We’re Not on Track to Achieve the SDGs but Social Enterprises Can Change the Trajectory
By Dr. Jordan Kassalow - SEE Change
A few weeks ago, the UN released a report summarizing the data on global progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The conclusion was unambiguous – we are falling behind. If current trends persist, extreme poverty will still affect 575 million people in 2030, 84 million children will not be in school, and 300 million will be unable to read or write.
The report noted that reform to international financial architecture is critical to overcoming the major structural barriers hindering the progress of low- and middle-income countries. This is not an easy feat by any means. As someone who has been a social entrepreneur for decades, I believe that social enterprise has a critical role to play if we are to get close to meeting the SDGs. My experience in eye care has shown how the creation of markets is one of the best ways to make change that is sustainable for the long term.
Popularization of the social enterprise
The notion of social entrepreneurship was coined by Bill Drayton, founder and CEO of Ashoka in the early 1980s. However, only twenty years ago did the idea enter the mainstream. Before this, NGOs were very much positioned at the forefront of change – tasked with solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges to date. But through demonstrating the capacity to show metrics, impact, and return on investment, social entrepreneurs reimagined the traditional approach to social impact and the movement began to gain traction.
Reducing the dependence on philanthropy, social entrepreneurs started to gain popularity as the next generation of changemakers, as ‘field catalysts’. Armed with the heart of NGOs and the principles and practices of business, social enterprises became a strategic and ethical place for donors to put their money.
As a relatively new term in the early 2000s, a lot of people inadvertently fell into the title of social entrepreneur, just by simply fulfilling the definition set out by Drayton. I, for one, did not consciously set out to be a social entrepreneur or build a social enterprise, I set out to provide a solution.
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