Architects of Resilient Dynamism? Why Davos Should Listen to Social Entrepreneurs
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Today, one day before the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting commences here in the secluded Swiss mountain town of Davos, 29 selected social entrepreneurs are already meeting to imagine what the social enterprise sector will look like in 2030 before mingling during the rest of the week with over 2,500 other participants. The inclusion of social entrepreneurs as a unique WEF “community” is a relatively recent development, as they were not formally included until the WEF founded a new organization in 1998 — the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. Since then, there has been increasingly more integration of selected social entrepreneursinto the Annual Meeting sessions. But why is it important to include social entrepreneurs at Davos? What do they add that others cannot?
Social entrepreneurs bring scalable solutions to today’s greatest challenges — some of which have been highlighted by the WEF Global Risks Report as the most likely and impact-loaded over the next 10 years. Five of the most likely risks — namely, severe income disparity, chronic fiscal imbalances, rising greenhouse gas emissions, water supply crises, and mismanagement of population aging — are in everyone’s interests to be resolved. Unfortunately, other stakeholders such as businesses and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are limited in their ability to address them. Traditional NGOs are financially limited by the amount of grant capital available, and can be subject to vast losses of funding overnight through governmental budget cuts. Businesses on the other hand usually have access to capital, although they’re constrained by their responsibility to act in the interest of their shareholders; and often it isn’t even a business’ core competency to solve societal problems. Thus, one could argue that social enterprises have a competitive edge over businesses and NGOs. Their focus on finding scalable solutions to societal problems form a unique business modeling perspective. Some NGOs, such as the World Wildlife Foundation, have managed to upscale their organization by developing an umbrella of locally driven, but globally interlinked branches. This year the WEF labels the social entrepreneurs as the “Architects of Resilient Dynamism.”