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Social entrepreneurship; dare to imagine

This post was written by Felicity McLean (@flickmclean), the communications manager at Ashoka UK. Ashoka are the leading lights in social entrepreneurship. Ireland was the first European country were Ashoka opened an office adding to the fantastic entrerpeneurship  ecosystem in Ireland. Visit them here

In our world of both exponential growth and accelerating innovation, systems of repetition are “doomed to collapse.” We need to make radical changes to the frameworks in which we operate. The world is now an interconnected neural network, where problems are considered shared and where solutions are crowdsourced—we’re no longer living in silos.

This power of connection has begun—and will continue—to reveal what we are capable of. We must work together to redefine what “growth” and “development” really mean.

What will the world look like in 50 years? Dare to imagine…

The Skoll World Forum reconvened for another year across Oxford’s cobbled streets. During the opening plenary, Jeff Skoll, founder and chairman of the Skoll Foundation, Participant Media and the Skoll Global Threats Fund, identified 10 key achievements in social entrepreneurship over the past 10 years—achievements that are a testament to the world’s growing community of changemakers.

10) Technology drives social, and social drives technology. Skoll cited the increase in mobile phone ownership as having implications on society and the ways in which we design solutions to challenges.

9) We now have global government commitments to scaling up social innovation, particularly from leadership in the U.K., Canada and the U.S.

8) Muhammad Yunus (Global Academy Member) and Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below.”

7) Al Gore, Jr. and the IPCC were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize“for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”

6) Deforestation rates are on the decline. Brazil, which was responsible for a third of the world’s carbon emissions, has reduced these by two billion tons—the single greatest reduction in carbon emissions in history.

5) Billions of people now have access to clean water. “The 2015 goal to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water had been met in 2010, five years ahead of schedule,” said Skoll.

4) Social Entrepreneurship has turned mainstream! There are now 40 million people with careers in social entrepreneurship, with more than 200 million volunteers lending a helping hand. Contrast this to 10 years ago, Skoll said, when the leaders of the social entrepreneur movement were “rogue disruptors.” (For more on the evolution of social entrepreneurship over the years, catch Bill Drayton’s conversation with Tim West from Pioneers Post.)

3) Global markets are steadily shifting towards sustainability. The future of business is social. Lourenço Bustani, one of Fast Company’s 100 most creative people in business, has said that “the tipping point was reached in 2012.”

2) We have made significant progress against significant killers.Eight million lives had been saved from HIV and AIDS, parasitic guinea worm disease is set to follow smallpox as the next disease to be completely eradicated, and polio is in line to disappear after that.

1) Fewer people are living in poverty than ever before. Skoll says the “disappearance of poverty is tantalizingly close” with the possibility that we could bring extreme poverty to virtually zero in the next generation. For the first time since poverty rates have been monitored, rates are falling in every region.




One Response to Social entrepreneurship; dare to imagine

  1. Victor Branagan May 30, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    These are indeed interesting times. There is so much opportunity for change and the social entrepreneurs are really blazing a trail for radical evolution. I believe the major factor holding us back now is that the measurement and control mechanisms for organisations are hopelessly out of date.

    The accountancy and law systems which rule the boardrooms are rooted in the old model of individual reward and ownership. Nearly all the really exciting stuff that is happening is about collective action and sharing values. We are connecting better than ever before but it is very difficult to count this and apportion it using the old models.

    Looking at the two big ‘connectivity’ businesses – google and facebook – one has managed to find a pricing mechanism that rewards connectivity the other is still figuring out how to do that.

    Some interesting work is being done on the accountancy side of things by Accounting 4 Sustainability – see and also by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development – see

    So much of what needs to be done for a more sustainable future requires sharing the value between multi-stakeholders. Making the transition to an economic that allows us to share the value of connective activity is a grave strategic challenge which societies face.

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