Davos07: Social entrepreneurship

One of the great things to see at Davos was the collection of social entrepreneurs there. I didn’t get to meet enough of them or blog about them; a regret. But Nick Kristof writes about them today (sadly, of course, behind the pay wall).

. . . .But perhaps the most remarkable people to attend aren’t the world leaders or other bigwigs.

Rather, they are the social entrepreneurs. Davos, which has always been uncanny in peeking just ahead of the curve to reflect the zeitgeist of the moment, swarmed with them. . . .

“The key with social entrepreneurs is their pragmatic approach,” said Pamela Hartigan of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, which is affiliated with the World Economic Forum. “They’re not out there with protest banners; they’re actually developing concrete solutions.”

When I travel around the world, I’m blown away by how these people are transforming lives. A growing number of the best and brightest university graduates in the U.S. and abroad are

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  • The World Economic Forum at Davos is not exactly the spiritual center of the social entrepreneurial movement, conventional wisdom notwithstanding. I first wrote about the concept of social enterprise in 1977 (that’s not a misprint), which has been a continuing part of my venture capital activity for more than three decades. Mr. Kristof’s observation about Davos being “ahead of the curve” on this point is therefore somewhat amusing, though I am sure well intentioned.

    Davos attracts only a tiny portion of this amazingly transformative force in the world. Most are too busy or too modest to contemplate a trip up the mountain and would, in any event, feel repulsed, as many others do, by this annual display of overreaching ego and power. Davos has essentially become the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) of CEOs.

    That’s not where self-respecting social entrepreneurs want to be.

    J. Richard Finlay

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  • It’s interesting see the growth in the field. The advent of technology is perhaps the biggest factor and collaborative programs like wikis its biggest asset. The real question then is when will a social conscious become profitable in mainstream business or has it already?


  • J. Richard certainly has a point.

    Davos is certainly not a place where ‘self-respecting social entrepreneurs want to be’.

    But it is a place where a number of us feel we SHOULD be, and where we NEED to be.

    Structural and systemic change will be effected not only by exceptional work at the coal face of social enterprise. It also requires engagement with influential and powerful people and institutions whose norms, practices and policies make social enterprise a necessary counterpoint to the status quo.

    Mr. Finlay perhaps underestimates the commitment, competence, integrity and passion of those who do make the trip up the mountain as Social Entrepreneurs to beard the lion in his den. Rather than being in environments where they can bask in back-patting by the like-minded, they do in fact engage in moral suasion through practical means.

    There is not one captain of industry or head of state ad Davos whose approval I cherish. Conversely there is not one of the Schwab Foundation social entrepreneurs whose support and affection has not moved me and strengthened my resolve. Indeed there are countless other social entrepreneurs, many truly spectacular. But those who do work at Davos to advance social equity are special, brave and important, and should not be dismissed but supported.

    Richard Jefferson;
    (self-respecting and not wanting to be there. But choosing to nonetheless. http://www.bios.net)

  • You might be interested in this blog item about David Galenson, Michael Young, and Mohammad Yunus:

    All the best,

    Colin Stewart
    ArtsofInnovation blog