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Honoring Women’s History Month

An Interview with Karon Shaiva: Chief Impact Officer and Managing Director, Idobro Impact Solutions and Managing Trustee, RISE Infinity Foundation

In honor of Women’s History Month, I interviewed one of the leaders I admire most: Karon Shaiva.  Karon is a social entrepreneur, writer, speaker, and trainer. She firmly believes in the people-power of Citizenship, Entrepreneurship, and Partnership to address some of the world’s most pressing issues. Karon has been deeply involved in the women empowerment, community development, and social entrepreneurship space even before founding Idobro and RISE Infinity Foundation. Karon was awarded for the “Most Inspiring Social enterprise plan” at the hands of the late Dr. C. K. Prahlad and was selected to the top 30 of 20000 applicants for the Lufthansa – Pioneers of Tomorrow TV series. She has been selected as COVID Shereos by Twitter India and recognized for her work during the pandemic by multiple organizations. Karon truly believes that learning should never stop and is currently a student of Human Rights and Peace. 

Deborah: How is social entrepreneurship in India changing?

Karon: Philanthropy and cross-subsidisation are no longer the only means to do good as is evident form the growth of social entrepreneurship. From a handful of entrepreneurs struggling to bridge the pioneer gap to the number of venture catalysts who seek out differentiation as impact investors. The numbers keep growing and the eco-system has evolved significantly in India and across the globe. However, the challenges, too, have been significant from an operations and compliance point of view.  Balancing impact with sustainability, taxation, professional teams, investor expectations and more have created relentless pressure on social entrepreneurs causing mission drift at best case and shut down at the worst. Yet, doing well by doing good is a mantra that is driving not just social entrepreneurship but also ESG in corporate circles leading to a virtuous cycle of support and growth that augurs well for our world.

Deborah: What are some of the most significant take-aways from the RISE Summit this year?  

Karon: With over 10000 participants from 71 countries and over 100 sessions, the RISE World Summit (2023 RWS 23) was truly a “glocal” event that went from global conversations to local discourses and back to the global stage. This is only possible when we work with:

  1. A network of network approach that allows one to reach further and deeper with the hope of leaving no one behind.
  2. A systems approach to dialogue and design on challenges and collaboration that cuts across silos, sectors and stakeholder groups

Deborah: What was the catalyst for starting the RISE Summit?

Karon: Events are an important part of engaging stakeholders. However most events focus on panels and presentations as a means to share knowledge or information. This creates a gap for true engagement and events end up being more about networking. The RISE Summit was started ten years ago to change this model and with no panel, no presentation and in the beginning, no agenda, it was truly a radical call to change the dynamics of communication, outreach and stakeholder engagement.

The other aspect of events for the high cost of executing them are quite prohibitive for smaller enterprises to organise or even participate. RWS was designed as a collaborative platform with minimum financial investment and maximum contribution of time and resources by partners and experts to make it truly one of its kind co-created and co-located convening for all organizations, big or small

Last but not the least, was the content. Most conferences focus on a specific issue e.g. gender, water, waste, education etc and/or stakeholder group/s – e.g NGOs, Corporate, Government or Academia. At best you may see two of the four groups. RWS consciously used the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the backdrop and focused on the interlinkages to bring all these four stakeholder groups together to discuss cross-sectoral issues and learn from different regions and projects.

There are many other innovations in RWS, but this kind of holistic design, content and financing made RWS truly distinctive. While today there are many unconferences, we started ten years ago and claim, that there are Conferences, Unconferences …. And then there is RISE.

Deborah: What are you most proud of in your work to promote social impact?

Karon: RWS23 had 118 partners most of which were small and micro-enterprises, but all of them are very passionate and committed to their cause and community. RWS has provided them with a global platform to voice their concerns as well as to present their solutions and innovations. This not only gives them confidence to present on a big stage but also democratises opportunities and partnerships for them to build their operations, grow their networks and multiply their impact.

The second aspect is that RWS has been designed to attract not just founders and senior management but also provide space for new entrants, students and junior sector members to build their capacities, a group that is often overlooked.  

Deborah: What advice do you have for social entrepreneurs?

Karon: Clarify your purpose, define what is the vison you want to achieve and finally plan how you will execute your mission….. But most of all …. Think Differently, Act Together.   

Deborah: What keeps you up at night?

Karon: While we speak of leaving no one behind, every minute and second, we lose a baby, a girl child, a teenage boy, a woman, a man, a senior citizen somewhere due to poverty, disaster and/or violence. Most are completely avoidable if we could provide the safe space and resources for them to survive and even thrive. Our eco-systems too are degrading, creating dangerous situations and environments for us to live and work in ….. We have enough for man’s needs …. But not enough for man’s greed ….. how do we create a world that can find peace and be at peace with itself and everyone and everything in it?

Deborah: What inspires you?

Karon: The resilience and compassion of humankind. Success stories based on the ability to bounce back by treating failures as learning experiences and the incredible tales of valour and sacrifice especially by those for whom they have no relationship or connection with.


Deborah Leipziger

Deborah Leipziger

She is Consultant on Social Innovation, Sustainability, and Human Rights, Lecturer, Senior Fellow, Institute for Social Innovation, Babson College, USA, Founder, The Lexicon of Change

Owned by: Institute of Directors, India

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    Deborah Leipziger

    Author. Advisor. Sustainability Expert. Lecturer

    Author, Consultant on Social Innovation, Sustainability, and Human Rights, Lecturer, Senior Fellow, Institute for Social Innovation, Babson College, USA, Founder, The Lexicon of Change

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