This month, the United Nations General Assembly will bring world leaders together to broker agreements on how to respond to common threats and work for a better collective future. In the wake of COVID-19, there is a sense that we are standing at a pivotal moment in history – one in which we must choose either the path of collective solidarity and economic, social and environmental sustainability, or the path of rising conflict, growing inequality and environmental destruction. What may once have been dismissed as hyperbole is now seems, to many, worryingly real.
In times of transition, leadership matters: not only political leadership, but leadership throughout all walks of life. The Business Fights Poverty community is, to me, an example of how we can all be leaders, holding fast to the vision of a better future and bringing people together to advance towards it.
This fortnight’s content has provided insights from research on leadership, as well as a chance to hear directly from those who are leading bold initiatives to create big change:
- In Bold Thinking, Brave Action, find out the common attributes of brave leaders, and the five distinct character profiles that brave leaders cultivate to create transformational organisational change. Janek Seevaratnam, Charities Aid Foundation provides an overview of a recent report on leadership in sustainable business by Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) and Forster Communications.
- The pandemic has brought calls for transformational change of our economic system “from the margins to the mainstream”. In Resetting the Agenda: Using partnerships as a step to more impactful change in a better, post pandemic world, Paul Smith Lomas, Chief Executive, Practical Action, provides inspiration for how systemic change is being achieved through bold collaborations and multisector alliances. “Only by linking up the critical perspectives of people at the grass roots with the global picture will we find solutions that will work at all levels.”
- Ashish Gadnis, Founder and CEO, BankQu shares his personal journey with us, from immigrant to the US from India, coder, founder, Congo volunteer and now impact entrepreneur in our Podcast Interview. Ashish demystifies blockchain, shares the trends to watch, and explains why his father said to him – “If you want to get out of poverty you can either programme or you can beg.”
One important way to develop leaders is to support women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. When women become economically empowered, there are significant benefits for their families, communities, and for national economies – for example through increased spending on child health and education, job creation, and increased economic productivity. Two of our contributions focus on the tailored support that women entrepreneurs need to thrive:
- Sizakele Marutlulle, Marketing and Brand Leader, Entrepreneur and Influencer, is on a mission to support 100 FENTREPRENEURS – female entrepreneurs who are three years into their business journey. In our Podcast Interview, listen as Sizakele explains why conventional start-up incubators are not able to serve this “missing middle”, and her insights into the specialised support that these entrepreneurs need.
- Dawn Taylor, Country Director Tanzania, VSO International, sets out her vision for going above and beyond to support women entrepreneurs, by providing holistic support that helps women overcome a wide range of practical and systemic barriers. “For women in particular, running a business cannot be separated from their personal and family lives, and the place they occupy in society.”
Beyond the empowerment of women, the diverse nature of business means that there are innumerable opportunities for the business community to show leadership in creating a more equal and sustainable world. Our contributors have given insights into some of the ways that businesses can respond to the economic, social and environmental risks that we face:
- “Today, 91% of the world’s population inhabits places where air quality fails to meet World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines”, writes Katy Ogundiya, Equity Research Analyst, Barclays Investment Bank. Find out about Barclays’ new report on what needs to be done to improve air quality in the long-term, and the implications for investors.
- The recent study by Geopoll on the economic impacts of COVID-19 on Sub-Saharan Africa shows that low-income and informal workers are worst affected. Roxana Elliott, VP Marketing, GeoPoll, urges businesses to use insights from the research to provide tailored and data-driven loan programmes, as well as employment opportunities and aid.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped businesses’ approach to social risk – from a greater appreciation of the need for social risk management, to revised health and safety and disciplinary policies, new approaches to community welfare, and greater inclusivity in decision-making and communication. Nomsa Fulbrook-Kagwe, Executive, ESG Impact, CDC Group, shared some reflections from CDC’s investees.
- The world’s poorest people are frequently overlooked when businesses design products, services and investment support. In our Podcast Interview, Alexis Geaneotes and Kathy Mignano from IFC provide insight into why and how businesses and investors can engage with inclusive business models to meet the needs of the ‘underserved’.
As part of our commitment to support leaders in the business and sustainable development community, this month Business Fights Poverty are hosting an online conference, Business Fights Poverty NYC Online2020, in partnership with Visa, from 21-25th September 2020, to coincide with the UN General Assembly. We will hear from a wide variety of leaders and will facilitate interactive peer discussions on the themes of Imagining the Future We Want; Creating an Equitable World; Helping People Survive and Thrive; Building Resilient Livelihoods; and Shaping System-Level Partnerships.
We hope you will join us to build new connections, deepen your understanding and identify opportunities for action.