A sizeable number of social entrepreneurs of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship attended the fifth annual Meeting of the New Champions in Dalian, China last month. Called the ‘Summer of Davos’, this World Economic Forum brought together 1500 leaders from the private sector, the government, technology sector and civil society to discuss ‘Mastering Quality Growth’. While the workshops and discussions were dominated by the three leading nations, China, India and Japan, there were plenty of opportunities for Social Entrepreneurs from around the world to present their experience and ideas. This event also allowed Social Entrepreneurs to meet together and discuss some of the challenges and opportunities they have faced during this economic and financial crisis.
The world at a turning point?
One of the strongest messages shared during the Meeting of New Champions was that the world is at a critical turning point. Three years into the current financial turmoil, which plunged the global economy into its worst crisis in 80 years, the choice confronting countries around the world, is whether to rely on national solutions to muddle through this difficult period or to take a more coordinated and cooperative approach. The threat of inflation in emerging markets (such as those that Shift360 operates in) is especially pressing as spikes in food and energy costs lay a heavy burden on the most impoverished, affecting the world as a whole. It is becoming clear that current systems have failed, therefore leaders need to take bold steps to find new approaches to address this global crisis, promoting not just growth, but quality growth.
Upon setting this scene, the Forum was not shy in their call for leaders to embrace innovative entrepreneurship and promote new business models that emerge in times such as these. As one speaker noted, “If we miss this opportunity, it could be risky for everyone” – risky indeed. A workforce that is afraid to take risks will never progress. This is the time for governments, the private sector, and civil society to learn lessons from past failures (that have led to this current crisis) and spur creative solutions that bring about sustainable growth.
Another interesting change that was highlighted at the Forum was the major shifts that are playing out in the global economy. These include massive movements in trade, with sharp growth in South-South trade and significant flows of capital into developing countries, as well as growing investment by emerging economies around the world. Emerging markets are moving up the commercial chain, with lower-end manufacturing shifting to the least-developed economies. This has challenged the supremacy of Western economies and their business models and globalization has seen a shift in dynamics as the East dominates selling to the West. Western companies are now heading to the East for growth. Additionally, there’s a strong shift in the workforce as Generation Y is an emerging demographic which now accounts for half of the world’s population, especially in China and India; they are rewriting the rules and creating new buying patterns.
On the back of these trends, The “Global Shapers” was launched at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions this year. The Global Shapers will provide youth with an interactive platform to shape the future – integrating personal, community and global dimensions. Working in collaboration with the Forum of Young Global Leaders, this community will help this growing demographic to develop their leadership potential and serve society.
The Global Shapers community includes extraordinary young individuals with great potential for future leadership roles. Aged between 20 and 30 years, they represent all walks of life and share a spirit of entrepreneurship having already initiated a major project or founded a company or organization. They are distinguished by their contributions to society and are ready to deeply engage in the community, supporting fellow Shapers in their individual and professional development.
I spent a few hours with some very dynamic and motivated young leaders from China and it was very refreshing to see how they are taking upon themselves the responsibility to grow their business and impact their community in positive ways. In particular I met up with a Chinese World Shaper that runs a successful HR company and with the money made, sponsors training for poor women and girls in three main professional skills and then assists them in finding jobs within their local economies.
I believe it is entrepreneurial innovation like this that is required to tackle the financial crisis we find ourselves in today. While the problems may be larger than what we can address, it is leaders like this that find new models and ways to change the system, slowly bringing about positive change and quality growth.