22 Mar How do we want to be remembered?
When one hears about social innovation, usually the first thing that comes to mind is an initiative related to Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) institution. Because it is commonly assumed that social impact initiatives are or must be nonprofit. Why is that? Why should not a company wrap its business model around fundamental issues that impoverishes our society and generates inequality. Perhaps it derives from a moral code that one should not take advantage of the poor or those less fortunate. It seems unthinkable that one would consciously breach such high standard set of values and principles, but at times of distress and despair our natural ability to empathize with a fellow human being emerges as the last source of hope, which often provides temporary relieve but does not last enough to create impact.
That is why many corporate social responsibility, charity, or nonprofit activities fail because their model is not scalable and lacks the necessary funding. Someone once said that biggest problem with poverty fighting programs is that they only invest on fighting poverty and not on wealth creation. There was never a better time for the world to rethink its entire development model which led us to where we are today. In fact, with digital revolution I honestly believe our generation have the moral obligations to make the difference and that is the mission and purpose of social innovators.
It all starts by acknowledging the world as it is. The year 2020 will be remembered as the year of Social Disruption as it changed everything we knew and assumed about modern life. For some, it took the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic to change their views about the society we live in and how we are globally interconnected despite the social inequalities. No matter the cause, history will remember how we respond to these challenging times, which leaves us with one question: how do we want to be remembered?
There may not be a straight answer to question above but there are certainly ways and actions that will define it. In other words, it is a call for action where each of must rise and face the challenges with a different mindset. My personal call to action is driven by the wise words of Justice Anthony Kennedy, that once wrote that “The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times.” Although these words were written under a different context, its basic principle, I believe applies general things in life and particularly with current pandemic situation.
The corona virus pandemic became the most eminent and emergent threat to our existence, but we cannot afford to downplay the silent predators that have been around for years if not decades, which is in my opinion the imbalance in how we address the structural issues of our times. For instance, according to the United Nation Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in the last ten year at least 100 million people were forcible displaced, which is nearly the entire population of Egypt or Ethiopia. Looking at 2019 alone, the number reached 79.5 million people (approx. 40% children), which is 3.7 million less than Germany population, (83.2 million residents) that accounts for 18.6% of the total EU population on 1 January 2020. In addition, according to the same source, 85% are hosted in developing countries and 80% in countries or territories affected by food insecurity and malnutrition.
Where are the rules stating that poverty and other social issues do not provide a robust business case? If a company like WeWork was able to raise billions of dollars for an unsustainable business with questionable governance principles why cannot those entrepreneurs that are committed to tackle issues like financial inclusion, smart agriculture, affordable healthcare, access to water and energy, justice etc, be granted access to the same pool of capital?
This is to me what makes Social innovation an exceptional art of living. The ability to connect people from different realms of society or world region for a common good. The same applies to Governments and private sector combing efforts, for example, to make technologies such as Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence accessible in developing countries to boost sustainable and inclusive growth. As climate transition becomes a sovereign priority across the globe, requiring around $1 trillion of investment a year, according to the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, it increases pressure on Governments and corporations to find alternative source funding, particular in the developing world. Although the green finance market has crossed the milestone of $1 Trillion in bond issuance in 2020, I am convinced that we can leverage the Blockchain benefits to scale the trend and creating an alternative source of funding focused on wealth creation, with less operation and transaction cost as well as de-risking investment with more transparency, reliability, and accountability.
For that reason, in my opinion developing countries have a unique opportunity to leapfrog developed countries in Blockchain adoption, using digital assets to issue social blue, and green credits to reward investor for good practice based on real impact measures on the ground.
If we ought to learn something about the recent disruption in our lives is that fragility and strength of the humankind depends on how we support each other because at the end of the day we are just small agents of change in a fraction of eternity.