Enterprise-based solutions for U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

Founding story

IDEAS was founded by James Lavender, following personal work with the people and government of Sichuan province in China, in the aftermath of the 2008 earthquake. 

Our shared vision

James worked closely with local government and schools to negotiate funding for a scholarship, which would fund a Chinese student whose education had been affected by the earthquake to go to school internationally. 

Inspired by what had been achieved, he launched IDEAS in University College London, as a platform to apply enterprise-based solutions to solving key social issues, and to bring people and students together around this approach to development.

A hugely diverse team of people was attracted to IDEAS, keen to find ways to use social enterprise to enable the dreams of others around the world, and ultimately to improve lives. Together, we set out to do that.

Our mission

Our mission is to demonstrate the commercial viability of social enterprise models in international development. So our unique incubation process reconciles social impact and profitability.

Our first enterprise expanded on James's work in China, continuing to focus on education. We set out to create further bridges between the UK and under-resourced Chinese schools, by enabling British students to repurpose old books and send them to students across China. To enhance this learning experience we launched a proprietary e-learning platform, to enable both sets of schools to communicate educationally. This enterprise continues to sustainably support schools across China.

Our community

Three and a half years on, IDEAS Globally has grown into an international platform for social entrepreneurship in emerging economies, with a globally distributed team, and enterprises rapidly increasing in scale and impact. 

We are proud to have developed a committed, active community of incredible social entrepreneurs that spans over 20 languages and nationalities, and as many disciplines. 

In February 2015, we initiated a unique education programme for local Chinese students, sponsored by the Sichuan government; this has since become a long-term programme.

Our five year strategy

The overview below tracks the five year strategy IDEAS Globally has followed since 2013: to launch educationally-orientated enterprises in selected Asian emerging markets, whether in language learning, entrepreneurship, healthcare – the list goes on.

This strategic focus reflects our vision of where we can best create maximum social impact in the short-medium term. In the coming years, we will be widening our bandwidth considerably beyond this. Alongside our enterprise incubation, we also offer consultancy services to businesses in both Europe and East Asia. Our Research team additionally supports the development of the social enterprise space in emerging economies by publishing actionable insights on international development and social enterprise all over the world.

James Lavender

Managing Director

Our enterprise methodology

Targeting specific U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

At IDEAS Globally, we see social enterprise as a unique instrument to meet international development needs. However, we recognise that opportunities to create both social impact and profit are not everywhere; some development scenarios need different solutions. Applying a framework developed by MSCI ESG Research, which sorts SDGs into ‘actionable impact themes’, we predominantly focus on building enterprise-based solutions to ‘Empowerment’-themed SDGs.

IDEAS in the Press

Television interview with London Live
Date: 08.10.15

Societies Manager interview
Date: 24.03.16

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