The Global Coopeartive Challenge offers participants a few themes to which they can submit their social business idea: eradicating poverty through education, reducing global warming, promoting transparency and whistleblowing, and creating jobs at the Bottom of the Pyramid. Check the themes below for more information.
Eradicating poverty through education

(by CARE International)

The problem:

The benefits of education in developing countries are widely known. Economists have demons trated the importance of education in increasing workforce productivity, contributing to household incomes, enhancing political participation, reducing social inequality, and promoting natural resource preservation. We know that education plays a critical role in economic growth of nations. Primary education, in particular, has been singled out by the World Bank as the largest contributing factor to economic growth in Asia's newly industrialized economies.

Other evidence points to universal enrollment in basic education as a critical precondition of sustained economic growth in the world’s most prosperous nations, as well as the importance of attaining a critical threshold of education before a country can experience accelerating growth. Almost every definition of poverty requires an acknowledgement of the value of education in enhancing human capabilities and freedoms, improving participation in development processes, contributing to economic growth, and in improving livelihood security.

Despite the multiplier effect of education, 61 million children failed to realize their right to education in 2011 (UNESCO Institute for Statistics). Millions more are enrolled in school but fail to learn and are at risk of dropping out. Girls from marginalized and excluded groups (economic, ethnic, geographic, and/or linguistic groups with less power and influence) suffer disproportionately. Nearly three-quarters of girls out of school come from excluded groups, even though these groups represent only 20 percent of the world’s population.

The opportunity:

Failing education systems represent a huge opportunity for improvement by social entrepreneurs. There is a clear and ever-present demand and a large number of potential beneficiaries: the children, their parents (in most cases), their future employers and local and national governments, as well as NGOs who now often spend a lot of resources on education. Finding an effective and cost-efficient, sustainable business model that enables the most disadvantaged children to receive education is an enormous challenge. At the same time, it is a challenge that has huge benefits in all aspects of fighting poverty.

Promoting transparency and whistleblowing

(by Transparency International)

The problem:

Whistleblowing is widely recognized as a key tool in the prevention and detection of corruption, fraud, financial crime and other forms of wrongdoing. Whistleblowers worldwide have been responsible for saving millions of lives and billions of dollars.

Nevertheless, in most countries, whistleblowers – working both in the public and private sectors – lack adequate, reliable legal protections to shield them from retaliation and provide them with a trustworthy framework to make their disclosures. As a result, they are routinely harassed, retaliated against, physically abused or even killed. And, potential whistleblowers are inhibited from making disclosures that could result in saving money, public resources, the environment or lives.

Due, in large part, to the financial crisis and a string of major corporate scandals, the issue of whistleblowing is becoming more relevant for the private sector. Many corporate failures and scandals have been brought to the attention of investigators, regulators, journalists and NGOs as a result of people working on the inside of corporations who witnessed corruption and fraud, and who took steps to expose this wrongdoing to agencies that could remedy the problems.

Though companies are often fearful of whistleblowers and seek to silence them, they can serve as “canaries in the coal mine” – sniffing out simmering problems before they erupt. A growing number of companies are recognizing the value of whistleblowers and have put in place systems for whistleblowers to come forward, while protecting them from firing, harassment and other forms of retaliation. According to a 2012 survey by Transparency International, 82 percent of companies 105 of the largest publicly listed multinational companies now have policies on whistleblowing, and 80 percent have non-retaliation policies.

Financial accountants also recognize the value of whistleblowers. According to a 2012 survey by Ernst & Young, 40% of respondents worldwide identified whistleblowing as a highly effective tool for detecting wrongdoing.

When companies’ internal whistleblowing systems do not work, employees sometimes report wrongdoing to outside authorities, which can lead to significant fines, criminal penalties and reputational damage. In the US, in just the first two months of a new whistleblower program established to prevent financial crime, 334 people reported tips to government officials. These included allegations of insider trading, foreign corrupt practices and doctored financial statements. One whistleblower received a $31 million award in 2012 after a prominent financial services company was fined $158 million.

Large corporations, in particular those in the financial services industry, should continue to be more motivated to improve their internal whistleblower policies – to avoid unnecessary risks, penalties and negative publicity. Up until now, however, the effectiveness of these policies has been nearly impossible to gauge. In order for corporate whistleblower policies and procedures to have credibility – and for the credibility of the corporate sector itself to be restored – these policies and procedures should be subject to outside review and analysis.

The opportunity:

Multiple opportunities can be derived from the important but difficult rise of whistleblowing practices. You are invited to take up one of the following tasks:

- Create a sustainable business that reviews and/ or monitors the effectiveness of whistleblowing policies

- Create a sustainable business that supports and encourages corporate whistleblowers and whistleblowing practices

- Devise a sustainable business that sets a particularly high standard of whistleblowing and transparency in general, which may serve as an example to established businesses

For all these, it is critical that you stick to the idea of social entrepreneurship, which includes having social value as a primary objective, but at the same time having a sustainable revenue-generating business model. For this particular theme, this is no easy task, but one indeed with potentially very high benefits!

Creating jobs at the Bottom of the Pyramid

(by SENStation)

The problem:

Unemployment levels have been rising globally in recent years, and are unlikely to decrease in the coming few years. According to the International Labor Organization, some 200 million workers are currently unemployed worldwide, 75 million of whom are under 25 years old. The economic crisis has resulted in growing levels of unemployment, even in the developed economies of the OECD, where youth unemployment is nearing 20% on average. In many developing countries, unemployment levels are even much higher: in some countries, it is not uncommon that half the working-age population is unemployed.

In addition, many people in developing countries are working in the informal economy, where they pay no taxes and have no social security or other types of labor protection. In some countries in South Asia and Sub-Sahara Africa, as much as 90% of workers have jobs in the informal economy.

Unemployment is a global phenomenon that puts a large stress on economic and social development. High unemployment levels increase social inequality, lower the government’s tax incomes and increase its expenditures in social benefits, and often leads to civil unrest. Dissatisfaction with the lack of job opportunities was seen by many as the primary cause behind the Arab Spring. With the global economy not showing any signs of an imminent recovery, it is likely that unemployment levels will continue to stay high, with all negative social and economic consequences.

The opportunity:

With the traditional capitalist model under stress, many see the employment crisis as a unique opportunity for social business to show its potential. Social businesses can provide not only the social value reflected in their primary objectives, but also an increasing amount of job opportunities, both in developed countries and at the Bottom of the Pyramid. Job creation brings with it many additional benefits, including higher consumption, economic growth, higher tax income and greater social stability, all of which in turn bring greater economic opportunity to the community.

You are encouraged to devise a social business that has as one of its primary objectives the creation of jobs at the Bottom of the Pyramid. Creating jobs and economic opportunity are very closely connected to the original idea of social business created by prof. Muhammad Yunus. Therefore, entrants to this theme are strongly encouraged to follow his principles of social business, which include most importantly the reinvestment of all profit into the business, with the purpose of greater social value.