India’s G20 presidency is a chance to showcase its capabilities to the world, including the work of its thriving and committed social sector. This is crucial because India has established that accelerated, inclusive and resilient growth and progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will also be the priorities for the G20.
The nation’s social sector has been contributing towards the advancement of SDGs by using path-breaking innovation. The social sector — which includes social innovators, entrepreneurs, cooperatives, self-help groups and foundations — has pioneered distinct business models and prioritised equity and societal and environmental benefits. These organisations have explicit social objectives and inclusive governance models and work with groups that face gender, race, ability and economic barriers.
India’s social innovators and entrepreneurs are doing remarkable work at the bottom of the pyramid with extraordinary challenges. Despite the significant contribution of the social economy in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employment, their contribution has not been recognised. They work on shoestring budgets, and one would be amazed at their zeal, tenacity and value system to do what they do with a sewa bhav (sense of service).
With its complex socioeconomic-environmental challenges, India is a fertile ground for social innovations and offers a unique opportunity to demonstrate leadership. Government initiatives such as Skill India and Digital India have provided social enterprises multiple avenues and support to accelerate their work, impact and reach. However, they need the government’s support and encouragement to showcase them on international platforms to catapult to the next level of global operations.
Under India’s presidency, India’s social sector should be an integral part of the G20 agenda since they are forerunners in some of the priority areas identified by India during its presidency. Some pointers on why India’s social entrepreneurs need a push under India’s G20 presidency are as follows.
First, technology. The use of technology in social innovations has increased multifold in recent years. Social entrepreneurs have been using technology and digital stack to accelerate equality and growth for the marginalised. During Covid-19, they employed innovative digital tools to ensure continuity in services. With digital and technology as the centre of India’s G20 presidency agenda, the experience of these social entrepreneurs could be valuable.
Second, jugaad. The jugaad way of finding solutions to complex problems is unique. It also sums up how some Indian social entrepreneurs work with scarce resources and yet find outstanding solutions to challenges that even large enterprises sometimes fail to address.
Third, firms repose trust in social entrepreneurs. More and more corporate firms are working closely with social entrepreneurs to ensure an impact on the ground. Corporations also choose them as business partners for innovative market-based solutions, bringing equal value to their businesses, and have set up various foundations to supplement their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
Fourth, to boost women-led development. India has shared its focus on women-led development for advancing the G20 priority areas. Social entrepreneurs have been working strategically around the principle of women-led development for years. As a result, many social innovators in India are successfully led by women entrepreneurs.
Fifth, as the government’s implementation partners. Social entrepreneurs play a crucial role as they support and reinforce the government’s efforts to reach the maximum number of people at the bottom of the pyramid. In addition, they ensure that the gap between government schemes and beneficiaries is minimised.
Sixth, they have an active role in advocacy. Social entrepreneurs are executors and strategists in their areas of work and undertake the advocacy of pressing issues that are broadly around SDGs. Their role in advocacy and feedback helps policymakers develop deeper insights to make an informed decision.
Seventh, they can be role models. Social entrepreneurs play a significant role in advocating a better world for future generations. Today’s young seek fulfilment at work and are eager to be a part of the bigger picture. Social entrepreneurs with the perfect merger of financial success and making a change and impact on society inspire several youngsters to be part of the transformative journey.
Eighth, global linkages with social entrepreneurs. Organisations such as the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship (sister organisation of the World Economic Forum) along with the Jubilant Bhartia Foundation (the CSR arm of the Jubilant Bhartia Group) have been recognising and providing a global platform to social entrepreneurs for over a decade through its annual Social Entrepreneur of the Year India award. Platforms like these offer social entrepreneurs a world view, giving insights to solve global challenges. Recently, the Schwab Foundation organised an India Learning Journey, supported by the Jubilant Bhartia Foundation, for a cohort of 35 social entrepreneurs from around the world, including from the G20 countries.
India’s social sector is transforming rapidly and supporting government schemes and initiatives. Social enterprises are contributing hugely to the economy and society through the massive use of technology and innovation.
India must use this unique opportunity to showcase its social entrepreneurs’ experience and capability on international platforms such as the G20. Several engagement groups are identified by India, such as the B-20, Civil-20, Startup-20, Women-20, and Youth-20. Through their experience and capability, India’s social innovators can provide solutions for some of the challenges facing the G20. Therefore, India needs a “Social Entrepreneurs-20” or integration of social entrepreneurs into the B-20.
Ajay Khanna is group strategic adviser, Jubilant Bhartia Group and co-founder, PAFI The views expressed are personal