Startups And The Vatican — An Unusual Combination Aiming to Change the World

The pope is an influential figure, in the political world as well as the religious. Pope Francis, the current pope, has been in the news for his humble ways and an unwavering tendency to maintain a clear stance to world events. This latest effort however, is a great long-term strategy that shows how religious institutions can be at the fore adopting new technologies and methods to deliver a global change.

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The Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican have recently announced a new startup accelerator named Laudato Si’ Challenge. Laudato Si’, is medieval Italian which can be translated as ‘praise be to you’, and its aim is one we can all get behind. The official about page of summarises the mission succinctly:

The Laudato Si’ Startup Challenge will unite humanity in common purpose and productive conversation, much like His Holiness Pope Francis’s “Revolution of Tenderness.” It will be a beacon of new business, inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs to build for-profit, for-purpose companies that address humanity’s biggest challenges in ways that are beneficial to all.

The idea is to identify global challenges and tackle them through innovation and acceleration of leading worldwide companies. As the focus is on key issues facing the world we live in, there are seven areas of focus as shared by Paul Orlando, Program Director:

The Energy Opportunity

To transform our energy generation, transportation, industrial and building systems for environmental benefit and to ensure access to energy for all.

The Food Opportunity

To remake our food systems (both for humans and animals) to minimize contributions to pollution, make them resilient to a changing climate, and ensure food security.

The Water Opportunity

To ensure access to clean water for all.

Also Read: Pakistan Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Report 2016 – An Industry Handbook

The Urban Opportunity

To remake our cities so that they are resilient and powered in ways that do not contribute to adverse environmental change, and structured to offer high life quality and abundant opportunities to fulfill each individual’s own potential.

The Human Potential Opportunity

To grow opportunities for meaningful employment and entrepreneurship. Minimize human suffering resulting from issues related to forced migration, health, and environmental change.

The Conservation Opportunity

To preserve the world’s most fragile ecosystems, preserve global biodiversity and maintain healthy and thriving ecosystems worldwide.

The Finance & Industry Opportunity

To restructure institutions to provide business, entrepreneurial, and investor communities incentives to align their efforts with the care of our common home.

It goes without saying that the causes are honourable and with a worldwide network of investors, companies and entrepreneurs on board, the Pope has initiated a great movement indeed. Though the goals are extremely challenging, it is a noble cause that impacts all of us in more ways than one.

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Though the Vatican will not be investing directly, the out-of-the-box thinking by the pope is admirable. Being in a position of immense respect and authority on a global scale, the challenge of making this world a better place is a responsibility on all of us and it is good to see an such an institution leading change through its influence to bring about a positive impact.

Bringing this to a local level, in Pakistan, we have a buzzing start up ecosystem with many companies looking at problems. Are there any that fit the bill for this great cause? If not, can entrepreneurs broaden their scope and focus on solving real problems — after all, with so many issues in Pakistan, we should be best-placed to know and understand the disastrous impact issues like forced migration and lack of clean water can have. But these just touch the surface, there’s a lot more that can be done. As a concluding note, I leave you with a few words to ponder on, again by Paul Orlando:

Technology and entrepreneurship should have a by-product, which is that people’s lives improve and the world becomes a better place. We don’t always think about that when building companies.

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