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A Social-Enterprise Development Model

Prevailing sustainable-development strategies depend overwhelmingly on top-down, siloed solutions. What is needed instead are bottom-up strategies underpinned by community-based and nonprofit enterprises guided by social and ecological objectives, in addition to economic targets.

HONG KONG – Tackling climate change and inequality would be difficult in the best of times. At a time when the war in Ukraine seems set to escalate, the Sino-American rivalry grows riskier by the day, and many economies are grappling with soaring debts and inflation, surmounting these challenges seems practically impossible. But even under unfavorable conditions, a systemic, bottom-up approach can yield progress.

In an increasingly divided global economy, conventional development strategies – which depend significantly on international trade and investment – are losing their effectiveness. At the same time, the budgets of both national governments and multilateral development banks are stretched thin, owing to the demands of climate action, the pandemic recovery, debt repayment, and in many cases, conflict.

But the problem is even more fundamental. Poverty, inequality, climate change, and environmental degradation are complex systemic challenges. Yet prevailing policy approaches focus on devising separate solutions to specific problems, or even specific facets of problems, with little to no regard for how their solutions – and the underlying problems – interact.

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