Around the world, this generation has learned that entrepreneurship is not solely financial; our successes can be measured by our social good as well. We have seen today’s leaders take on ventures that are socially beneficial to our community – creating a more conscious world. The leaders in this industry stretch far beyond a top five, and the small startup social entrepreneurs deserve their own category for changing the world in their own small ways. But, the young and ambitious change-seekers that make our top five social entrepreneurs under 40 deserve a moment’s pause. Who are they and what are they doing? Changing the world of course!

Another young social entrepreneur is 27-year-old Gregory Spencer of The Paradigm Project.  Spencer first made his social impact by launching a webisode series called “Stoveman” in which he documented distributing eco-friendly and sustainable stoves around Kenya. Working with his father who co-founded the Project, they work “to create sustainable social, economic and environmental value within developing world communities.” Spencer is responsible East Africa operations as well as communications, marketing and media, so he’s quite the busy guy at Paradigm! [Photo: Greg Spencer (The Paradigm Project)]

The women behind today’s social entrepreneurships are paving the way for female empowerment. One such woman is Sophia Sunwoo, Co-Founder and CEO of Water Collective. Having found success in the Fortune 500 company realm early on, she brought her business strategy to Water Collective. Here, she has applied robust solutions and economic empowerment to bring life-lasting clean water to the developing world. Water Collective has trained 140 people and brought clean water to 6,500 people in Africa in less than 2 years. Sunwoo told Conscious, “To me, being a global social entrepreneur means being a chameleon. With all the different cultures I’m exposed to on a daily basis, there is never a one-size-fits-all type of scenario. I find that my best ideas come from fully immersing myself in the culture of a community and understanding them at a micro level, that way you unravel their mindset and how they would possibly react to your product.”  [Photo: Sophia Sunwoo (Water Collective)]

A number of our notable social entrepreneurs are Echoing Green Fellows who have been sponsored by this nonprofit organization to take their big ideas and create solutions through their own innovation.  A new an innovative program comes from 2012 Fellow Taylor Downs who co-founded Vera Solutions, LLC.  Vera Solutions works to harness technology to make social impact organizations more effective and efficient by improving their monitoring, evaluation, and management capabilities. Working primarily with Salesforce in the areas of heath, education, development and human rights, Vera Solutions strengthens the transparency and effectiveness of their global clients. At 26, Downs was changing lives in South Africa before he was inspired to bring technology and social impact together.  Now as CEO, Downs is “changing the way development organizations make decisions.” [Photo: Taylor Downs (Vera Solutions)]

Our final social entrepreneur is another ambitious woman who has shown us that combating global poverty is done by empowering our youth. Daphne Nederhorst, a citizen of the world and Ashoka Fellow is just under 40 and has created a movement called Sawa World. The organization is inspiring youth in vulnerable communities in the poorest parts of the world to stand up for themselves as “Sawa Leaders.” These spokespeople are trained to become youth reporters for their local communities. Through leadership and empowerment, these youth are providing solutions for a Sawa World, one without extreme poverty. [Photo: Daphne Nederhorst (Sawa World)]

Another Echoing Green Fellow, Scott Warren, co-founded Generation Citizen after being nominated as a Fellow in 2010. At only 25, Warren has worked to empower youth to participate in political processes. Having successfully lobbied in college for divestment in Sudan to end genocide in Darfur, Warren wanted to create Generation Citizen to keep his peers’ voices heard through direct political action.  Warren is now passing the torch to the youth who he hopes will fight for democracy all over the world.  Warren gave Conscious his interpretation of what it means to be a social entrepreneur. “I think being an effective social entrepreneur is less about being innovative and edgy, and more about finding a solvable problem in the world that is not currently being solved, and then getting a great team behind you that can help provide that solution.” [Photo: Scott Warren (Generation Citizen)]

Whether it’s strengthening existing social impact organizations or democracy, bringing clean water to the developing world, investing in sustainability, or empowering local heroes, these global citizens are living consciously and making a difference. Before 40, and most before 30, these leaders have already left us a legacy of social entrepreneurship. Check back next year to see if you make the list, because it just takes vision and determination to be a global social entrepreneur.

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At Conscious, we are inspired by remarkable people, and so we set out to tell stories that highlight real human interactions and human dignity. You can read more stories like this when you pick up your copy of Conscious Magazine. Subscribe today via our Conscious Shop and sign-up for Conscious Updates.