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Beyond Boundaries: Collaborative Approaches to Social Protection

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Where does social entrepreneurship fit into a discussion of social protection systems? This was my initial question when I was asked to join a panel on the subject at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East, North Africa and Eurasia. By way of response, I would suggest that as social entrepreneurs we are in a unique position to explore creative new approaches -- going beyond what governments and businesses can do on their own.

Working with almost 100 civil society organizations worldwide, our experience at streetfootballworld has shown that formal social protection systems often fail to reach those who need them most. In many parts of the world, people are left without access to basic rights such as food, water, housing and a chance to make their voices heard. While civil society and community initiatives play an important role in filling this gap, governments and businesses often do not recognize the huge potential which lies in these disenfranchised sections of society in terms of adding value to business profitability and democratic stability -- leaving a real sense of missed opportunity.

How can we overcome this disconnect and create models which benefit communities, yet go beyond philanthropy and traditional CSR? The concept of the hybrid value chain (business and social entrepreneurs) offers one example: by combining the investment, operational and logistical capacity of large corporations with the specialized local knowledge of community-based organizations capable of understanding and aggregating local demand, we can propose integrated solutions based on collaborative entrepreneurship. Another example is the SROI (social return on investment) or Social Impact Bond-based collaboration of governments and social enterprises, such as in the case of Street League in the UK.

Every player has an important role to play on this field. Governments can make regulations easy to comply with and incentivize complementary support structures. Corporations must adapt their business models in order to open up and provide quality service which meets the needs of underserved communities -- primarily through working together with social enterprises.

This process is beneficial for everyone involved, going far beyond the familiar bilateral win-win situations. Solutions are already out there, and it's time to connect them in a smart way. However, we can only succeed by making a joint commitment to eradicating poverty and building a just world. If brand and ego-driven agendas continue to prevent us from agreeing on this common purpose, we should all continue doing as much as we can -- individually -- but we shouldn't waste any more time discussing something we aren't prepared to commit to.

Here's the good news: my conversations here at the Forum have strengthened my conviction that we are heading in the right direction. I firmly believe that this mind shift towards thinking beyond organizational and institutional boundaries is taking place as we speak.