Earlier this month, I was among those honored as a Champion at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of the New Champions. Held every September in China, the Meeting features members of the Forum's Future-Based Communities, including Young Global Leaders, Global Shapers, Technology Pioneers, and Social Entrepreneurs. I went as one of the winners of the Schwab Foundation's Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Attending this amazing, three-day event gave me a deeper appreciation of The World Economic Forum (WEF) as a unique institution. It's essentially the highest-level informal gathering in the world of leaders from diverse disciplines and sectors. Klaus Schwab, the Forum's visionary founder, wanted to bring together leaders that traditionally operated in separate silos, giving them the framework and freedom to discuss and create solutions to the world's most pressing challenges.
At this year's meeting, those challenges included everything from food and water security, to energy and climate change, to education and healthcare reform, to strengthening the Circular Economy. Experts in each of these areas gathered to discuss new developments and innovative solutions. Klaus Schwab spoke at the event of the "new spirit" necessary for our new world, and key to that spirit is the blurring of boundaries between fields.
A Value System for the New Spirit
To see the range, talent, and vision of these innovators was exhilarating and humbling. While meeting and listening to them, I asked myself: How can social entrepreneurship add more value across the different sectors?
The best answer I encountered came from Paul Paulman, CEO of Unilever, when he addressed the New Champions Plenary:
"Social Entrepreneurs are role models, not only for young entrepreneurs, but, more importantly, for businesses like us. We can't address in our business model many important societal issues if we don't link up firmly with the creativity and passion and purpose-driven models of social entrepreneurs."
He added: "You're role models for many more people than you can imagine."
This struck a chord.
Our commitment to bold new ideas to solve complex social problems generate not only new business and development models, but a new awareness in those around us. We lead by example with the way we approach problems and, more fundamentally, with the values we're committed to.
These shared values - compassion, creativity, team work, and our commitment to transformative impact over material gain - are what make us more than just a bunch of individual founders. They make us a movement.
And these values are central to the new spirit Klaus Schwab invoked.
Ask More of Us
A growing network of leaders from different sectors is turning to social entrepreneurs for ideas, inspiration and guidance. They see that we have an essential role to play. Yet, leaving China, I couldn't help but think this role could be even greater.
Social entrepreneurs have demonstrated, again and again, that our ideas have the power to change patterns in a rapidly evolving society. The more opportunities we have to share and act on our ideas and values, the more impact we'll generate together.
This means giving social entrepreneurship an even larger role on the biggest stage. Greater change will come of it.