural areas. In the reskilling revolution, we need to ensure that we leave no one behind.

Barefoot College International, based in India, has demonstrated that illiteracy is not a barrier to poor communities developing themselves. The college disseminates sophisticated technologies to men and women who can barely read and write and trains them to become skilled professionals.


Meagan Fallone, the college's CEO and director, has made a commitment to leveraging the 'barefoot approach', which involves implementing simple, radical and futuristic ideas, approaches or methods to sustainable development where the rural poor can respect and own their projects – whether building their own water pump or solar panels. The goal is to empower them to meet their community’s needs and address the pressing challenges of economic inequality, human rights and climate change at a global scale. “Inequality is not about who has more; it’s about my ability to reach my aspirations, whatever they are, with the same lack of resistance along the way,” Fallone says.

2. Fostering equitable education systems

Education is and will remain critical for promoting inclusive economic growth and providing a future of opportunity for all. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries.

First Book, a non-profit social enterprise, uses market forces to address the systemic barriers to quality education for children in need. First Book provides access to new books and resources for kids who need them most, helping fuel a love of reading and learning. Every $3 donated pays for one new book (including the cost of shipping) to a child in need.


For families with children who have special needs, such as children with medical conditions or developmental disabilities, disruptions caused by the pandemic are amplified.

Enuma is a mission-driven company that creates exceptional learning apps to enable all children, including children with special needs, to become independent learners. Co-founded by Sooinn and Gunho Lee, a game-developer couple inspired by their child who was born with special needs, Enuma’s approach to product design innovatively combines universal design for learning principles, best practices in commercial game design, Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and educational research to build the best-quality digital learning products for children.

Enuma’s products have been downloaded more than 8 million times worldwide.

Have you read?

3. Empowering young women for the jobs of tomorrow

The IMF projects that 11% of jobs currently held by women are at risk of elimination as a result of digital technologies – a higher percentage than for jobs held by men. Though STEM experts may be at a distinct advantage in tomorrow’s workforce, most of them are men.

Africa Teen Geeks is fixing that problem. As Africa's largest computer science education non-profit organisation, Africa Teen Geeks teaches children and unemployed youth how to code in the townships of South Africa, reaching over 48,000 children and recruiting 1,300 volunteers. They make use of an artificial intelligence-based learning platform MsZora, developed for STEM subjects and easily accessible to students regardless of their socio-economic circumstances.

Lindiwe Matlali, Africa Teen Geeks' CEO and Founder, focuses on inspiring girls from disadvantaged areas to dream big and realise their full potential. Her organisation gets girls excited about careers in STEM by demystifying the industry, showing them the many opportunities that exist, and building confidence in their skills through their Girl Geek programme. “With more widespread, equal access to computer science, and female mentors and role models in STEM, we believe we can drastically change these numbers,” she says.

What skills are most useful for tomorrow's workers?
What skills are most useful for tomorrow's workers? Image: World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report 2020

4. Creating accessible upskilling opportunities for all

As the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution create new pressures on labour markets, reskilling initiatives will be key to ensuring both that individuals have access to economic opportunity by remaining competitive in the new world of work, and that businesses have access to the talent they need for the jobs of the future.

However, in countries like Mexico, a significant digital divide prevents many workers from realizing their full potential. Approximately 70% of the Mexican population does not have access to computers or the internet, and so is excluded from the information society and relevant global trends.

In light of this issue, Mois Cherem founded Enova in 2012. Enova is the largest blended learning company in Latin America, that develops technologies, courses and pedagogical models that enable students from diverse profiles to learn the skills they need to succeed in the information economy.

After 10 years of operation, Enova has enrolled 2 million students in the centres that it operates (the facilities are owned by the public sector). Each month, 45,000 students learn subjects such as computer literacy, robotics, English and entrepreneurship.


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

5. Empowering the leaders of tomorrow

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that we need business leaders who will go beyond dealing with the familiar aspects of their business. They will also have to cope with the most fundamental of issues, such as equity, health, wellbeing, safety and financial viability.

In order to equip the youth of today to become leaders capable of dealing with such fundamental issues, we need a critical mass of global citizens and leaders who can act in the long-term, collective interest of humanity. Founded by Mehrdad Baghai and his wife Roya Baghai, High Resolves has developed and refined an award-winning, comprehensive citizenship curriculum that is rooted in cutting-edge learning science and more than 14 years’ experience in the field. The curriculum includes professionally delivered and film-based immersive experiences, a library of over 80 teaching resources and real-world application exercises.

Do you know someone who could become a Schwab Foundation Social Innovator 2021? The nominations for the 2021 Social Innovator Awards are now open. You can find more information here.

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