For those who have been working in the field of social entrepreneurship for a decade or more, as we have at the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, 2013 is starting to feel like a watershed year. Don’t get me wrong: we still have enormous hills to climb in changing mindsets, improving enabling environments and correcting market failures. But I think it’s worth pausing for a moment and taking stock of the global trends.
Governments as diverse as the US, Colombia and India have created new agencies with robust mandates to promote social innovation, including direct reporting lines to the president (or the prime minister, in the case of India). Senegal, the United Kingdom and Canada have created national task forces to assess the social innovation policy environment and make recommendations for reform. And with today’s announcement by the Peruvian Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion to launch a task force to promote social innovation, Peru now joins their ranks.
In addition to initiatives at the national level, I am very encouraged to see greater multilateral efforts to advance the social innovation agenda. In June, the G8 will host a social impact investment conference in London to examine, among other things, how impact investing can help developing countries meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). And in early 2014, the European Union is organizing a 1,000+ person summit to promote the EU Social Business Initiative’s programmatic and legislative agenda, which was initially launched in 2011 with the aim of fostering and scaling social enterprises across the EU’s 27 member states.
How are we to interpret the proliferation of policy-making in this area? Personally, I view these various policy experiments underway as data points on a very encouraging trend line. Growing government interest in social innovation represents an opportunity not to be missed. There is a greater openness for cross-sector dialogue and for experimentation with new approaches to serving low-income people than at any time in recent memory.
That is why I am so pleased and proud to announce the launch of the Schwab Foundation’s Policy Guide to Scaling Social Innovation. The product of nearly a year of research, the policy guide presents a framework for credible, realistic policy action that governments can take to turn social entrepreneurship into a major force for innovation, drawing on real-world case studies from 10 countries. The guide also profiles 20 proven social innovation models drawn from the Schwab Foundation network to demonstrate how social enterprises deliver products and services that lead to improved outcomes for poor people, and thus why it is in the overwhelming public interest to encourage the growth of these models through appropriate policy tools.
Policy-makers, public sector leaders, academics, social entrepreneurs and members of the media: I encourage you to read this report, discuss the findings and determine which elements are most relevant for your national conditions. But, most of all, I encourage you to build on the ideas and recommendations in this guide and elevate the social innovation agenda in your country.
Author: Hilde Schwab is Chairperson and Co-Founder of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.
Image: Coffee trees sprout in the southern Brazilian city of Minas. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker