When Klaus Schwab and I created the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship back in 2000, no one knew what social entrepreneurs were. They were uncommon and unsung heroes in their respective countries and communities, working in relative obscurity to test out new approaches to tackle profound market failures. When they came to Davos, few participants attended the session ‘Meet the Social Entrepreneurs’. Their voices – and the voices of the bottom billion of humanity, the poor people they serve – were often not heard.
How much the world has changed! Today everyone wants to be a social entrepreneur – including 40% of young people under 30 years of age known as the ‘Global Shapers’ community engaged by the World Economic Forum! Schwab Foundation social entrepreneurs are approached by participants at the World Economic Forum global and regional summits, and they have private meetings scheduled with Ministers and CEOs of major multinational companies. And rather than the social entrepreneurs going to the CEOs for business advice, in Davos this past year it was the other way around. Schwab Foundation social entrepreneurs lent their expertise to corporate executives on how their companies can create positive social impact up and down their supply chains.
Clearly, there is a shift of consciousness underway – and social entrepreneurs are leading the charge. It therefore gives me great pleasure to announce the 2012 awardees of the Schwab Foundation. The 26 outstanding social entrepreneurs we have selected into the Schwab Foundation community in 2012 have created organizations that work in very diverse fields, for instance increasing the agricultural productivity of poor farmers in Myanmar, building village-level hydro power plants in Indonesia, providing unemployed youth in the Middle East with skills training and job placements.
Download the short profiles of all the 2012 awardees and engage in supporting their work. If you are active in social media, retweet the award announcement. If you are a journalist, tell their story. If you are in the private sector, reflect on whether you can bring core strategic assets of your business to bear on increasing their impact. Only by working much smarter, faster – and most importantly, together – will we solve the urgent social and environmental challenges of our time. Perhaps a decade from now we will have succeeded in mainstreaming social entrepreneurship in the public consciousness such that we will all be social entrepreneurs!