A few times a year, I Google a few variants of “social enterprise news” with the hope of uncovering new kids on the block or some new social impact report. Measuring social impact is hard. For philanthropic organizations that do things other than direct investing (or give out grants) this is even harder.

Today my Google searches took me to Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship’s Two Decades of Impact report (Jan 2020). The foundation is a 22 year old organization with the World Economic Forum as a key partner. Practically all Indian media outlets that covered this report went with the headline India topmost country for presence of social entrepreneurs and provided just a few top-level factoids. The rest of this blog post is my attempt to summarize their 55-page PDF report with an India-specific lens.

The foundation supports 400 late-stage social innovators operating in 190+ countries. They support their awardees / member organizations by:

  • Raising awareness of their work, giving them significant media exposure
  • Gives them access to global networks, world leaders & partners via WEF
  • Executive education at the Harvard Kennedy School
  • Leadership coaching & mentoring

Top-level factoids

  • 10 countries in which social entrepreneurs are most active (in descending order): India, USA, Kenya, Brazil, Uganda, South Africa, Mexico, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania
  • Top 5 issues: Education, Economic opportunity & development, Entrepreneurship & enterprise development, Health & healthcare, Environment, climate & circular economy
  • 622 million people impacted directly
    • Impressive number no doubt but it begs the question “to what degree” (the devil would be in the details of member org reports)
  • 17 organizations achieving measurable progress across all SDGs

Impact Snapshots from member orgs

  • Room to Read [India + 6 SEA countries + South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania] has changed the trajectories of 16 million children in 16 countries through its literacy program and its Girls Education program
  • Mothers2Mothers [South Africa] has reached 11 million women and children with HIV treatment services, also created over 10,000 jobs for women living with HIV
  • d.light [70 countries] has reached 100 million people with solar products, created employment for 1000 people
  • VisionSpring: affordable eyeglasses to 7 million people
  • Homeless World Cup: has lifted 1.2 million out of homelessness and established 74 worldwide partner orgs
  • Organizations that attributed scaling partnerships to Schwab Foundation: Tech Matters (Benetech), Marine Stewardship Council, PlanetRead, Nisaa FM
  • Refunite has registered 1.3 million refugees, reunited 45,000 family members and trained 26,000 workers in Uganda
  • Dimagi has digitized health workforces across 2,000 projects in 80 countries. In India, 500,000 health workers use Dimagi tech solutions
  • Organizations that attribute fundraising success to Schwab Foundation: Dimagi, Nuru Energy, and Rags2Riches

Karuna Trust (A personal favorite since I know the founder Dr. Sudarshan)

Since its inception in 1986, Karuna Trust has grown to manage 71 Public Health Centers reaching 1.5 million people. Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) has reduced from 70 to 5 (per 1,000) and Maternal Mortality Rate from 280 to 50 (per 100,000 live births), in Karnataka, achieving 99.9% institutional delivery rate across the state. The Trust addresses 5 SDGs.

Report Methodology

  • 20-question online survey by Foundation members, completed by 133 members (healthy 33% response rate) +
  • impact reports of member organizations +
    • Indian organizations that contributed to report include Aajevika Bureau, Aravind Eyecare, Barefoot College, Daily Dump, Goonj, Indus Tree Crafts, Karuna Trust, Mann Deshi Foundation, Nidan, Namati, Operation Asha, Planetread
  • in-depth interviews with 14 social entrepreneurs (Indian subset includes PlanetRead’s Brij Kothari & Barefoot College’s Meagan Fallone)

[Source for this blog post: Two Decades of Impact PDF]