Ayala ’84 and Szaky ’05 named ‘Social Entrepreneurs of the Year’
Awardees were selected based on innovation, sustainability and direct social impact of the candidate’s project, according to the award’s website.
“[The purpose of the award is] to give them a platform for them to interface with global decision makers and leaders,” Associate Director of the Schwab Foundation Vivian Gee said. “To really help influence industry agenda or government leaders to use policy to help scale social enterprise and social innovation more rapidly.”
The Schwab Foundation was originally created in 1998 when social entrepreneurship and innovation were not well-known, Gee said, and the selection of several social entrepreneurs every year provided an opportunity to bring more publicity and media attention to those individuals and to social entrepreneurship in general. Now that social entrepreneurship has entered the public awareness, however, Gee explained that the emphasis has shifted from publicity to providing these entrepreneurs with a network through which they can access powerful individuals and leaders around the world to help promote the cause of social entrepreneurship.
Hybrid Social Solutions, founded by Ayala, works in the Philippines to provide the rural poor access to goods and services that they need to develop, such as electricity and clean water, through the establishment of village access centers. Though the growth of technology worldwide is increasing opportunities for many to improve their standards of living, Ayala explained that much of the rural poor cannot make use of these new tools due to a lack of access to basic resources.
“While you can do well as a company and maybe even in some of the larger cities you can enjoy affluence, many times the more rural areas were just not benefiting,” Ayala said. “People just weren’t connected to the formal economy, and so you see people in Manila doing better and better, but things don’t change in rural areas where 80 percent of the poor live.”
Ayala said recognition as a Social Entrepreneur of the Year does tell him that Hybrid Social Solutions is moving quickly, as the firm has only been at work for two-and-a-half years. However, he said that he still believes that the company is not moving fast enough and that he is always looking to grow and spread its work, both by developing and replicating its business model and by sharing its approach to social entrepreneurship with others around the world.
“We were, for example, opening up a new area recently where we were introducing our solar program, and one of our potential buyers, [...] about a week before we got there, left home with his wife, left the kids at home, and when they came back, the whole house had burned down because of a kerosene lamp and all three children were killed,” Ayala said. “So that kind of experience says we’ve got to go more quickly.”
TerraCycle provides people in 22 countries with programs for recycling waste that is currently unrecyclable or difficult to recycle, such as electronics, shoes, pens and pencils. Szaky said that he founded the company in 2001 while trying to search for a solution to excessive garbage.
“I was thinking about what are the ways to solve garbage,” Szaky said. “Why does garbage exist? It doesn’t exist in nature, it only exists in the human system.”
Szaky is also still looking toward the future for his company, saying that there is still a lot more work to do and still a lot of waste to recycle in the world. Szaky said that he is working to launch TerraCycle programs in more countries, such as Australia and Japan.
“It’s always nice to reflect and look back, and an award like this lets one do that,” Szaky said. “But one of the reasons we keep growing is, I think, we are never satisfied, it’s never good enough.”
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