Seventeen social entrepreneurs from around the world at the helm of 13 organizations have been recognized by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship as the 2017 Social Entrepreneurs of the Year.
Social Entrepreneurs leverage the power of market forces and business principles to solve social problems in ways that benefit the marginalized and the poor. Their work is often carried out in areas where government and the private sector are unable to achieve meaningful outcomes and involves considerable creativity.
Among this year’s honourees, for example, is a UK-based organization that uses fingerprinting to help the 1.5 billion people worldwide that currently lack an official ID; a Zambian company that is reducing poaching by helping farmers boost their income by selling higher-value goods, such as peanut butter and honey; and a US-based restaurant chain whose profits support food education for children and the development of vertical farms in cities.
“Many of our 2017 awardees partner with government in a variety of ways,” said Hilde Schwab, Co-Founder and Chairwoman of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, “as service providers, to embed innovative approaches into government-run systems, or, in some cases, even craft new laws, policies or regulations that have a direct nationwide impact.”
The winners of the 2017 Social Entrepreneurs of the Year Award are:
- Vivek Maru and Sonkita Conteh, Namati, Sierra Leone/USA: Trains and supports local paralegals to assist the billions of people worldwide that live outside the protection of the law. Focusing on three main justice challenges – land and environment, access to decent healthcare and citizenship rights – Namati has helped over 54,000 clients in 8 countries.
- Keller Rinaudo, Zipline, Rwanda/USA: Became the first company to use drones to deliver vaccines, medicine and blood transfusions for use in rural Rwanda. Each drone, or “Zip”, flies at 100km/hour, dropping its cargo with a small parachute. Zipline’s partnership with the Rwanda government covers 20 hospitals and health centres.
- Nga Tuyet Trang and Gregory Dajer, Medical Technology Transfer and Services(MTTS), Viet Nam: Radically reduced the cost of life-saving neo-natal devices that otherwise would not be available to people in poorer parts of the world. As of 2016, over 1.3 million babies in Asia and Africa were treated using MTTS devices.
- Yves Moury, Fundación Capital, Colombia/Panama. Helped over 5 million people in 2016 to access financial services and social programmes for long-term asset-building thanks to its pioneering model for facilitating partnerships between governments and financial institutions.
- Eleanor Allen, Water for People, USA: Helped 4 million people across nine countries access water and sanitation services by helping governments build institutions and authorities capable of delivering sustainable services. Through its Everyone Forever, model, the company aims to help 40 million people.
- Kimbal Musk, The Kitchen, USA: Operates a family of businesses that pursues an America where everyone has access to real food. His restaurants source food directly from American farmers, his non-profit builds outdoor Learning Garden classrooms in underserved schools across America. His urban, indoor vertical farming accelerator seeks to empower a new generation of real food entrepreneurs.
- Raj Panjabi, Last Mile Health, Liberia/USA: Pioneered a model to recruit, train, equip and manage community health workers in rural Liberia. In a country where 46% of women report losing a child before the age of five, the company’s partnership with the government mobilized 1,300 health workers to help stop the spread of Ebola. Its new aim is to deploy over 4,000 professionals to reach over 1.2 million Liberians.
- Christopher and David Mikkelsen, REFUNITE, Denmark: Helps refugees locate missing family members and other loved ones via a free and easy-to-use mobile platform. REFUNITE is able to register more than 170,000 refugees per year and has reconnected more than 38,000 family members to date.
- Toby Norman, Simprints, UK. Brings relief to the 1.5 billion people in the world that currently lack an official ID by developing an affordable and secure open-source fingerprint system that is four times cheaper and 228% more accurate than existing biometric tools.
- Dale Lewis, COMACO, Zambia: Helps to reduce poaching by helping farmers improve their livelihoods by accessing higher-value markets for products such as peanut butter, rice and honey. To date, COMACO has registered 140,000 farmers committed to conservation farming practices and wildlife preservation.
- Neichute Doulo, Entrepreneurs Associates, India: Nurtures and supports the growth of first-generation entrepreneurs in the politically turbulent and economically disadvantaged north-eastern region of India.
- Malik Ahmad Jalal and Fayeeza Naqvi, The Aman Foundation, Pakistan: Provides ambulances, health centres and education to fill unmet needs in fast-growing Pakistani cities. Its ambulances attend 100,000 cases a year, 60% of which are road accidents, free of charge. The Aman Foundation also provides vocational skills training programmes for young people in violence-prone areas and, through a partnership with the local Government of Sindh, aims to expand to 450,000 cases a year.
- Carlos Edmar Pereira, Livox, Brazil: Created an app for the millions of people worldwide that struggle to communicate because of disabilities or illness, from strokes to cerebral palsy. The app works by using intelligent algorithms to interpret a user’s finger movements, allowing disabled people to communicate and study.
The 13 organizations – and 17 individuals – that are honoured in 2017 will become part of the broader Schwab Foundation community of Social Entrepreneurs, which includes more than 320 outstanding social entrepreneurs from around the world. These leaders are fully integrated into the World Economic Forum’s events and initiatives aimed at generating solutions for a wide spectrum of global challenges:
Honourees were selected by the board of the Schwab Foundation, which includes David Gergen, Director, Centre for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; Johanna Mair, Professor of Organization, Strategy and Leadership, Hertie School of Governance; Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children; and H.M. Queen Mathilde of Belgium, Honorary Board Member, in recognition of their innovative approaches and potential for global impact.
Originally published March 29, 2017