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Unveiling the Rising Stars: Meet 3 Young social enterprise leaders innovating for a better world 

by Joana Silva / November 2023

Half of the world’s population is under 30, yet young people often find themselves excluded from decision-making due to systemic and societal factors. Limited representation in political and institutional structures, coupled with age limits and biases, hinder their participation. Youth play a pivotal role in creating social impact. Their energy, creativity and enthusiasm empower them to drive positive change in their communities. They offer a fresh perspective that has the potential to disrupt the status quo. At SEWF, we recognise the power of young voices in shaping a new, better future. That’s why they are involved in all aspects of our work from our team, board and Youth Advisory Group to the SEWF Youth Forum and SEWF23 programme. At this year’s Social Enterprise World Forum over 20% of speakers were under the age of 30. Meet this year’s Rising Stars – three outstanding SEWF23 speakers and young social entrepreneurs. Get inspired by their social enterprise stories, from tackling period poverty to providing access to school tutoring support. 

Jari Hazelebach, CEO & Cofounder of Speaksee (Netherlands) 

Both of Jari’s parents are Deaf. In his childhood, when his friends were getting excited for the festive season, he and his sister would start getting stressed. At family gatherings, he’d watch his parents being eager to connect, yet excluded from the conversation. He’d have to choose between translating for them or participating himself. Jari says his story is not unique, as over half a million people in the Netherlands alone are hard of hearing. Despite wearing hearing aids, many people can’t fully follow conversations due to many limiting factors. Globally, over 100 million people share the same barriers. That’s why Jari co-created Speaksee – the first microphone system able to accurately transcribe group conversations using AI. Thanks to Speaksee, over 1,000 people can now feel fully included in conversations and build meaningful human connections without barriers.  

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At SEWF23, we had the opportunity to see Speaksee in action. The sessions on both stages were transcribed for in-person and online audiences and translated into 40 languages. As Jari spoke, we could see his words being translated live into Japanese on the screen. 

“Technology should not just be something that makes life more comfortable. People who have a disability can really leverage technology and really need technology to fulfil their basic needs like communication.” 

Jari now looks forward to the festive season, knowing that Speaksee will allow his family to fully connect. 

Vivi Lin, founder & CEO of With Red and Period Museum (Taiwan) 

Vivi describes herself as a global period activist. She’s the founder of With Red and the Period Museum in Taipei. She became a period activist when she got her first period. Confusion and fear caused by lack of knowledge left her worried something bad had happened to her. Her mother also couldn’t provide her with straight answers. She decided to break the silence. She has since become a passionate advocate for period awareness and fighting period poverty.  

The need for action is great: 500 million people worldwide experience period poverty, 42% of menstruating people in the US have experienced period shaming and in Taiwan, 58% of people experience a lack of access to period products when outside their homes. That’s where Vivi and her team’s work comes in. In efforts to create a real systemic change, they recreated the educational curriculum. They visit schools, change school policies, create resources and train teachers, nurses and parents across Taiwan. Vivi’s programme has reached over 300,000 people. They have also championed over 35 period-positive policies in Taiwan and worldwide. 

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To increase access to products, Vivi created a period-friendly app, where you can find the nearest location offering period products and free toilet access. The app already has over 190,000 users in Taiwan and they hope to take it global. 

With Red also opened the period museum in Taiwan, open to everybody around the world. Dedicated to menstrual justice, it aims to invite conversation and challenge cultural norms. Vivi is proud to say that 40% of visitors are men or people who don’t menstruate. 

Darine El Houfi, founder of Leren voor de Toekomst & Future Makers (Netherlands) 

Darines inspiring story demonstrates that entrepreneurial spirit knows no boundaries. He was raised in the poorest area of a rich city in the Netherlands – Zeist. As the eldest son of a large Moroccan family, at just 12 years old, Darine recognised the need to support his family financially so his parents could provide for his siblings.  

To support himself while at university he started to work as a private tutor. Darine quickly realised he was passionate about teaching. In 2017, he started Leren voor de Toekomst (Learning for the Future) – an organisation that provides tutoring to children in the Netherlands. It began with 60 students in one location in Zeist and €800 EUR of Darine’s own money. Today, they have 32 locations, over 300 tutors and have helped nearly 30,000 students. At the end of his presentation, Darine shared an image of himself shaking hands with King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands as an inspiration.

His journey is a powerful reminder that even coming from a humble background, you can make a meaningful impact. With an initial investment of only €800, Darine’s dedication to education has made a significant difference in the lives of many, highlighting the transformative power of social entrepreneurship. 

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Stories of these three inspiring and motivated young entrepreneurs demonstrate the incredible work that young people today are doing in making the world a better place. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Millennials and Gen Z have grown up seeing an incredibly high amount of environmental, humanitarian and economic crises and are the most impacted by them. Many hold social issues and the good of the planet close to their hearts. We need to make sure they have an opportunity to shape the course that humanity takes. The question is how do we start? SEWF23’s Rising Stars have some answers:  

“It’s important for the young leaders to be confident and to actually believe in themselves (…) because you need to make yourself interesting enough and strong enough to be invited to the table on a very high level(…) so they cannot ignore you anymore.” – Jari Hazelebach

“Young people are ready to make changes. We are capable of making changes. We’re ready because we collaborate with all different kinds of generations. The only thing that we need and we’re asking for is opportunity and trust.” – Vivi Lin 

“Be aware of the impact we can make. I think a lot of older people aren’t aware enough of the impact we [young people] make and how important it is to invest in the future. (…) [Nowadays] We are trying to find solutions for now. Not for ten, not even five years. We [young people] are trying to find solutions for the whole new generation.” – Darine El Houfi