world economic forum: India is one of the most incredible sources of ideas and new ways of developing sustainable businesses: François Bonnici, WEF

Indian models of social entrepreneurship are in many ways unique and inspirational and ahead of many other places in the world and that’s something to be globally celebrated, François Bonnici, Director of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and Head of Social Innovation at the World Economic Forum ET told ahead of the Catalysing Change Week.

The week which will take place from May 9 to May 12 is being facilitated by Catalyst2030, a global collective of social entrepreneurs and innovators who have come together to accelerate the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The theme is “Let’s Re-Energise the SDGs” that is built around three catalysing themes – amplify, accelerate and action. It will bring together social entrepreneurs, representatives from the private sector, governments, funders and others involved in systems change.

Bonnici said that there’s a clear recognition and a growing momentum that social entrepreneurship has now come to a point where there is a need to mainstream the models. He added that this comes with the backdrop of businesses around the world also recognising that they have an active role in sustainable development.

“There’s huge transitions about caught digital said and green,” he said. “But in the process of that, there’s a real risk that people are left even further behind. And I think this is true in India and around the world. And so a recognition that social entrepreneurs play a really important role in building these inclusive models .”

He said that aside from this recognition, questions surrounding how the sector can be strengthened as well as assessing the contribution of the sector to both business and governments, agendas and goals and how it can influence and change how businesses operate will be the broad themes that will also be delved into during the course of the Catalysing Change Week.

Catalyst 2030, India has about 170 social as members from different sectors and entrepreneurs have played an important role through Covid especially collaborating with various state governments and corporates to roll out relief and services during a trying time.

“India is one of the most incredible sources of ideas and new ways of developing sustainable businesses,” Bonnici said. “That has really spread around the world. Indian models of social entrepreneurship are in many ways unique and inspirational and ahead of many other places in the world and that’s something to be celebrated globally, not just nationally.”

Neelam Chhiber, board member of Catalyst 2030 went on to say that the social entrepreneurship sector became more formal in India from 2005. She believes that India is well poised to lead the way when it comes to innovation in the space. With Covid, she said people are waking up to the reality of climate change and warning that the reverse is also true that with climate change far more catastrophes like Covid will occur.

Chhiber said the biggest positive change that the sector has witnessed is a surge of interest from younger people who’ve energized the space by picking purpose over profit alone and are driving these initiatives, especially with issues of climate change coming to the fore.

“A lot of talent is getting attracted (to the social entrepreneurship space) and a lot of capital has started flowing into the system,” she said. “A lot of new solutions, a lot of interesting new ideas are emerging and a lot of efforts are being made to have mainstream businesses also evolve a bit and not just leave everything to their CSR verticals to do.”

She added that even with the Government of India, there is far more acceptance of the sector and its contributions. However, she cautioned that it was best to become an idea source and help with taking steps to move things forward for the government rather than go in for funding and said that is “not what we (the sector) should aspire towards.”

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