RLabs honoured with social innovator award at WEF summit

RLabs chief executive René Parker. Photo: Supplied/Ventureburn
RLabs chief executive René Parker. Photo: Supplied/Ventureburn

A Cape Town-based non-profit, RLabs, will this week receive the prestigious Social Innovator of the Year award at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting currently underway in Davos, Switzerland.

RLabs, which was founded in 2009, has expanded its model to 23 countries across 5 continents. Its skills, training and economic empowerment programmes have already impacted more than 20 million people.

The Davos summit is described as the first global in-person leadership event since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the organisers there are 612 CEO’s and 12 CFO’s in attendance along with some of the world’s wealthiest people, including Bill Gates.

RLabs is represented by its chief executive, René Parker. She confirms that RLabs and fellow Social Innovators of the Year will be honoured at a special awards ceremony to be hosted at the luxury Alpine ski resort.

The 2022 Social Innovator Award is proof of the incredible and impactful work that RLabs, as a social enterprise, has done since its inception in 2009, believes Parker. To date, more than 800 000 people have directly accessed its programmes.

In response to the pandemic in 2020, RLabs launched an essentials campaign to address the immediate needs of communities at risk where over 40 000 young adults and their families received access to vouchers, allowing them to buy essential items such as food, electricity and data via the Zlto Rewards Platform.

“The honour of being a Schwab Foundation awardee is not just recognition of the work by RLabs but also highlighting what is possible with an incredible team of partners supporting the vision of hope. This award is also to celebrate every social innovator in South Africa who is willing to make a difference,” says Parker.

The vision of RLabs is to reach two billion people by 2030.

How it all started

Its work began on the Cape Flats where it quickly became known for offering hope to at-risk communities. RLabs achieved this through education, digital skills training, entrepreneurship, technology, innovation and the building and nurturing of creative spaces where youth discovered their potential.

Its work has inspired communities to use their knowledge to create new innovations for social and economic change.

Parker says, “This is what the organisation refers to when we say that our mission is to make hope contagious. They have since evolved toward also growing a strong global community of entrepreneurs and consistently pursue socio-economic transformation.”

RLabs has the focus and approach to increase its impact and reach their vision of two billion by 2030 by working with strategic partners to drive community-based solutions, social change and economic development.

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