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The rising tide of social ventures
Chief Strategist, Change Maker, Impact Investment Expert
The Skoll Foundation was created to help solve the most pressing issues of our time.
Solve problems more effectively by finding commonalities across issue areas.
The Millennium Development Goals are developed by the UN to be a guidepost for social change.
Lesson: Disruption for Social Good with Renee Kaplan
Step #2 Innovators: The rising tide of social ventures
There are, I think, so many innovators in this space right now. It's really exploding, which is fantastic to see. So you'll see a lot more. At traditional business schools, social entrepreneurship is now a curriculum. There are special schools like the Skoll Center at Oxford and Saïd Business School that focuses just on social entrepreneurship.
These schools are sprouting up throughout the world, which is fantastic. So that's a starting point if you're a student or graduate student and really looking at this work. Beyond that, we're seeing a lot of incubators, accelerators, early stage organizations. Ashoka has done some great work helping to really build the field and the understanding of what social entrepreneurship is and how organizations can become or how an individual can become much more engaged with that work.
I think Echoing Green is doing a great job. I think organizations like Mulago, Skoll Foundation certainly, and there are many others that are really focusing on social entrepreneurship as a core competency and trying to really grow the field and the understanding more globally.
We look across six issue areas. The frame for us is the most pressing problems of our time. Our founder, Jeff Skoll who's very committed to solving the big problems, for him, it's not, again, about incremental progress. It's big change quickly because we don't have the luxury of time.
For us, those six issue areas and it's essentially looking across environment, looking at education, looking at health, they're the big issues of our time, unsurprisingly. But we look at it a little differently in that we're not issue-specific. For us, we're not issue area experts. The through line for us, or what we see as the cross-cutter is innovation. For us, the innovators are the social entrepreneurs. So what may be a great innovation in water or education could possibly apply to health.
For our organization, what we see as kind of a unique perspective is looking across the full portfolio and looking at these 87 organizations working in very different issue areas but seeing the common patterns and the common denominators that could be applied in grouping someone who has a great innovation working with girls in Africa around education, actually, that model may be a perfect application for working in India in agriculture. It might be a community development model, or there might be aspects of what they're doing with policymakers that's tremendously applicable.
For us, that's the benefit or the focus that we see as most important, rather than looking, I think, within a particular issue area like health and being a phenomenal deep expert in one issue area.
So the six issue areas the Skoll Foundation work in are environmental sustainability, sustainable markets, education, peace and human rights, health and economic opportunity.
The Millennium Development Goals are essentially developed by the UN. Anyone in the social sector has to pay attention to some degree to the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, for short. They are kind of meant to be a guidepost for the changes and the investments that governments should be making over the course of 10-15 years.
These Millennium Development Goals are hotly debated, they're deeply researched, and then they're published. The last Millennium Development Goals just came up for expiration. So there's been a lot of media coverage, a lot of debate in the social sector about which ones were met and which weren't and why. And now there's what we call the Sustainable Development Goals that are being drafted right now for 2015, which will be the next phase of these 15-year goals.
The MDGs essentially cover all the big issue areas that we're struggling with and call out specific goals, specific metrics that they hope to be achieved. So whether it's reducing poverty by 50%, which was one of the MDGs previously that was met and actually met early, which was a fabulous result. Other goals like increasing secondary education did not get met. It's a mixed bag in terms of results.
I think, the learning for us has been it's really important to have global-level outcomes that all of the social sector and government; that we're all working toward to improve the challenge of implementing those goals. It's one thing to declare a set of goals that should be met. It's very different to get buy-in from grassroots organizations on the ground working in these countries, to get the funding needed to actually do these goals well, and then ultimately track and measure and be able to communicate them and share what the outcomes really are.
So I think for us they're incredibly important. It's a needed process that we all have some role in participating in and trying to influence. There's a long way to go in terms of really making them efficient and making them successful. So the jury is very much still out on what we can do to help and try to get them to a place where we're actually achieving most of them versus not.