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Shah of Frontier Markets and Bajaj of Ujala Cygnus among top global changemakers

Schwab Foundation's Social Innovators of the Year Awards 2024 recognize change leaders that have improved the lives of over 890 million people worldwide

Shah of Frontier Markets and Bajaj of Ujala Cygnus among top global changemakers
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

Ajaita Shah of rural retail innovator Frontier Markets and Shuchin Bajaj of accessible healthcare network Ujala Cygnus Hospitals were among the executives recognized at the Schwab Foundation’s Social Innovators of the Year Awards 2024 during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The awards this year recognize groundbreaking work across four categories: healthcare, education, finance, and environmental protection.

This year’s awardees join a community of change leaders that have improved the lives of over 890 million people worldwide, Schwab Foundation said.

“The Social Innovators of the Year 2024 represent a diverse group of entrepreneurs and innovators who are driving the change we need to create a more sustainable, inclusive future,” said Hilde Schwab, co-founder and chairperson of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. 

“The collective potential of this community offers a beacon of hope for acting with purpose and collaboration during uncertain times.”

The World Economic Forum released a list of the winners:

Social Entrepreneurs 

This category included individuals who are employing innovative, market-based approaches to tackle social issues.

Here are the winners:

  1. Ajaita Shah, at the helm of Frontier Markets, is revolutionizing last-mile connections for rural Indian households through the power of social commerce and women empowerment. 
  2. (Mohamed) Amine Zariat, a former international basketball player from Morocco, has created significant social impact through his organization Tibu Africa. Founded in 2010, Tibu Africa leverages the power of sports to empower young people and women across the continent. 
  3. Catalina Cock Duque, a renowned social entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience, co-founded Fundación Mi Sangre in Colombia. The organization focuses on empowering young people to become agents of positive change and build a culture of peace within the country. 
  4. Gerald Abila, the founder of BarefootLaw in Uganda, a non-profit organization, employs digital technology to provide free legal information and enhance access to justice in Africa. The group resolves legal issues pro bono through a team of trained attorneys, aided by an AI lawyer named Winnie. 
  5. Rudayna Abdo, the founder, CEO, and president of Thaki in Lebanon, heads a non-profit organization providing learning tools to schools serving refugee and vulnerable children in the Middle East. Since its establishment in 2015, Thaki has utilized donated used computer hardware and educational technology software to bring hope and educational opportunities to tens of thousands of children. 
  6. Shuchin Bajaj, the founder and director of Ujala Cygnus Hospitals in India, oversees a network of 20 hospitals across New Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Haryana. These facilities deliver specialized and emergency healthcare in regions lacking such services. 
  7. Temie Giwa-Tubosun, the chief executive officer of LifeBank Group operating in Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia, leads Africa’s top healthcare technology and logistics company. With a presence in 11 cities across these countries, LifeBank offers comprehensive services to healthcare facilities, encompassing the distribution of blood, oxygen, medical consumables, and equipment. 
  8. Xia Li, the founder of Shenzhen Power-Solution in China, heads a company that supplies off-grid solar home systems tailored for the 730 million people worldwide without access to electricity, often relying on candles and kerosene for lighting. The company has illuminated nearly 50 million people in over seven million households, with a significant emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa. 

Public Social Innovators 

This category included individuals that are working to create better policy environments and public programmes within institutions of government.

  1. Chantal Line Carpentier, leads the Trade, Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainable Development branch at the UN Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) Division on International Trade and Commodities in Switzerland. Line Carpentier advocates for innovative economic models promoting sustainable development and emphasizes the significant contribution of small businesses and entrepreneurs to women’s economic empowerment. 
  2. Ibu Vivi Yulaswati, serving as the director of Indonesia’s Ministry of National Development Planning and heading the National Secretariat for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, brings substantial expertise to poverty reduction programs in the country. Her experience includes involvement in subsidy reforms, community development, and conditional cash transfer projects.
  3. Juan Martinez Louvier, currently serving as the General Director of Mexico’s National Institute for Social Economy, is tasked with formulating, executing, and assessing national public policies to foster the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE). He is dedicated to establishing market enterprises with a social mission to tackle inequality and poverty. 

Corporate Social Innovators 

This category includes individuals that are using their influence to make companies more inclusive and purposeful.

  1. Saugata Banerjee, global head of Sustainable Programming at EssilorLuxottica, a prominent eyewear group based in Singapore, is an industry veteran committed to advancing affordable eye care. He plays a key role in the company’s goal to eradicate uncorrected poor vision globally within a generation.
  2. Ruchika Singhal, as the president of Medtronic LABS, a non-profit subsidiary of the medical technology group Medtronic, oversees the incubation of new ideas for global health access. Managing a team of over 100 professionals spanning the US, Africa, and Asia, she focuses on designing and implementing healthcare delivery models for underserved communities.

Collective Social Innovators 

This category includes individuals that are bringing together organizations to solve complex problems that cannot be tackled by individual actors.

  1. The Financing Alliance for Health in Kenya, headed by chief executive officer Angela Gichaga, is an African-led partnership focused on addressing systemic financing challenges related to scaling primary and community health programs in sub-Saharan Africa. Collaborating with governments, donors, and the private sector, the alliance works with health and finance ministries to formulate community health strategies and secure essential funding.
  2. The Amazon Sacred Headwaters Alliance, with Domingo Peas Nampichkai as the president of the Governing Board, Atossa Soltani as the director of global strategy, and Belén Páez as the secretary-general, unites 30 Indigenous nations in Ecuador and Peru. Their goal is to safeguard 35 million hectares of tropical rainforests, preventing industrial-scale resource extraction. 
  3. StriveTogether, based in the United States and led by President and CEO Jennifer Blatz, COO Vanessa Carlo-Miranda, and Chief Advancement Officer Colin Groth, operates a network of almost 70 communities. The organization offers coaching and resources to address inequities in education, housing, and other areas.

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