Leveraging our superpower and partnering for change
Last week I had the pleasure of taking part in the Partnering for Change event in Stockholm arranged by Reach for Change and Tele2. The theme was Sustainable Development Goal 17 – Partnership for the Goals – a topic that is highly relevant for Ericsson as it is one of the cornerstones of our sustainability approach. While the event was just three hours long, it generated a fantastic dialogue and a myriad of new ideas about how the private and non-profit sectors can work together in new ways that amplify our collective impact.
Reach for Change
For those of you who haven’t heard about Reach for Change before, it was established in Sweden in 2010 to invest in social entrepreneurs with innovative ideas for helping children. Since then, the organization has expanded to 17 countries across the world and supported more than 600 social entrepreneurs who have in turn positively impacted more than two million children. You can find out more by reading their recently published Impact Report.
We share Reach for Change’s view that businesses and non-profits need to continuously find new ways to work together to solve the pressing social issues of today and tomorrow. We also believe that social entrepreneurs are an essential part of these ecosystems for the SDGs to be realized.
Scaling up through partnership
The Partnering for Change event highlighted the work of two particularly impactful social entrepreneurs in the Reach for Change network to illustrate how partnerships help to scale up important innovations. Both projects were supported along the way by the mobile operator Tigo, an Ericsson customer.
In Ghana, Hayford Shaw started out with a simple lending library van that he transformed into a mobile learning center. Today he is making an impact on a generation of students nationwide with a presidential appointment as the head of the Ghana Library Authority.
In Tanzania, Faraja Nyalandu founded Shule Direct after her experience studying for law school in the UK. She wanted to empower students in Tanzania with access to quality global learning resources, which is now supporting students across the country.
What’s our superpower?
I strongly believe that one of the key questions that every business needs to address is, how can we contribute to society in the most relevant and meaningful way? Fittingly, as part of my preparations for participating in the SDG panel at the Reach for Change event, the organizers asked me think about the question, “What is Ericsson’s superpower?”
Such a great question! My answer is two-fold: purpose and scale. Our founder’s story is at the heart of this – a young Swedish engineer, and social entrepreneur of his time, Lars Magnus Ericsson founded the company in 1876 on the premise that communication is a basic human need and should be available to all. That purpose has been driving our company ever since – we strive to continuously innovate and drive technology advancements for good. Technology in and of itself is neutral, but at Ericsson we develop and deliver our products with the intention of ensuring that they create positive impacts – whether reducing environmental impacts or enhancing socio-economic development.
In terms of scale, we currently operate in 180 markets around the world. We know that in just a few years more than 90% of the world’s population will have access to mobile broadband communications. By working in partnership with global mobile operators, government ministries, UN agencies and NGOs, and social entrepreneurs we know we have the scale to make a significant contribution toward the achievement of the SDGs.
A flagship example of partnership in practice is Connect to Learn, a global education initiative that supports SDG 4. It was born out of the gap in girls’ secondary education in many parts of the world, and has now developed into a digital skills platform more broadly. Ericsson is also engaged in a number of other partnerships and collaborations that aim to achieve gender equality in innovation and technology. We further support young innovators through projects such as our Girls who Innovate competition and the Ericsson Innovation Awards.
You can find out more about our partnerships and initiatives, and about Ericsson’s overall approach to sustainability, in our latest Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility Report.