In Spite of Adversity, Social Ventures Have Found Ways to More Effectively Operate and Deliver More Meaningful Impact

By Mark Horosowski, MovingWorlds
With Kate Cochran, Upaya Social Ventures

Mark HorosowskiThe United Nations General Assembly is this week, and quite frankly, I’m not looking forward to it. It’ll be another circuit of high level meetings and catchy headlines telling the world that we’re falling even further behind in our attempt to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (sadly, we are… and corporations aren’t doing nearly enough).

Governments will point fingers at each other and the private sector. The private sector will blame governments and consumers. Financiers like Blackrock will fund catchy PR campaigns that will distract us from the fact that they are creating the very issues they are claiming to be solving.

Pundits, “thought leaders”, and global executives will write compelling op-eds claiming that if only they were given more resources, they could solve all the problems. Then, as quickly as it came, the debates will pass and we’ll return to a state of normalcy, perhaps with just a little more frustration with our global policy makers and international institutions.

I’m already bored just thinking about it, and I don’t really want to be a part of it… especially because I believe that, as hard as this year has been, there is also a lot we should be celebrating. While operating through brutal health, societal, and environmental challenges, many organizations have found ways to more effectively operate and deliver more meaningful impact.

I know it’s hard to think about celebrating when everything feels like it’s burning, and indeed, we need to take time to mourn the losses so many of us suffered, but part of the human condition is to be able to move forward, especially when it’s hard.

One need only look across the Global Washington network to see that global attention shouldn’t go to policy makers and big PR budgets, but rather to innovators working in the field. If COVID taught us anything, it is that empowering local leaders to build entrepreneurial solutions to their own challenges and opportunities is the most effective way to elevate communities, and those living within it.

Sanitation kits distribution

Photo credit: Upaya Social Ventures. Hasiru Dala has distributed sanitation kits to over 10,000 people in India through its network of waste collectors.

Upaya Social Ventures and its portfolio of social enterprises were able to pivot business models and services to keep their businesses going and their employees earning money during the worst of the lockdown. During the horrendous second wave in India, waste management company, Hasiru Dala, took advantage of its access to the waste collector community to distribute sanitation kits to over 10,000 people. Even when supply chains got snarled and export markets froze, Tamul Plates delivered direct assistance to the households of their factory workers so they could buy food and other necessities. Hanging in through the past 18 months has not been easy, and many companies are scrambling to regain momentum, but the point is that they are on the ground and see what is needed. And then — because they are entrepreneurial and solutions-oriented — they get it done.

Factory workers outside building

Photo credit: Upaya Social Ventures. Tamul Plates delivered direct assistance to their factory workers so they could buy food and other necessities.

Through the MovingWorlds S-GRID program, which empowers social enterprises to scale solutions by building partnerships with international organizations, corporations, and governments, we have seen solutions scale beyond borders: North to South, and East to West: Like a solar-powered desalination tool bringing clean water to the Middle East, a floating trash can capturing plastic from harbors while sharing real-time water quality data to governments and citizen scientists, a solar-powered remote wifi hub bring internet to rural communities and refugee camps, and an IoT device that save the lives of infants by preventing hypothermia.


Photo credit: Moving Worlds. BEMPU Health TempWatches.

I hope you’ll join me this month in spotlighting, and celebrating organizations across our network that are doing the hard work in the field to build solutions that can actually move us to a sustainable, equitable, and just planet. Cocktail party conversations only take us so far. Certainly, we need to advocate for policies and funding that enable this work, but more than that, let’s celebrate the progress that this amazing community is doing. And let’s take the steps to make their work easier and more visible.