Building an International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation

New Millennium

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, which Klaus and Hilde Schwab founded in 1998 as an independent not-for-profit organization, officially started its activities in August.


The 30th Annual Meeting at the turn of the millennium was special for many reasons. Chief among them was the high-calibre participation of political and business leaders.

For the first time, a sitting American president, Bill Clinton, came to Davos.

Speaking from the Congress Hall stage, Clinton observed that so many world leaders were in the room, calling it “an indication of the importance of the World Economic Forum.” He went on: “We have got a chance to build a 21st century world that walks away from the modern horrors of bio and chemical terrorism and from ancient racial, religious and tribal hatred. Growth is at the centre of that chance. It gives people hope every day. But the economics must be blended with the other legitimate human concerns.”1

Also at Davos was British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who spoke about a new brand of politics: “I call it a Third Way. It provides a new alternative in politics – on the centre and centre-left, but on new terms. Supporting wealth creation. Tackling vested interests. Using market mechanisms. But always staying true to clear values – social justice, democracy, cooperation.”2

Since its earliest years, the Forum has integrated leaders from faith communities into its activities to act as a moral guide and conscience. Pope John Paul II, who just weeks later would make a historic pilgrimage to Jerusalem followed by a visit to Egypt, sent a special message to Davos: “Globalization which recognizes that human beings are ‘the source, the focus and the purpose of all economic and social life’ (Gaudium et Spes, 63) will serve what your motto calls ‘the global public interest’, the integral development of individuals and the common good of the human family.”3 At the Annual Meeting 2014, Pope Francis would also send a message to participants, urging business and political leaders to promote inclusion.

At the Annual Meeting 2000, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) was born. The GAVI Alliance today serves as a vital coordinator of the global network of governments, international financial institutions and development organizations, philanthropic organizations, and private sector actors in the effort to maintain the world’s commitment to vaccines and immunization, which are essential to global public health and development. Among the early supporters of GAVI was Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who has been a regular Davos participant since 1996. By 2015, the GAVI Alliance will have contributed to the immunization of 380 million children in developing countries. Recognizing the importance of small companies whose technological innovations can have an impact on the business model of whole industries, the Forum created the community of Technology Pioneers. In a rigorous selection process in cooperation with its Strategic Partners, the Forum nominates 20 to 40 Tech Pioneers every year. Among past selections: Facebook, Google, Kickstarter, Mozilla and Twitter.

The Foundation’s aim is to provide platforms for leading social innovators that highlight social entrepreneurship as a key element to addressing social and ecological problems. Social entrepreneurs drive innovation and transformation in various fields such as education and healthcare, pursuing poverty alleviation with entrepreneurial zeal, business methods and the courage to be creative.

Working with partner companies, the Foundation annually identifies the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, who participate in all the World Economic Forum’s events and initiatives. By 2014, the Foundation had selected over 300 from over 60 countries.

  1. Bill Clinton, Remarks to the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, Davos, 29 January 2000
  2. Tony Blair, Speech to the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, Davos, 28 January 2000
  3. “Message from the Supreme Pontiff Pope John Paul II”, World Economic Forum, 2000