Last week was incredible. Why? I spent it in Singapore with a truly exceptional group of people, all committed to aiding and celebrating the efforts and successes of 18 impact driven entrepreneurs.
The 2018 Finalists
The Cartier Women's Initiative Awards (CWIA) are hard to sum up. On the surface it is an awards program that selects 6 Laureates each year from a final group of 18 candidates. All of the candidates are women, and all have been through several layers of selection before the final week in Singapore. This year there were close to 3000 initial contenders. Making it to the finals is a fantastic achievement; every finalist receives €30,000.00 and the Laureates win €100,000.00.
But what is truly unique about these awards? What makes the entrepreneurs stand out? They are all running businesses that focus on solving social or environmental problems. Impact is in their DNA. When these businesses succeed, the world gets better. You can read all about the 2018 cohort here.
But lets look below the surface. This is so much more than an Award. I was the Laureate for Europe in 2011, and this year returned to serve on the European jury. I can say I have a detailed knowledge of what the CWIA are from both sides of the equation.
Here is a flashback to 2011...
The CWIA have built a powerful network. The commitment from Cartier and its partners, INSEAD and McKinsey, is extensive. The finalists have access to mentoring from within this group and from the jury members (after the awards of course!). Following our win in 2011, we have been involved in CWIA related events each year, which means our network has grown with the competition.
By focusing on Impact driven businesses it follows that the network is itself focused. The finalists and Laureates share similar challenges and experiences. We are in a great position to empathise and support each other. The loneliness that can often accompany entrepreneurship is alleviated by this powerful, open, giving community.
This is also about scale. Beyond their individual mentoring, each finalist is offered a place on the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship 6-Day Executive Programme (ISEP). Everyone involved wants to help these businesses thrive and thrive they have. Last year was the 10th anniversary of the awards, and Cartier commissioned a report to understand their impact. 80% of the Finalists' businesses are still running and together they have created over 6000 jobs. There is no question that the profile, the mentoring, the prize and the network have contributed significantly to the ongoing success of these businesses.
If I could enter again, I would, but for now I am truly honoured to serve on the jury. The jury are all volunteers, and all busy leaders in their own field. They all give over a week of their time to this initiative because they want to support female founders and problem solvers. The CWIA gives us, the Jury, an incredible opportunity to give back and to keep our fingers on the pulse of global social enterprise.
The 2018 European Finalists with their Jury
In establishing and growing this amazing program Cartier has made a generous and successful commitment to truly ground-breaking businesses and to cherishing the women who run them.