To achieve the Great Reset, we will need more than just the actions of the powerful

Credit: Unsplash

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Janet Longmore, Founder and CEO, Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) & Jonathan Jackson, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Dimagi & Carolien de Bruin, Lead, COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs, World Economic Forum & Amy Goldman, Chief Executive Officer and Chair, GHR Foundation


  • Even before COVID-19, global progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals had fallen behind.
  • Social entrepreneurs and other front-line actors have a key role to play and need to be given greater prominence and support at this time.
  • Collaborative movements and alliances in the social enterprise sector are critical to building a sector wide agenda with collective messages to influence key stakeholders

Just as the COVID-19 healthcare worker is at the front line for the protection of human life, so the social entrepreneur is at the front line for the protection of socio-economic wellbeing. As such, they have their work cut out for them. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed critical flaws in our social and economic systems, with particularly devastating consequences for the billions who are marginalized.

Global goals to reduce poverty and curb climate change have stalled or gone backwards in the face of COVID-19. Even before the global pandemic, few countries were even close to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the target date of 2030, with the Social Progress Index estimating last year that this date had been pushed back to 2073. The pandemic is likely to set progress back even further, unless drastic action is taken. The World Bank projects that the global economy will shrink by 5-8% predicting that over 100 million people are at immediate risk of slipping into poverty. Already, education inequality and food insecurity are rising due to the lack of resources and widespread school closures. And glaringly, healthcare systems are being overwhelmed, erasing the hard-fought gains in public health. Now is the time to do things differently.

If there are rays of encouragement that reflect the resilience of the human spirit, it is in the collective actions that are arising as the world reacts and responds to the pandemic. One such response is the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset initiative, a commitment to jointly and urgently rebuild the foundations of our economic and social system for a more fair, sustainable, and resilient future. International organizations, such as the IMF and UN, have been joined by private corporations, like Microsoft and Mastercard, to support the Forum’s call to reevaluate global social and economic systems.

But to achieve the Great Reset, it will be necessary to bridge the gap between public and private interests and institutions. This is where the social entrepreneur and the social enterprise sector can make an impact – they have already been active in this space for decades, although their work is not often recognized or supported. Social entrepreneurs serve as a crucial social safety net for the systemic weaknesses, inequalities and market failures that are now apparent. In recent months they have repeatedly demonstrated that, as first responders in this crisis, they have been able to adapt at speed and share their knowledge and assets where they are needed most.

While governments enact policies and launch national-scale initiatives with multilateral partners and donors, corporations and impact investors funnel resources to address a variety of challenges, it is social entrepreneurs who often have the trust of those in vulnerable communities required to bring about lasting change on the ground. After all, they have been delivering significant progress on challenges like food security, employment, gender equity, sanitation and health in those communities for many years already.

Top-down ecosystem players must recognize the role of these front-line leaders and empower and align resources to reinvigorate progress towards the goals of economic inclusion, health, education and social cohesion.

In mobilizing these important actors at this critical time, initiatives such as Catalyst 2030 – an international consortium of more than 200 NGOs, social enterprises, intermediaries, funders, and other social change innovators that have pledged to collaborate to help countries achieve the SDGs by 2030 – are doing critical work. In its recent report, “Getting From Crisis to Systems Change,” Catalyst 2030 outlined the central role that social enterprises must continue to play in achieving the SDGs

The COVID-19 Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs, hosted by the World Economic Forum and Schwab Foundation, is also fostering collaboration across impact-focused companies and global leaders. Comprising more than 60 global organizations – collectively representing over 50,000 social enterprises globally and touching the lives of close to 1 billion people – the Alliance has set itself a dual goal of supporting social enterprises during COVID-19 and its aftermath, and of injecting their voices and expertise into the ‘great reset’ agenda. Its belief: The decades of experiences of these social entrepreneurs are vital in supporting vulnerable communities and in forging a ‘new normal’ in how capital markets and international development actors operate.

What is the COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship?

The COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship is hosted by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, with the support of Yunus Social Business and GHR Foundation and integrates the perspectives of social entrepreneurs through a strategic partnership with Catalyst 2030.

It identifies five principles that should lie at the heart of any COVID-19 response effort:

  • Make the voices of social entrepreneurs and their communities heard
  • Prepare to respond, recover and reset – taking the opportunity to “shape a new tomorrow”
  • Collaborate across sectors in recognition of the complexity and scale of the crisis
  • Look beyond healthcare, given that COVID-19 touches all areas of people’s lives
  • Support the shovel-ready solutions that grassroots organizations are already able to provide today

The Alliance has released a COVID Social Enterprise Action Agenda, outlining 25 concrete recommendations for key stakeholder groups to support social entrepreneurs during COVID-19. These align around the following streams:

1. Intermediaries and networks to surface the needs of the social entrepreneurs they serve on the ground and provide them with fitting support
2. (Impact) investors to adapt their investment priorities and processes, and provide flexible capital and must-have technical assistance
3. Corporations to stand with the social entrepreneurs in their supply chains and ecosystems, and join forces with them to “shape a new tomorrow”
4. Funders and philanthropists to expand and expedite their financial support to social entrepreneurs and intermediaries, taking risks reflective of today’s unprecedented times
5. Government institutions at all levels to recognize social entrepreneurs as a driving force in safeguarding jobs and in building a greener and equitable society, and to back them accordingly

Both the Alliance and Catalyst 2030 are supported by GHR Foundation, a global independent philanthropic organisation. Recognizing faith and innovation as powerful motivators for good, the foundation invests in a new vision of global development where local leadership, human dignity and the common good shape the agenda. Much of the work GHR supports takes place in marginalized communities and corresponds with the Alliance’s aim – as stated in the COVID Social Enterprise Action Agenda launched on 16 September – to advance the shared mission to “protect the most vulnerable in the crisis and shape the transition to a new normal in its aftermath”.

COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs by the numbers
COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs, by the numbers Image: World Economic Forum

What has brought these collaborators together is a deep understanding of the unique position that social enterprises, which often include community-based organizations and faith leaders. With the trust and partnership of communities they work within, they hold a common vision to rebuild a world where markets work for all of society.

To achieve the Great Reset, we will need more than just the actions of the those considered powerful. The proximity of social entrepreneurs to the needs of communities as well as their unique innovative power of social entrepreneurs, may just be what we all need to achieve a shift-change in our ability to transform our world and to guarantee a sustainable future for generations to come:

Through support and recognition of their critical role, social entrepreneurs can be the bridge to recovery and the adoption of new models in education, workforce participation, gender empowerment, expanded access to life-saving products, and digital livelihoods, providing the socio-economic equality that our world needs. The time to get behind social entrepreneurs and let them play their part is now.

To join in action with us, visit and share your commitments with the COVID Response Alliance.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

COVID-19: This is what worries young people the most

5G will drive Industry 4.0 in the Middle East and Africa

Is Eurozone heading towards a long stagnation?

A new catastrophic phase in the Syrian carnage

MEPs call for binding 2030 targets for materials use and consumption footprint

FROM THE FIELD: Rohingya babies conceived out of ‘incomprehensible brutality’

How privacy tech is redefining the data economy

Why home is the least safe place to be a woman

Does the EU want GMOs and meat with hormones from the US?

Property regimes for international couples in Europe: new rules apply in 18 Member States as of today

State aid: Commission approves €500 million Greek scheme to support food service companies affected by coronavirus outbreak

Diversity training doesn’t change people’s behaviour. We need to find out what does

How India can become a leader in sustainable aviation fuel

David McAllister underlines the need for rapid progress in EU-UK negotiations

Decades of progress ‘can be wiped out overnight,’ UN chief laments at climate session in Yokohama

Women in video games: ‘Accept it, or don’t buy the game’

Financing economic recovery, written by United Nations Under-Secretary-General

Why Eurozone can afford spending for growth

Pakistan has just planted over a billion trees

Don’t dismiss start-ups founded by millennials. This is how they succeed

How India’s government can build better contracts with blockchain

World leaders must put women at centre of COVID-19 recovery

EU-Vietnam: Council adopts decisions to sign trade and investment agreements

EU-wide rules for safety of drones approved by European Parliament

EU approves €100 million for the post-earthquake reconstruction in Albania

EU job-search aid worth €2 million for 500 former shipbuilding workers in Spain

New energy security framework will help meet growing needs in East Africa, sustainably – UN economic wing

14 ways to protect your mental health in the pandemic, according to Public Health England

The EU invites the US and Russia to partition Ukraine

Commission calls on Leaders to pave the way for an agreement on a modern, balanced and fair EU budget for the future

Legendary Harlem Globetrotters slam-dunk at the UN, with message that brings families, nations together

This is what’s happening to the Amazon, according to NASA

United States: UN chief ‘deeply saddened’ by deadly California wildfires

What’s behind South Korea’s elderly crime wave?

Mental health: fighting the hidden pandemic

10 ways American workers view their future economic opportunities

Understanding of LGBT realities ‘non-existent’ in most countries, says UN expert

What kind of action on social justice should we expect from companies in the future?

Lack of access to clean water, toilets puts children’s education at risk, says UN

These are the world’s best universities

COVID-19 sparked an economic crisis ‘like no other’ – but these measures can help now: WHO, IMF

Brussels waits for the Germans to arrive

From rescue animals to electric buses, California is introducing bold new rules

Over 1 million health consultations provided in Yemen in 2019: UN migration agency

This ceramic ink can 3D-print bones directly into a patient’s body. Here’s how

May led Britain to chaos, now looks for way out with unpredictable DUP

Paris agreed with Berlin over a loose and ineffective banking union

Coronavirus: EU grants €314 million to innovative companies to combat the virus and support recovery

99 per cent of intravenous drug users lack access to health, ‘social services with dignity’ says UNAIDS chief

Commission to invest €14.7 billion from Horizon Europe for a healthier, greener and more digital Europe

The invisible L word: the struggles to achieve SRHR, as HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment for lesbian population

A European young student speaks about the Youth Policies of the European Commission

How unity and common purpose can help us defeat this virus

Lessons learnt from the Commission’s 2020 rule of law report

This surprising change can help the auto industry tackle emissions goals

Eastern Partnership: a renewed agenda for recovery, resilience and reform underpinned by an Economic and Investment plan

India is failing 175 million of its young people. Here’s the solution

Impact investing in Latin America and addressing the ‘missing middle’

Parallel downfalls of Merkel and Deutsche Bank threaten Germany and Europe

More Stings?

Trackbacks

  1. […] future will require dramatic interventions. Avoiding this scenario will require a green economic transformation — and thus, a radical overhaul of corporate governance, finance, policy, and energy systems. […]

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s