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Social entrepreneurs needed to achieve UN goals

images (1)Last year, the world’s governments made a commitment that will profoundly shape the future of our planet, writes Ben Powell. an Ashoka Fellow and the founder and CEO of Agora Partnerships, a nonprofit organisation working to accelerate the shift to a sustainable and inclusive economy through entrepreneurship.

It’s called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and it is a battle plan for planet earth.

The SDGs are 17 goals designed by the United Nations to “end poverty, fight inequality and injustice and tackle climate change by 2030.” They are both a vision and a plan for improved quality of life on earth. With 17 goals, 169 targets and 230 indicators the SDGs are already a remarkable diplomatic achievement for the 180 countries that have signed on, especially when viewed against the complexity of challenges each of these countries face within their own borders.

The goals are truly global, applying to rich and poor countries alike. This is not a case of rich countries telling poor countries what they should do. This is the world telling itself: We are all in this together, we are more interdependent than we have realized and we can only solve our challenges with a focused plan that keeps everyone accountable.

The goals discuss key pathologies that afflict our planet:

  • the low status of women in the world (SDG#5)
  • disrespect for human rights and dignity (SDG#10)
  • economic instability (SDG#8)
  • climate change (SDG #13)
  • basic infrastructure needs like clean water (SDG#6)
  • energy access (SDG#7)

The goals represent a clarion call for unity and resolve in addressing challenges that affect us all. They identify ways to address the conditions that have allowed resentment and hopelessness to fester. They are reasonable, comprehensive, inclusive and achievable. They are also our only global plan. For these reasons, they must be vigorously pursued.

Yet, even if leaders could come up with the funds, we are not going to win this war by spending money the old fashioned way through top-down plans. Instead, we must create the conditions that unleash human ingenuity and empower change-making.

Entrepreneurs are the key to unlocking this potential and in particular, social entrepreneurs who are intentional about applying the toolkit of entrepreneurship to solving problems. The ultimate struggle for a better world will be won based on our ability to build new operating systems that can better allocate social, financial and human capital resources to focus on the goals.

One of these new operating systems must be focused on increasing the agency of social entrepreneurs working to solve the goals.

FULL STORY: A Global Battle Plan: Social Entrepreneurs Needed to Accomplish UN’s Sustainable Development Goals


Sustainable development goals (United Nations)

Small image: Ben Powell (

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