Ashish & Winning team

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will require new ideas and new ways of thinking. Parallel to the 2017 World Government Summit in Dubai in February, the United Nations Foundation partnered with Dell to bring together over 30 policymakers, entrepreneurs, and NGO workers from 15 countries to develop and propose innovative solutions to global challenges.

Participants were posed the overarching question: How can public policy promote entrepreneurship and advance the Sustainable Development Goals?

Five teams came up with novel solutions before presenting their ideas to a prestigious group of judges including Sheikha Shamma Bint Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, the Chair of the Global Entrepreneurs Council Ashish J. Thakkar, and representatives from the UNDP Innovation, the UN Foundation, and Dell Inc.

As Sheikha Shamma said about sustainability, “It is the future.” To reach a future of sustainable development, each team focused on addressing a unique need, including:

  • Supporting entrepreneurship among vulnerable and marginalized groups such as immigrants and refugees;
  • Promoting youth-driven businesses;
  • Removing barriers to women entrepreneurship and women-owned businesses;
  • Advancing civic technology; and
  • Encouraging girls to study STEM.

The Winning Team

The winning team focused on finding new mechanisms to support entrepreneurship among immigrants and refugees. The group identified lack of access to mentors, work spaces, financing, and local legal knowledge as the main barriers to the entrepreneurial success of immigrants and refugees. They proposed creating entrepreneurial centers, similar to Impact Hub, to connect immigrants and refugees with local entrepreneurs.

As mentors, local entrepreneurs would leverage their experience in the country to help immigrants and refugees unleash their true potential. The five-person team received a commitment from Dell and the UN Foundation to champion their policy solution with UN officials and to help further scale their solution.

Key Theme: The Importance of Empowering Women

A key theme in the discussion on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals was the importance of empowering women.

Sheikha Shamma highlighted the importance of women in the corporate world. She explained, “I have created a board initiative – the Women’s Empowerment and Equality Board. My key goal is to have more women on company boards, particularly focused on the business sector. Women’s input can and will change the dynamics of a business. This is one of the most important aspect of inequality to tackle. If women are on boards and influencing companies, everything else can fall into place.”

She also strongly advocated for increased access to higher education for women, saying, “Mothers and daughters still perceive the value of higher education as more important for sons and men. I am hopeful that it is slowly changing because education has no gender.”

Other key ideas included:

  • Encouraging more girls to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math through tools such as scholarships, subsidies, and promoting role models and
  • Promoting digital literacy and mobile money to help women entrepreneurs access capital

The UN Foundation and Entrepreneurship

The UN Foundation, founded by entrepreneur Ted Turner, has long been driven by its belief that everyone can play a part in advancing UN causes to build a better world. In this spirit, it created the Global Entrepreneurship Council (GEC) – a strategic advisory council comprised of entrepreneurs from around the world united by their conviction that as job creators and innovators they have an enormous role to play in solving global issues.

Learn more about the GEC here.

Follow the GEC on Twitter @UNFoundationGEC.