Saturday, January 27, 2007

Social entrepreneurs at Davos

People are often surprised when I tell them how social entrepreneurs are well received at Davos. We're full participants in panels, including being speakers. I think the reason for this integration is the strong support of the WEF's founder, Prof. Klaus Schwab, for the regard of social entrepreneurs.

One great example of this was a major reception held last night with the following hosts: Marc Benioff (CEO of Salesforce.com), Prof. & Mrs. Schwab, Michael Dell, Peter Gabriel (rockstar and founder of Witness), Alan Hassenfeld (Hasbro) and Marilyn Carlson Nelson (Carlson Travel). The reception was held in honor of social entrepreneurs and marking the release of a new book edited by Marc Benioff entitled The Business of Changing the World, which is a compendium of essays about business people and their engagement with the social sector. I had some great conversations with people explaining what Benetech does.

Talking to other Social Entrepreneurs

At least half of the highpoints of this week in Switzerland are the interactions I have with other social entrepreneurs. I feel very much at home with these folks, which are my peer community. Last night I was talking to John Wood about his book, Amazon.com: Leaving Microsoft to Change the World. He gave me the direct advice of a social entrepreneur in the middle of marketing his first book: immensely useful.

Moving on to dinner, I sat next to Garth Japhet of Soul City in South Africa, a doctor/social entrepreneur who leads an organization that uses media to influence behavior that affects HIV/AIDS. Garth was able to give me (in less than ten minutes) the reason why HIV spreads so much more quickly in southern Africa than in most other places in the world. He explained that immediately after infection, you are extremely infectious for around three weeks until your immune system beats HIV down to nearly indetectable levels. He noted that while southern Africans do not tend to have a larger lifetime number of sexual partners, they tend to have longer term relationships with multiple partners at the same time. Because a person might be with several long term partners in that several week initial peak infectivity, you will infect several people (and you are less likely to use a condom since it is a long term partner and not a one night stand). And if your partners are similarly oriented, they could infect several more people. Garth noted that a single infection leads to many more infections given this profile compared to societies where you might have as many sexual partners over your lifetime, but where the likelihood of having multiple partners during this three week period is much less.

Like many of my conversations with social entrepreneurs, I feel like I have a window into a crucial social issue from someone with an unparalleled vantage point. And, I get to have at least a dozen of these in-depth conversations every time I come to Davos!

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