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Greater Competition, Enhanced Support Keys to Boosting Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship

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Imagine if countries competed with each other to create the best environment in which social innovation can occur. And imagine if social entrepreneurs were actively encouraged and supported in countries around the world.

Two consultative bodies affiliated with the World Economic Forum (WEF) -- its Global Agenda Council on Philanthropy and Social Investing and the Global Agenda Council on Social Entrepreneurship -- are aiming to make those ambitions a reality. These bodies are just two of 60 interdisciplinary entities part of the forum's Global Redesign Initiative, which is seeking ways in which international institutions or arrangements should be adapted to meet contemporary challenges.

"Particularly in the wake of the global economic crisis," according to WEF's Klaus Schwab, "we need to rethink our values, redesign our systems, and rebuild our institutions to make them more proactive and strategic, more inclusive, more reflective of the new geo-political and geo-economic circumstances, and more reflective of inter-generational accountability and responsibility."

Everybody's Business: Strengthening International Cooperation in a More Interdependent World summarizes and reports on proposals from the WEF's global councils, focused on specific challenges, from health to economic growth to poverty to sustainability. The Council on Philanthropy and Social Investing, chaired by The Economist's Matthew Bishop, proposes development of a Social Competitiveness Index that would inspire countries to become more socially innovative. More broadly, the goal is to help analysts and policymakers catch up with the revolution that has been taking place in the social sector for the past decade or so -- to "chart its evolution going forward and show countries how to make the most of this opportunity."

The Council on Social Entrepreneurship, chaired by J. Gregory Dees of Duke University,
proposes development of a Global Alliance of Social Entrepreneurs, guided by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. This alliance, among other things, would establish a Consultative Group for Research to Advance Social Entrepreneurship (CGRASE) similar to the World Bank-hosted Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest (CGAP), which has become world-recognized for its role in advancing microfinance. CGRASE's mission would be to conduct research on and promote policies supporting social entrepreneurship, including working to have the UN designate 2011 the "Year of the Social Entrepreneur."

Beyond philanthropy and social entrepreneurship, other ideas proposed include: creation of a global financial risk watchdog; development of a strategy to improve the diet of the poor; establishment of a new business model for humanitarian assistance with better coordination among all sectors; and establishment of an Ocean Health Index to strengthen information available about marine life. The report authors are currently seeking public debate and refinement about the many ideas contained. And this fall they will convene meetings to further discuss and develop these proposals, culminating in the forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, next January.

The report concludes that today's global challenges require a more integrated and proactive approach, with new or upgraded international institutions and greater international cooperation: "No network exists that is sufficiently interdisciplinary, interactive and international to overcome these barriers to collective intelligence and action."