The Editors' Post: Davos 2023 – disappointment, disconnection, or the answers the world needs?

Has this year's World Economic Forum meeting in the Swiss ski resort left us with a bitter taste, or is there something to celebrate? Plus good news from Scotland's social enterprises. The editors' view from this week's Pioneers Post newsletter.

Big multinational events often come with disappointment. Agreements never go far enough, accusations of hypocrisy are rife, and it all ends with a bitter taste that the world is doomed because the powerful are not committed to doing what it really takes to make things better. Davos is no exception: the World Economic Forum wants to make the world a better place, but a meeting of the rich and powerful in a Swiss ski resort does look rather disconnected. 

This year’s Oxfam report on global inequality, published to coincide with the start of the summit, was damning. The richest 1% have grabbed nearly two-thirds of new wealth in the world since 2020, and for the first time in 25 years, extreme wealth and extreme poverty have both gone up. In the face of this, we all know that we need two things: money, money, money (quoting John Kerry here, not Abba) and solutions. 

Oxfam is advocating for a wealth tax, which could lift 2bn people out of poverty. But how to make the most powerful people in the world all agree to give away their money? 

Some rich people are keen to give their money to good causes, through philanthropy (yes, it does often come with tax advantages). This is what WEF is keen to leverage with its new initiative to drive more philanthropic capital towards climate and biodiversity action, hoping to mobilise trillions of dollars in investment. But will these types of initiatives be enough to raise the money we need to save the world? 

Read our Davos round-up to catch up with the discussions.

Social innovation

Solutions, unlike money, are aplenty – see the winners of the Social Innovation Awards, also celebrated at Davos, a remarkable sample of entrepreneurs that managed to translate ideas into real impact. 

Another good example of social innovation is social enterprise Nuup, which supports smallholder farmers in Mexico to increase their income while adopting sustainable agricultural practices. How do they do that? By looking at every aspect of the value chain: from agronomy and tech to access to finance and markets. Find out more in our immersive feature out this week.

Woman power?

A striking figure came out of Scotland this week: 71% of social enterprises in the country are led by women. This compares with 14% among Scottish SMEs overall. We already knew that, around the world, social enterprises were generally more likely to be led by women than business at large – but it’s the first time I’ve seen a figure that high. 

This is to be celebrated – it shows the determination of women to use their entrepreneurial spirit to take problems into their own hands. But what it doesn’t really tell us is what it means in terms of power and influence. One positive indication is that women in Scotland also make up 55% of social enterprise boards, which suggests parity in decision-making. But more research is needed to establish if Scottish social enterprise is really “a woman's world”.


This week's top stories:

Philanthropy for climate, social innovator awards, and inequality reality check: Davos round-up

Farming with a future: how social enterprise Nuup helps Mexico's smallholders to thrive

Six global hotspots for social impact in 2023


Header photo: World Economic Forum/Pascal Bitz

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