The Poverty Stoplight at Davos

Dec 20, 2017

Article by Poverty Stoplight

**2018 brings with it the rise of the Social Entrepreneurship phenomenon. These leaders are only a few examples of a much wider shift rippling across social consciousness. Their work is reflected in that done at Fundacion Paraguaya, and through the Poverty Stoplight in particular. ** (Image: World Economic Forum/Christian Clavadetscher]

Last month, Dr. Martin Burt (CEO of the Poverty Stoplight and founder of its parent organization, Fundación Paraguaya) joined a group of leaders from every corner of the world to take part in the 48th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting (WEF). Each attendee brought their own stories to share, and walked away with new experiences sure to benefit their communities back home. From virtual reality platforms to rural women’s groups, from healthy homes to solar micro grids, Davos overflowed with possibilities, ideas, and programs.


In the past, questions have been raised about Davos, namely about its exclusivity. The event is invite-only, and less than twenty percent of those invitees have historically been women. Furthermore, while the powerful figureheads who attend certainly wield enough influence to affect change, critics worried that their worldview was too narrow. Alain Sherter of Moneywatch questions the effectiveness of inviting leaders to a conference aimed at bridging those gaps when, indeed, it is “created and enforced by some of the very interests charged with eliminating them.”

However, changes have come about. In 2018, for the first time in nearly fifty years, Davos’ seven co-chairs for the Annual Meeting were all women. More panels regarding women’s rights and gender equality were also introduced this year; as were several seminars on sexual harassment, the first of their kind at Davos. Attaining total equality will be a “slow climb” according to the WEF’s head of the Education, Gender, and Work System Initiative, Saadia Zahidi, but evidently a fundamental remodel is on the horizon.

In further exciting news, 2018 brings with it the rise of the Social Entrepreneurship phenomenon. Using a combination of business techniques and creative solutions, social entrepreneurs work to alleviate poverty across a variety of fields. Notable among the Forum chairs was Chetna Sinha, who founded the Mann Deshi Mahila Bank, the first of its kind as a bank for rural women in India. The bank has run for twenty years, and offers women an avenue for self-sufficiency and empowerment. The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, a longtime partner of the World Economic Forum, used the event this year to recognize Therese Fernandez-Ruiz, one of the founders of Rags2Riches, an organization in the Philippines which helps previously-exploited artisans cultivate and sell their unique clothes. Most of Fernandez-Ruiz’s beneficiaries are working mothers; she says, “It helps lots of women break away from abuse and avoid other pitfalls they might encounter because of a lack of political and economic security and empowerment.” (article here)

(Image: World Economic Forum/Jakob Polacsek) Img

Sinha and Fernandez-Ruiz are only two examples of a much wider shift rippling across social consciousness. Their work is reflected in the Poverty Stoplight’s many accomplishments. Thanks to the Stoplight, women’s groups in Paraguay are affecting change in their communities by participating in collective challenges. Families are successfully using gamification to eliminate poverty by participating in contests like “My Bathroom, My Kitchen, My Pride” or “My Happy Smile.” The former aims to alleviate the dearth of modern bathrooms or kitchens in rural homes, and the latter focuses on the lack of healthy dental hygiene and habits in these communities. The Stoplight also continues to facilitate social change around the world as an essential tool for myriad partners. At the close of 2017, the Poverty Stoplight held active partnerships in 15 countries through eight Hubs and six Special Projects. Mexico’s USEM, a business association made up of over 200 leaders in 160 organizations, is working across the country to encourage competitive, productive, ethical businesses, and champions the Poverty Stoplight as a critical facet of reaching that goal. The UK’s Transmit Enterprise provides another example of the incredible intersection between business and social good. As a company that provides business support to pre-start and early stage businesses, they have found that the idea of poverty as a purely economic situation is outdated. They are currently utilising the Poverty Stoplight’s survey to eliminate poverty within households in the UK in efforts to empower those households to influence policy and co-design local services.

To bring together partners such as Mexico and the U.K. with thought-leaders across the public, private and third sector, and to continue the momentum from Davos, the Poverty Stoplight will be hosting its own gathering, “Cerrito 2018: Innovation for Poverty Elimination.” Social entrepreneurship will be a key talking point throughout this conference, but this dynamic group intends to discuss approaches to cross-disciplinary innovation; the role of technology in poverty elimination; strategies to move past ideation and into action; and recommendations for measuring and responding to poverty. Most exciting of all, participants will have the unique opportunity to see the Cerrito Initiative first-hand. This project, the brainchild of the Fundación Paraguaya, is the organization’s commitment to activate the entrepreneurial potential of 1,000 families in a primarily indigenous community by eliminating their multidimensional poverty over a period of three years. For more information about attendance, please email

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