Schwab Foundation 2017: Meet the 13 Social Enterprise Awardees Making the World a Better Place

Social entrepreneurs promote social innovation in areas including health, environment, education, poverty alleviation, inclusion, justice and human rights. They do this by applying business clout together with a focus on social and ecological values, by being creative, and by having the courage to try new approaches.

Autor*in Annalisa Dorigo, 04.05.17

Translation Annalisa Dorigo:

Social entrepreneurs promote social innovation in areas including health, environment, education, poverty alleviation, inclusion, justice and human rights. They do this by applying business clout together with a focus on social and ecological values, by being creative, and by having the courage to try new approaches. The Schwab Foundation annual award recognises and promotes the work of social entrepreneurs worldwide. This year, they have picked 13 organisations who have been applying their ingenuity to solve some of the most pressing issues of our times. 

At RESET we like to report on clever initiatives that bring about positive change, and help solve social, economic and environmental problems. Here we report on a pick of 13 social enterprises who have made it to the Schwab Foundation 2017 Social Enterprise Award. They span fields such as healthcare, justice and human rights, entrepreneurship, education and technology, biometrics, financial inclusion, food and agriculture, infrastructure and of course, environment.


The Aman Foundation offers affordable community health programs in Pakistani cities, with a focus on family planning, reproductive and child health. It supports some 1 million people each year, over 100,000 of whom are helped through its ambulance service alone. The Aman Foundation uses seed capital to incubate social enterprises, and works with governments and external funders to scale them.

Last Mile Health seeks to deliver primary health services to over one million people living in remote communities in Liberia. Partnerships with health organisations and governments are key in its aim to develop a national networks of community health practitioners. To date, it has been able to deliver primary healthcare to some 50,000 people living in some 300 remote communities.

Medical Technology and Transfer Service (MTTS), designs, produces and sells medical devices to prevent neonatal mortality in low-income countries. Some 75% of infant deaths are indeed preventable. Its LifeKit includes machines for respiratory distress syndrome, radiant warmers for hypothermia and photo-therapy devices for jaundice. MTTS products have been used in 350 hospitals in 25 countries, and have treated almost half a million babies. And the supportive services also provided, have helped some 1.3 million babies.

Zipline uses drones (Zips) to deliver medical supplies, vaccines and blood. Currently deployed in Rwanda, one fleet of Zips is reaching some 20 hospitals and health centres there, giving millions of people access to medical supplies.


Livox is a smartphone and tablet software application that facilitates communication and learning for people with disabilities. Through clever algorithms, the app interprets the users’ movements, and through its Visual Smart Keyboard words or sentences can be pronounced. The customizable app allows the creation of educational content, and can teach users to read, write and understand complex concepts. Livox has won a number of awards, including the 2015 Best Inclusion App Award by the UN.

Fundacion Capital promotes financial inclusion and economic citizenship through giving people living in extreme poverty access to financial tools, skills, technology and digital solutions “supporting them in defining their own path out of poverty.” Its user-centred approach and close work with local governments ensure the development of initiatives that are relevant to the people it seeks to support. Through it, over 5 million people in 17 Latin American and African countries have been able to define their own path out of poverty.


Conflict, poverty, environmental disasters are the main causes why people decide to leave their country. In the often turbulent journeys that ensue, some of those fleeing will just disappear. REFUNITE is a tracing platform designed to help family members search for their missing loved ones. Operational in Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Pakistan, Somaliland, Somalia, Liberia, South Africa, Rwanda, Tanzania, Niger, Ghana, Nigeria, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, the platform is free of charge, and accessible via any basic phone. To date, it has helped reconnect more than 38,000 family members.

Simprints is non-profit that seeks that uses biometrics for development. Through an open-source software and biometric technology (such as fingerprint scanners for frontline workers) it helps researchers, NGOs and governments fight poverty around the world, by enabling them to accurately track projects achievements in some of the toughest settings. Simprints helps track programs’ outcomes within areas including health, microfinance, aid distribution, and education.

Food & Agriculture

The Kitchen‘s aim is quite simply access to real food for everyone in the USA. It does this by: promoting restaurants’ sourcing of food direct from farmers, at affordable prices for end customers; a network of outdoor Learning Gardens delivering real food education in schools in disadvantaged areas; supporting indoor vertical farming enterprises and a new generation of real food entrepreneurs to help them opt out of the industrial food system.


Water for People wants to bring safe water and sanitation to each family, school, clinic in Bolivia, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, Malawi, Uganda, Rwanda, India, thereby making safe drinking water and sanitation accessible to all. It does this by building wells, installing toilets, setting up pumps, and by partnering with local institutions, and communities to ensure that change is sustainable in the long term.  Thanks to Water for People, some four million people in these countries have now access to safe drinking water and sanitation.


COMACO (Community Markets for Conservation) seeks to improve farms productivity and diversify farmers’ income opportunities, through conservation and wildlife preservation efforts. For example, it buys surplus harvest from farmers, to be processed, packaged and sold as consumer products (e.g. rice, honey) under its premium brand It’s Wild! To date, COMACO counts some 40,000 registered farmers in Zambia.

Justice and Human Rights

Namati helps people in Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Kenya, Liberia, Myanmar, Uganda, Bangladesh and India to understand and shape the laws that affect them. Through a network of community paralegals and grassroots groups, Namati seeks to protect community lands, rights to healthcare and citizenship, as well as enforce environmental laws, while ensuring that the people affected are fully aware of, and involved in, the legal processes that affect them.


Entrepreneurs Associates (EA) promotes and supports entrepreneurship as the key out of poverty and dependence on government jobs, as well as a peace-building tool, in the disadvantaged and politically unstable region of Nagaland, India. Through intensive business skills training, mentoring, networking opportunities, and financial linkages, EA motivates and supports local youths to take control over local resources and to use them to generate employment, income and economic growth. Partnerships with local stakeholders have been key in helping EA create some 17,000 jobs in the area to date.

To find out more about each individual organisation, head to the Schwab Foundation’s website. And here’s a short video from them:

Land Matrix Initiative: Making International Land Sales More Transparent

Countless indigenous groups have lost their livelihoods when their land and property has been sold off, with negotiations often happening behind closed doors. The Land Matrix Initiative takes a closer look at the business of land acquisition throughout the world and puts the facts and figures out in the open.

Low-Tech Lifesavers: How a Simple Armband Is Protecting Babies From Hypothermia

Complicated monitoring equipment, incubators, a stable source of electricity - now, even without any of these things, babies in India can still be saved from hypothermia. The Bempu armband is a low-tech innovation that helps protect babies from invisible dangers when they're most vulnerable.

Pouncer: The World’s First Incredible, Edible Drone

Forget Foodora and Deliveroo, the most important invention revolutionising food delivery is actually a drone; one that’s good enough to eat.

GiftedMom: How A Simple SMS Could Save Your Life In Cameroon

The African continent has a new app dedicated to improving the health of mothers and pregnant women: GiftedMom is an initiative making good use of the popularity of mobile technology in Africa to spread information and awareness and tackle the ongoing issue of maternal and infant mortality.

Wood Mold: the Open-Source Solution That Makes Water Filters Accessible to Water-poor Communities

An award winning open-source technology is bringing safe water to remote and water-scarce communities: cheap, easy to assemble and requiring no technical know-how or expensive inputs, it helps people to access clean drinking water fast!

Smart Solar Kiosks Create Sustainable Jobs and Connect Communities

A Rwandan entrepreneur designed a solar-powered cart that charges phones and also serves as an internet hotspot. His ambitious goal is to provide employment opportunities and create up to 100,000 small businesses in Africa.

From Harvest To Checkout: How Fresh.Land Is Revolutionising The Way Supermarkets Work

How long does it take for an apple to go from orchard to shopping basket? Too long, according to the B2B startup Fresh.Land. They want to fast-track the process by setting up direct digital supply chains between farmers and supermarkets.

This ‘Human Lab’ Seeks to Help People Build Their Own Assistive Technologies

For the majority of amputees worldwide, a prosthesis is not an option. For people with disabilities, particularly those living in developing countries, the limits to what they can achieve in life can be insurmountable.

Well Bread: How a Loaf Is Building a Healthier, Fairer Food System

A grassroots community is using one key ingredient to help improve the diets of local residents, stimulate local economies and create fair trade deals between farmer and retailer: bread! Take a look at how the Bread Matters team is going against the grain to revolutionise the food system.