Global Innovators Lead the Charge for a More Equitable Future: Schwab Foundation Awards 2024

Davos-Klosters, Switzerland – January 16, 2024 – In an era marked by geopolitical strains, economic instability, and escalating climate concerns, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship today recognized 16 organizations for their transformative impact in fostering equitable access to healthcare, education, finance, and legal services. These global pioneers are also at the forefront of empowering women and youth and combating climate change.

Hilde Schwab, Co-Founder and Chairperson of the Schwab Foundation, emphasized the diversity and innovation embodied by the ‘Social Innovators of the Year 2024’. “They represent the driving force behind the sustainable and inclusive future we aspire to,” said Schwab. “Their collective potential is a source of hope, urging us to act with purpose and collaboration in these uncertain times.”

These 16 awardees join a remarkable network whose efforts have positively affected over 890 million lives in more than 190 countries since 1998. According to a recent Schwab Foundation study, social innovation has surged, with an estimated 10 million social enterprises globally. In the past three years alone, 64 organizations recognized by the Foundation have generated over $900 million in economic value for their communities.

This year’s winners showcase an array of groundbreaking initiatives, from empowering Indigenous stewardship in the Amazon to leveraging sports for youth development in Morocco. They are also employing technology to democratize legal services in Uganda and pioneering corporate and public sector initiatives for a more impactful business approach.

François Bonnici, Director of the Schwab Foundation, highlighted the increasing global acknowledgment of the social and solidarity economy’s role in sustainable development. “The United Nations has urged governments to support social enterprises and other actors in this domain, recognizing their vital contribution to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals,” Bonnici stated.

The 2024 awardees, spanning four categories – Social Entrepreneurs, Public Social Innovators, Corporate Social Innovators, and Collective Social Innovators – represent a diverse range of fields and global regions. From Ajaita Shah’s work in rural India to Catalina Cock Duque’s peace-building efforts in Colombia, these innovators are redefining the landscape of social entrepreneurship.

Social Entrepreneurs
Employing innovative, market-based approaches to directly address social issues.
Ajaita Shah, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Frontier Markets (India), an Indian social commerce platform that works with and for women to offer an essential last-mile connection to rural households. Using convenient smartphone technology, it helps a fast-growing community of women entrepreneurs connect to more than 1 million women customers in thousands of villages. It aims to serve 100 million rural households by 2030. Shah has more than 18 years’ experience working in rural India through microfinance, rural distribution, marketing and building gender-inclusive business models.
(Mohamed) Amine Zariat, Founder, Tibu Africa (Morocco), a non-governmental organization that is pioneering social innovation through sport. A former international basketball player, he founded TIBU Morocco in 2010, which has now become Tibu Africa. His organization aims to unlock the potential of young people and women across the continent and has a vision to become the locomotive of development through sport in Africa by 2030. In addition to his experience as a top sportsman, Zariat has held several leadership positions in educational organizations in Morocco.
Catalina Cock Duque, Co-Founder of Fundación Mi Sangre (Colombia), a social organization dedicated to helping new generations build a culture of peace in the country. It works to develop life, leadership and social entrepreneurship skills in young people, while activating systems that will enable their participation and amplify their voice. Mi Sangre began its journey by improving care for victims of violence, but has since established itself as a systemic transformation model, impacting more than 2 million people in Colombia. Cock Duque has over 25 years of experience catalysing systemic change and is a serial social entrepreneur.
Gerald Abila, Founder of BarefootLaw (Uganda), a non-profit group based in Uganda that uses innovative digital technology to empower people with free legal information and advance access to justice across Africa. It helps people and communities resolve legal issues and disputes on a pro bono basis through a full-time team of trained attorneys, supported by an AI lawyer called Winnie. Over the past decade, it has grown from a simple Facebook page to a hi-tech legal advice service, which has assisted approximately 1 million people. Abila has also established a presence in The Hague to spread the message about legal tech in Africa.
Rudayna Abdo, Founder, Chief Executive Officer and President of Thaki (Lebanon), a social impact non-profit organization that delivers learning tools to schools catering to refugee and vulnerable children in the Middle East. By taking used computer hardware and ed-tech software, it has delivered hope and educational opportunities to tens of thousands of children since its foundation in 2015. It works in partnership with companies that donate their second-hand electronic devices. Abdo previously had a successful career tackling housing, land use and urban transportation issues in North America and the Middle East.
Shuchin Bajaj, Founder and Director of Ujala Cygnus Hospitals (India), which operates 20 hospitals in New Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Haryana, providing super-speciality and emergency healthcare in parts of India where no such facilities exist. It aims to expand to 25 hospitals offering 2,500 beds by the end of 2025. In addition to being an eminent physician, Bajaj is also an investor in health tech. He is part of the founding team of Medpho, a digital health start-up providing quality healthcare to left-behind communities, which is already ensuring surgeries to hundreds of patients per month at zero out-of-pocket cost.
Temie Giwa-Tubosun, Chief Executive Officer of LifeBank Group (Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia), Africa’s foremost healthcare technology and logistics company, with operations in 11 cities across Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia. LifeBank provides end-to-end services to healthcare facilities in multiple segments, including the distribution of blood, oxygen, medical consumables and medical equipment. Giwa-Tubosun has extensive health management experience having previously worked with the UK Department for International Development, World Health Organization, United Nations Development Programme and Lagos State Government, among others.
Xia Li, Founder of Shenzhen Power-Solution (China), a Chinese supplier of off-grid solar home systems designed for the 730 million people worldwide who lack access to electricity and rely on candles and kerosene for lighting. To date, her company has provided solar-powered light to nearly 50 million people in more than seven million households, with a heavy focus on sub-Saharan Africa. In the process, it has protected tens of thousands of children from respiratory diseases caused by using kerosene and candles. She was inspired to bring solar lighting to the poor after visiting India’s slums in 2007.
Public Social Innovators
Working to create better policy environments and public programmes within institutions of government.
Chantal Line Carpentier, Head of the Trade, Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development branch of the UN Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) Division on International Trade and Commodities (Switzerland). She was previously Chief of UNCTAD’s New York Office of the Secretary-General. Line Carpentier is a campaigner for new economic models of sustainable development, and an advocate of the critical role of small businesses and entrepreneurs in the economic empowerment of women. She also chairs the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on the Social and Solidarity Economy.
Ibu Vivi Yulaswati, Director of Indonesia’s Ministry of National Development Planning and Head of the National Secretariat for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (Indonesia). She has extensive experience in developing poverty reduction programmes in the country, including working on subsidy reforms, community development and conditional cash transfer projects. She has also been involved in developing Indonesia’s National Social Security System and has been instrumental in a range of other initiatives covering financial inclusion, social protection and the use of big data for research.
Juan Martinez Louvier, General Director of the National Institute for Social Economy (Mexico) in the Mexican government, responsible for designing, implementing and evaluating national public policies aimed at promoting the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE). He is a passionate believer in creating market enterprises with a social mission that can combat inequality and poverty. His team fosters SSE enterprises in both rural and urban areas that address gender issues, overhaul healthcare systems, create collaborative energy initiatives, facilitate internet access and help preserve wildlife.
Corporate Social Innovators
Using their influence to make companies more inclusive and purposeful.
Saugata Banerjee, Global Head of Sustainable Programming (Singapore) at leading eyewear group EssilorLuxottica. An industry veteran, based in Singapore, he has championed innovations in affordable eye care as part of the company’s ambition to help eliminate uncorrected poor vision around the world within a generation. In 2012, he pioneered the Eye Mitra programme, which trains young people to become primary vision care micro-entrepreneurs in rural India. The scheme has since been extended to countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and Kenya and is now the world’s largest rural optical network.
Ruchika Singhal, President of Medtronic LABS (USA), a non-profit offshoot of medical technology group Medtronic that incubates new ideas for global health access. She leads a team of more than 100 technologists, designers and field operations experts across the US, Africa and Asia, designing and implementing healthcare delivery models for under-served communities. LABS has reached more than one million people by leveraging cutting-edge digital technologies to improve clinical outcomes through optimal utilization of limited healthcare system resources. Singhal previously worked at Medtronic for 14 years in various roles.
Collective Social Innovators
Bringing together organizations to solve complex problems that cannot be tackled by individual actors.
Financing Alliance for Health (Kenya), led by Chief Executive Officer Angela Gichaga. The Financing Alliance for Health is an Africa-based, African-led partnership collaborating with governments, donors and the private sector to address systemic financing challenges around scaling primary and community health programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. It works with ministries of health and finance to develop community health strategies and secure necessary funding.
Amazon Sacred Headwaters Alliance (Ecuador/Peru), led by Domingo Peas Nampichkai, President of the Governing Board, Atossa Soltani, Director of Global Strategy, and Belén Páez, Secretary-General. The alliance brings together 30 Indigenous nations in Ecuador and Peru to protect 35 million hectares of tropical rainforests and make them off-limits to industrial-scale resource extraction. It advocates a new economic model that prioritizes the well-being of Indigenous communities and the ecological integrity of the whole bioregion.
StriveTogether (United States) led by Jennifer Blatz, President and Chief Executive Officer, Vanessa Carlo-Miranda, Chief Operating Officer, and Colin Groth, Chief Advancement Officer. StriveTogether is a network of nearly 70 communities across the US working to build a world where a child’s potential is not dictated by race, ethnicity, personal circumstance, or zip code. It provides coaching and resources to eliminate inequities in education, housing and other areas, and its Cradle to Career Network reaches 14 million young people – more than half of them children of colour.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *