CEO Fadi Ghandour Named 2019 Social Innovation Thought Leader

In September, the World Economic Forum and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship announced the 2019 Social Innovation Thought Leaders. YPO member Fadi Ghandour, Chairman and CEO of Wamda Capital, a platform that invests, nurtures and builds entrepreneurship ecosystems across the Middle East and North Africa, was among the 40 awardees recognized for their innovative approach and potential for global impact.

“I am happy to be part of a community of leaders who have been working so hard in so many of the current challenges that our world is facing and in so many geographies to change the lives of people for the better,” says Ghandour. “I hope to learn from the individuals in this community of impact leaders to see how our collective knowledge and work can be of use to improve the areas we each focus on.”

For more than 20 years, the Schwab Foundation has recognized more than 350 leading social entrepreneurs from 70 countries as a new breed of leader — values-driven, inclusive, compassionate and entrepreneurial, developing new sustainable models for business, human development and environmental initiatives — and embedded them in the platforms of the World Economic Forum.

Creating Change at Scale

Many of the world’s challenges — poverty, inequality and climate change — are too large and complex for any single social entrepreneur or institution to tackle alone. Dynamic interactions and multi-stakeholder partnerships across ideological divides are needed in order to create real change. To help support an ecosystem of social innovation to accelerate the world’s collective progress, the Schwab Foundation has introduced three new award categories along with the established category of Social Entrepreneur of the Year: Public Social Intrapreneur, Corporate Social Intrapreneur and Social Innovation Thought Leader.

“Societal challenges require solutions from all actors, be they government or individual communities,” says Ghandour, who was recognized as a Social Innovation Thought Leader shaping and contributing to the field’s evolution. “Social innovation originates from these community actors, or social entrepreneurs, who are directly involved and have a local understanding of these challenges. As such, their innovations are relevant, implementable and effective.”

“Societal challenges require solutions from all actors, be they government or individual communities.” — Fadi Ghandour, Chairman and CEO Wamda Capital 

Mobilizing resources to aid marginalized communities

Ghandour mobilized a peer group of likeminded businessmen with the singular aim of deploying entrepreneurship — talent, resources and skills — in the service of community and to help tackle the inequities that pervade the Arab world. He is shifting the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the Middle East and North Africa through Wamda, a funder and startup incubator, and Ruwwad Al-Tanmeya, a private‐sector led community empowerment platform he founded in 2005.

Ruwwad helps youth in marginalized communities change their realities to become more independent and self-reliant through activism, civic engagement, education and financial inclusion. According to Ghandour, Ruwwad now has eight community centers in four countries, provides more than 500 university scholarships a year and gives thousands of volunteering hours a week to help address real challenges in the communities in which they operate.

“The most exciting thing in social innovation is the huge interest of youth in being active in areas of climate change, economic justice and financial inclusion, and gender equity,” says Ghandour. “It is affecting the corporate world and getting everyone to pay attention to these extremely important societal issues. Look at the statement from the Business Roundtable (an association of chief executive officers of America’s leading companies) changing the purpose of a corporation, from serving just shareholders to all stakeholders. This is a very serious development that will see more collaboration between the social sector and business to solve societal challenges.”

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