The Annual Meeting in Davos opened many doors for me, but above all it inspired me.

My focus during the four-day meeting was to establish contacts with potential partners and investors in Lumni’s student funds. When the meeting ended, I asked myself a simple question: Who were the three people I learned from the most? After some thought, I noticed that my top three people were Social Entrepreneurs from the Schwab Foundation:

Thulasijar Ravilla, Aravind Eye Care System, India: Thulasijar leads Aravind, an eye care system created in the 1960s by a doctor frustrated with the lack of adequate eye care for the poorest people of India. With a background in operations, Thulasijar joined the Aravind team in its early years and helped revolutionize the industry, dramatically reducing the cost of products and services and scaling a sustainable system across India and abroad. In an era where we want instant results, Thulasijar, a soft spoken and gentle leader, is an inspiring example for those of us whose vision is to scale innovative ideas with the potential to transform society.

Anna Meloto-Wilk, Human Nature, Philippines: Anna’s company’s mission says it all: “Human Nature is, above all, a passionate social enterprise. We are driven by love for the Philippines, the poor and the environment and loving our families as we provide personal care products that feel as good on your skin as they do in your heart”. Anna is a young woman who has more common sense and determination than most experienced business people that I have met. She made me think of a Filipino Henry Ford who is deeply connected with her employees and ready to work with them and make sure that they do better so that their progress makes the company fulfil its mission. Anna’s story teaches us that if you have deep values and inspiration, you have already done more than half of your job.

Thorkil Sonne, Specialist People Foundation, Denmark: When I met Thorkil, he showed a picture of him and his son, a “very cool kid”, in his own words. He then explained that his little one was born with autism. Thorkil says that his own focus has been on changing the perception of human capital to include huge untapped skilled resources of individuals like his son. He is a man on a mission: he wants to help create 1 million jobs for individuals with differentiated skills such as young people with autism. When you talk to Thorkil, you see the face of his son in his own face. He is working to make sure that we forget a bit our own selves and empower others.

Most individuals who decide to take action are normal people who were challenged and also inspired by life. I hope many young people in the world, no matter how challenging their situations (or because of them), decide to take action to transform their lives and the lives of others. Committed individuals are the most important force of change in the world.

 

Author: Felipe Vergara, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Lumni, Peru; Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Latin America, 2011

Lumni is the first organization to successfully bring to market the concept of human capital contracts. Whereas traditional student loans require students to pay back the full loan plus interest payments and fees, human capital contracts only require graduates to pay back a percentage of their income after graduation for a fixed period of time. In Lumni‟s case, the income differential of graduates generally exceeds the initial investment, creating a win-win for investors and students alike.

Photo Credit: World Economic Forum