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Social Innovation Days 2024: A global platform to convene, connect and catalyze 

 

The third edition of the Social Innovation Days went global. In 2024, we expanded our portfolio and selected a wide variety of new partners from Latin America and Asia Pacific – next to our still active portfolio in Africa. With a focus on Women Economic Empowerment, the two-day event was attended by 92 women and 52 men from 33 countries. 

 

“By bringing together stakeholders from within the health and agricultural ecosystem, Bayer Foundation creates a platform for us to connect, convene and catalyze,” Bahaa Eddine Saroukh from the Philips Foundation said during one of the Social Innovation Day’s panel discussions. “This event presents a rare occasion in our sector where people come together to find grants and investment opportunities, share and receive non-financial support and explore new partnership opportunities.”  

 

From idea stage to growth stage

Many of the participants were social entrepreneurs in very different stages of growth, often building from the initial catalytic capital of Bayer Foundation. Two examples include insurtech company Pula and health solution company Advantage Health Africa (AHA). Abimbola Adebakin, CEO of AHA and Nigerian serial entrepreneur, was one of the five winners of the Women Empowerment Award (WEA) in 2021.  “When I won this award, it gave me such a confidence boost. The company has grown rapidly, and I am proud to say that I have won many more awards since then. The Social Innovation Day gives me the opportunity to reflect on my journey so far. It’s great to be surrounded by so many entrepreneurs in our ecosystem who are on different levels of maturity. Thanks to days like this, I was able to create lasting partnerships. I absolutely love it.” 

One of these many collaboration examples includes Bayer Foundation’s Women Economic Empowerment program in Kaduna State, Nigeria. In a collaboration between Healthy Entrepreneurs, AFEX, and the Jennifer Etuh Foundation, the project aims to empower women in last-mile rural communities with support ranging from credit facilities and skill acquisition programs. The overarching goal is to increase the income of women by 30% income, through employment and livelihood opportunities across health and agriculture.

 

 

Funding gap

This years’ Social Innovation Days' theme focused on female entrepreneurship. Despite global efforts to empower female-led businesses, women face multiple barriers to thrive economically. One of the biggest barriers for female entrepreneurs is access to funding. Estimates show a 1.7 trillion dollars financing gap worldwide for small- and medium-sized enterprises owned by women.  

 

“Imagine this, six African countries still have laws that require women to get their husbands consent to open a bank account. And only 1.5 percent of funds raised by African startups between 2019 and 2023 went to women-led businesses,” Abimbola Adebakin stressed during her keynote speech. “We have to ensure that social businesses are not a parking lot for women, but a springboard for growth.”

 

Evidence shows that female social entrepreneurship catalyzes social impact of immense proportions. Abimbola Adebakin: “Social enterprises are already creating 200 million jobs globally across various sectors, from agriculture to financial services, generating around 2 trillion dollars in revenue each year.” 

 

Ekaterina Demushkina from the Institute for Economics and Peace underscored that investing in the economic empowerment of women not only has an economic effect, it also increases resilience within societies. “The empowerment of women leads to better access to healthcare, education and information. It also has positive effects on the adaptation of minority rights and it often leads to lower corruption rates.”  

 

 

 

 

Catalytic Leadership

To unlock this potential of female entrepreneurs, a different type of leadership is needed, Michael Lurie, Bayer’s Chief Catalyst highlighted in his keynote. “It's the limited beliefs that are holding us back. Rather than a fear-based mindset that keeps us from pursuing our dreams, we have to encourage leaders to adopt a joy-based approach that sees human potential in all its beauty.”  

 

Michael Lurie’s speech built up to one of the highlights of the event; namely the ceremony of the Women Empowerment Award, celebrating 15 remarkable female social entrepreneurs from Latin America, Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific. The winners were selected from a pool of 2,276 applicants.  

 

Astrid Paramita, who was one out of five winners from Asia Pacific, represented FoodCycle, a non-profit foundation based in Indonesia specializing in surplus food processing.

 

 

“Receiving this award is a personal acknowledgement for me. It has been such a journey for me to be where I am today. In Indonesia, it is unusual for a woman to be the breadwinner. It’s great to meet the other 14 winners. We come from so many different backgrounds, but share the same challenges. They understand what my journey is about.”


Astrid Paramita, FoodCycle Farm

 

 

Joanna Cordovez, who is the CEO and co-founder of Tirando x in Colombia, was one of the five winners from Latin America. She has developed a chatbot service that enables students to inform themselves about sexual and reproductive information and services. “My mission is to talk freely and openly about sex, a subject that is still taboo in Colombia, especially for women. Also, female entrepreneurs are still not completely embraced by our society. Investors have difficulties putting us in a box. They are not used to women combining a social cause with a profitable business model.”

 

Michael Lurie: “Congratulations to the award winners. I can’t even imagine the journey you must have been on to be sitting here today. I have met with some of you here this afternoon, and it has touched my heart deeply, your stories have been amazing. Thank you.” 

 

 

“Winning this prize comes with a great responsibility. Our ambition is to scale our services, reaching 150,000 young people across Latin America. The prize also gives us credibility, and it will help to create new partnerships allowing us to scale.”


Johanna Cordovez, Tirando x Colombia

 

 

 

More info on our Women Empowerment Award 2024 winners

 

 

 

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