How a 'no regrets' skillset can arm social entrepreneurs for an uncertain future

Experts have warned that half the world’s employees will need to be reskilled by 2025. But with which skills? In our new series, Emerald Works’ Kevin Dunne and Social Enterprise Academy’s Claire Wilson set out seven critical, “no regrets” skills that social enterprise leaders will need to flourish in the post-Covid-19 landscape. Drawing on expert guidance and insights from social entrepreneurs, they’ll explore each one in depth and uncover how they punch their weight in the real world.

Predicting the future feels futile, but there’s one thing we do know: it’s going to be different. Very different. We are dealing with what is commonly known as “the unknown unknowns”.

However, what we can do is prepare ourselves, and our organisations, to be as ready as we can be for the post-Covid-19 landscape.

So, the focus of this series over the coming months will be on the essential, adaptable, enduring skills that will help keep us – the world, organisations, and individuals – on our feet. Whatever the terrain beneath them. A range of key, “no regret” skills that will be useful no matter how roles or organisations change. As the late US author and philosopher Eric Hoffer noted: “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”  

In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists – Eric Hoffer, author and philosopher

The challenge the world faces, as global management consultants McKinsey and Co. see it, is to “reskill and upskill the workforce to deliver new business models in the post-pandemic era”. 

Their answer lies in the development of a “no regrets” skill set, which McKinsey consultants cast broadly as “a talent strategy that develops employees’ critical digital and cognitive capabilities, their social and emotional skills, and their adaptability and resilience”. In other words, investing now before it’s too late.

It’s an issue already blinking on the radar of business leaders. Global professional services and accounting giant PwC reported last year that 74% of CEOs were concerned about the availability of key skills. Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum projected in its 2020 Future of Jobs Report that half of all employees around the world would need reskilling by 2025.


About the authors

Emerald Works is a UK-based provider of digital, on-demand, evidence-led career and management learning solutions. Its mission is to make a difference to people’s lives, delivering the insights, resources, and solutions they need to overcome challenges for themselves and their organisations.

The Social Enterprise Academy provides transformational learning and development programmes for people and organisations working for social change. Launched in Scotland in 2004, it has now supported over 18,000 learners across 14 countries to create sustainable businesses and have greater social impact.


With further research showing that leaders need to invest in learning and development to emerge stronger from the Covid-19 crisis, Claire Wilson, who heads up Social Enterprise Academy’s Global Learning Lab, says a ‘lifelong learning’ approach is needed.

“Through working with partners and clients across the globe, from small, rural community groups to large, international NGOs, we’re seeing a common theme,” she says. “People are looking to ignite and nurture the capabilities that are inherent in all of us – the skills that make us human.”

The Social Enterprise Academy consulted widely with its partners and clients, including many social enterprise leaders, to establish this range of core leadership and personal development skills – designed to help ensure social enterprise leaders are well equipped for the future.

Social entrepreneurs don’t only need technical skills. They need skills applicable in any context

Claire adds: “Social entrepreneurs don’t only need technical skills. They need the skills that are useful and applicable in any context – helping us navigate, deal with, and respond to any of the challenges we face when working to make the world a better place.”

Developing a “no regrets” skill set is, then, mission-critical. 



The seven skills


Ed Prideaux, a writer, characterises resilience in How to heal the 'mass trauma' of Covid-19 as “the oil that churns our cognitive machine and keeps us moving in stress”. Resilience is our ability to adapt and bounce back when things don't go as planned.


Executive coach and trainer Bruna Martinuzzi calls adaptability a central requirement for any future: “The ability to change (or be changed) to fit new circumstances is a crucial skill for leaders, and an important competency in emotional intelligence.”


Using our imagination and developing the ability to visualise alternative solutions or states of being supports us to be more effective learners and workers in any role. In this case we mean technical not artistic creativity, using lateral thinking techniques like “brainstorming” or “random input”, or “programmed thinking” that relies on logical or structured ways of creating a new product or service.


An umbrella term that takes in self-mastery and overlaps with self-regulation, self-discipline, professionalism, and self-care, which in turn helps ensure health and wellbeing. Fully developed, we are able to control ourselves in all situations, and move forward consciously and steadily towards our goals.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise our emotions, understand what they're telling us, and realise how they affect people around us. It's also about picking up on other people's emotions, understanding them, not being fazed by them, and managing them.

People with high emotional intelligence are usually successful in most things they do. Why? Because they are who other people want on their team. Because they make others feel good, they go through life far more smoothly than people who are easily angered or upset.


According to leading British psychologist, Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, “Empathy is like a universal solvent. Any problem immersed in empathy becomes soluble.”

In its simplest form, empathy is the ability to recognise emotions in others, and to understand other people's perspectives in a situation. At its most developed, empathy delivers insights to improve someone else's mood and to support them through challenging situations.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is the discipline of rigorously and skilfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide decisions, actions, and beliefs.

An open mind, one that is willing and able to explore alternative approaches and experimental ideas, is vital.


Over the coming months we’ll be sharing expert views, evidence-led solutions, practical tools and interviews with social enterprise leaders. We hope this allows you to reflect on how you can develop your own learning in each of the seven areas.

We begin the series with resilience, featuring Musa Aamir, the co-founder of Rizq, a social enterprise in Pakistan that aims to end hunger by making providing food more convenient and minimising food waste.

“As Covid-19 hit, we were pretty down and dusted, but we kind of rose up out of the ashes,” recalls Musa.

Resilience was Musa’s road back.

Explore his story and the first of the seven Survival Skills for Social Entrepreneurs here