To celebrate the impact individuals have in making social change happen across the world, Good Deals, the annual social UK social investment conference, has presented Pioneers Awards to three leading social entrepreneurs who are delivering educational change in Afghanistan, positive Fairtrade impacts in Ghana, and social investment market developments in the UK and abroad.
Dr Sakena Yacoobi, founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), which aims to address the crisis of poor access to education and health services for Afghan people, in particular women and children, began her quest to provide education for girls during the Taliban regime in the mid 1990s.
When the Taliban banned schools in Afghanistan, communities that had heard of the work of the institute in refugee camps asked it to support underground schools for girls.
Dr. Sakena Yacoobi said: “When children want to learn you do what you can. News soon spread that our schools were safe, trusted and offered a good education. Teachers used their own homes and the communities supported the schools and, as word spread, we were asked to support schools by many other communities. Although the reality was that if the schools had been discovered, the teachers and the students would have been punished and possibly killed.”
Speaking about how AIL works with social investors Yacoobi said: “Both the implementing organisation and the social investor or donor need to be in agreement on their vision and concepts of how to do the work. Most people in Afghanistan want education for their children and they want to be healthy and have a good life. To be a change agent for long-term impact you have to work in complete cooperation with the community.”
Fairtrade pioneer Sophi Tranchell has been at the helm of Divine Chocolate since 1999 when it set out to change the way the chocolate industry works forever.
Divine is the only Fairtrade chocolate company that is 45% owned by cocoa farmers - the Kuapa Kokoo farmers co-operative in Ghana. The co-op now has 65,000 members from over 1,400 village societies. Divine has since launched successfully in the US, and is distributed across Europe, Australia and some of Asia.
Sophi Tranchell said: “It’s the first time in history that cocoa farmers have received the lion’s share of the profit from a chocolate company. We’ve made huge inroads in taking Divine’s proposition to a market dominated by three multinational players because we believe in the product and a different way of doing business. Now the giants of the chocolate industry have followed our lead and have converted some of their products to Fairtrade. We’re proof that social enterprise in this sector can work and I’m so proud that Divine has championed the way it does business across the world. We would like to see a real sea-change in support for social enterprise models, for co-operatives, for employee ownership – a future where money and decision making is in the hands of the many, and not of the few.”
No one person has been as instrumental to the formation of the UK social investment marketplace as Sir Ronald Cohen who is currently Chair of the world’s first social investment bank, Big Society Capital. Big Society Capital provides investment and support to social investment intermediaries using money from dormant bank accounts.
With roles in setting up the Social Investment Taskforce over a decade ago, through to the Independent Commission on Unclaimed Assets and the set up of the UK’s first social impact bond, he has seen the wholesale bank through its research and development and start-up phases, and is widely credited for championing the concept in the City and Government. He is now Chair of the G8 Social Investment Taskforce and leading a major international effort to boost impact investing.
Recognised for his pioneering role and leadership by UK Prime Minister David Cameron at the G8 summit this year, Sir Ronald Cohen said: “Big Society Capital has developed into a powerful force driving social improvement in the UK and I have been privileged to be its founding chair. The UK is a leading light in the development of a social investment market. This is real collaboration between the UK government, and the social and financial sectors, in creating a sustainable market that will bring about powerful social change.”
Rohan Martyres, Manager at CAN Invest, chaired the session 'A higher state of readiness' at Good Deals 2013 with panel members Geeta Gopalan,Big Lottery Fund; Caroline Forster from SIB Group and Tom Storey, Reds10.
To read Rohan's thoughts on social investment and social inequality, visit ghis guest blog spot on Pioneers Post.