UNDP is honoured to welcome you together with Impact Hub, the International Trade Centre, the Government of Finland, GIZ and the Swiss Development Agency to this discussion about the 2030 Agenda, the potential of social entrepreneurship and the role of innovation ecosystems.  

Today we want to emphasize two distinct points:

One, entrepreneurs, particularly social entrepreneurs, play a vital role in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Two: to thrive, social entrepreneurs require conducive ecosystems. Governments and development organizations need to further embrace a systems-view on how to unfold the potential of entrepreneurship.

Let me briefly touch upon the first point-

With the 2030 Agenda, we have a set of ambitious targets that require ‘moon shots’, that is radically new innovations to help transform our economies into sustainable systems that provide opportunities for all. Entrepreneurship is key to this. It provides an opportunity for the growing number of young people on this planet, who in turn precisely are already or will be the next-gen entrepreneurs.

I am pleased that we have some of you with us today. I am also pleased to have Jon Stevers with us, representing a movement to inform policy on social entrepreneurship from the bottom-up.

We see a new group of development actors emerging. UNDP is excited to partner with this group as we aim to identify and scale solutions from ‘unusual’ suspects and, importantly, to bring actors together. This is at the core of UNDP’s Country Platforms and of our new work stream on SDG Acceleration Labs.

As these labs and platforms convene different actors across sectors, including governments, allow me to elaborate on the second point.

Innovation and social entrepreneurship require a multitude of policy interventions, some of them not directly linked to entrepreneurship.  To frame the argument, I would like to quote one of Kenya’s best-known tech investors: Ory Okolloh. She stated three years ago that “you can’t entrepreneur around bad leadership, we can’t entrepreneur around bad policy.” As an investor herself, she warns of a “fetishization” of entrepreneurship and neglect of fundamental gaps in governance and policy that hamper the establishment of a conducive environment.

In UNDP, we are increasing our support for social entrepreneurship across regions. For example, the initiative YouthConnekt started in Rwanda and focuses on providing young women and men with skills to become entrepreneurs but also to engage in political processes and become agents of change in their communities. YouthConnekt has been designed with youth. Between 2013 and 2015, it reached more than 10,000 young women and men with skills building services and resulted in the creation of about 2,518 permanent and 5,791 temporarily jobs.  Today, UNDP and its partners are scaling the approach across six countries in Africa, seeking to create 10 million jobs for youth and to close the gender gap.

Let me also emphasize the importance of supporting nodes in the network, such as Impact Hub, with whom we partner to accelerate and scale solutions from entrepreneurs. I look forward to presentation of our joint initiative Accelerate 2030 today and to learn more about the work directly from some of our finalists.

Recent studies on innovation ecosystems – for example in Nigeria, India and China -- found that the existence of incubation and acceleration spaces that are led by experienced entrepreneurs is a key factor for the success of new entrepreneurs and a thriving ecosystem.

Essential about these findings is their context-bound applicability. When it comes to supporting thriving innovation ecosystems, there is no global best practice. This is one of the key findings of the Innovation Growth Lab, supported by Nesta. We are honored to welcome Nesta’s CEO Geoff Mulgan as our keynote speaker today to learn more about the importance of experimental approaches to policy design.

To conclude: at UNDP, we share with our partners a vision of social entrepreneurship as a means of empowering people, especially youth, to improve their lives. It is our collective responsibility to work for conditions which are conducive to entrepreneurs and enable the ones furthest left behind to obtain opportunities. 

Thank you

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