Social Innovation is Growing: What We Learned at Davos 2024

In January, the World Economic Forum hosted its 54th Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, bringing together nearly 3,000 participants from 120 countries.

Leaders across sectors and states gathered in a time of overwhelming uncertainty, fueled by the impending irreversible effects of the climate crisis, rising global tensions and escalating armed conflict, rapidly evolving artificial intelligence, increasing racial and ethnic injustice, economic strain, a widening wealth gap, and more.

Echoing Green President and 1992 Fellow Cheryl L. Dorsey was an official Delegate to the Forum again this year, attending various sessions under the overall theme of Rebuilding Trust. Senior leaders of Echoing Green — Sharyanne McSwain, Chief Operating Officer, and Liza Mueller, Vice President of Thought Leadership — also attended, lending their voices to conversations with private and public sector leaders in roundtable discussions.

The Annual Meeting Programme covered a wide array of issue areas and topics. Artificial intelligence and the climate crisis dominated the conversation at large, while racial equity was not prominently featured in this year’s agenda. This step back comes at a time when DEI retrenchment and ESG backlash have major influence over public discourse.

Throughout the week, Echoing Green leadership participated in and observed many more discussions about social innovation and its role in public-private sector partnerships than in years prior. This observation is an indicator that the field of social innovation is growing at an increasing pace.


Lacking conversations in the main agenda, Echoing Green partnered with Shelley Stewart III (McKinsey & Company) to discuss improving community outcomes through social innovation. In a dynamic interview, Cheryl shared her perspective on the ways in which social innovation contributes to economic mobility and the power of proximity to drive community-centered change forward.

When asked why social innovators who are proximate are often best positioned to develop solutions that work, Cheryl said:

“[Echoing Green Fellows] are an extraordinary group of innovators, most of whom are proximate and who bring lived experience. That’s insight. That is vision. That is hard core data that is only achieved by intuition and lived experience. It’s in your DNA and that translates to a knowledge base that you don’t get any other way.”

Cheryl and Shelly also discussed the ways in which social innovation accelerates the pace of private and public sector partnerships, as well as the value of blended capital as a dynamic tool for supporting early stage social entrepreneurs.

Check out the full conversation here.


Ajaita Shah and Gerald Abila Named Social Entrepreneurs of the Year

In a highlight of the week, Ajaita Shah ‘12 and Gerald Abila ‘16 were named Social Entrepreneurs of the Year by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. Ajaita and Gerald were previously awarded Echoing Green Fellowships in 2012 and 2016 respectively, receiving capital investments and two years of leadership development support to launch their organizations.

Gerald shared what it meant to him to be named a 2024 Schwab Foundation Social Innovation Awardee: “It’s a huge honor. Our BarefootLaw team knew it would be huge, but it’s much bigger than we thought. This was one of the most humbling experiences in my professional journey.”

Gerald is the chief executive officer and founder of BarefootLaw, a nonprofit organization based in Uganda that utilizes technology and innovative approaches to bridge the gap between people and the legal system. When asked to describe the moment he accepted the award, Gerald said, “I just started pumping my fist. There’s a rush of emotions. You become a human being. I had so many prep calls, but no one can prep you for that moment.”

In addition to being a massive achievement for Ajaita and Gerald, this honor demonstrates Echoing Green’s notable ability as a social impact talent spotter to identify and develop proximate change leaders.

Alloyius Attah on “Siri and FICO for Farmers”

2014 Fellow Alloyius Attah participated in a panel focused on scaling agriculture technology, stressing the importance of listening to farmers about what they want and need. When he was asked what he was most excited about, he said: “Siri for farmers and FICO for farmers.” As co-founder and chief executive officer at Farmerline, Alloyius leads ground-breaking work to provide context-relevant information in farmers’ own languages and financing through digital credit scoring.

Alloyius was also featured in a new white paper that was published during the Annual Meeting, sharing lessons learned and key actions to empower farmers and advance supply chain transparency.

Donnel Baird to Bring Decarbonization Race Learnings to Davos 2025

2012 Fellow Donnel Baird, founder of BlocPower, participated in the TIME100 Roundtable, where he discussed closing the digital divide in order to install clean energy equipment.

Donnel also made a huge announcement during the Annual Meeting: BlocPower is launching a city-scale decarbonization race that will take place over the course of the next year. The race is part of a pilot program in major U.S. cities such as Cambridge, San Jose, Chicago, Atlanta, and Boston. These cities will implement energy-efficient technology in an effort to reach net zero as quickly as possible. In addition to the announcement, Donnel shared exciting plans for next year’s Annual Meeting, where he plans to bring the mayors of the cities to share their insights.

Zubaida Bai on Shifting the Narrative for Women

2012 Fellow Zubaida Bai, president and chief executive officer of Grameen Foundation, co-authored an insightful piece about microlending’s role in closing the gender gap and tackling global poverty. In a video featured in the piece, Zubaida shared her perspective on intentional language choices and taking a systems-based approach to gender equity. She said:

“We really want to enable systems to make sure that [women] can show up with their full potential and with their full power . . . We really want to shift the narrative from empowering women to investing in the power of women.”

Karen Tse Co-Hosts Cross-Faith Moment of Reflection

2012 Fellow Karen Tse, founder and chief executive officer of International Bridges to Justice, co-hosted a moving event with Philipp Wilhelm, Mayor of Davos, and Hilde Schwab, Chairperson and Co-Founder of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. The event brought spiritual leaders across religions and faiths together to share messages of hope, peace, and justice.

Echoing Green would like to extend our gratitude to Francois Bonnici (Director, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship) and Daniel Nowack (Head, Global Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship) at the World Economic Forum, and Amy Goldman (CEO and Chair) and Chris Berger (Director of Communications) of the GHR Foundation for their partnership and support.

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