The What Works in Social Progress Summit Returns in April 2019!

Today, at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York, the World Bank and the Social Progress Imperative announced a new collaboration: “What Works 2019″the global summit on social progress, Reykjavik, Iceland 1-3 April 2019.

This invitation-only gathering of policy-makers, donors, thought leaders, and key partners from around the world will aim to inspire and challenge approaches to help drive social progress and support implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

By bringing together experts and practitioners in a conversation based around the common language provided by Social Progress Index data, “What Works 2019” will identify and share real and relevant solutions to the world’s biggest challenges to accelerating inclusive growth that delivers social progress and poverty reduction.


The “What Works” summit was founded in 2016 as a collaboration between the Social Progress Imperative and Cognitio, its local partner in Iceland. More than 400 leaders and change-makers from business, government, philanthropy, academics and civil society participated in the first two “What Works” summits (2016 and 2017) hosted in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Through focused case studies, debate and interactive workshops, participants acquired new tools and learned about innovative approaches to help drive social change. Together, they explored how to create positive policy change at every level of government, how social performance can drive opportunities for businesses to get ahead, and how the whole community can work together to advance social progress.

Achieving the SDGs will require a productivity revolution in how we use our economic resources for the benefit of humanity. This demands an urgent response. The “What Works” summit will support these efforts, as the premier global platform for decision-makers and social innovators to gather, debate, and advance social progress approaches and scale solutions.

The World Bank defines social inclusion as the process of improving ability, opportunity, and dignity of people who are disadvantaged on the basis of their identity to take part in society. As such, social inclusion is instrumental to achieving the World Bank’s Twin Goals: to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030 and to boost shared prosperity, measured as the income of the bottom 40 percent in any given country.  

Why “What Works” 

  • Invitation Only – Having the right participants is more important than having large crowds. “What Works” summit will be an invitation-only gathering of select thought leaders, resource owners and key partners, who, together, have the capacity and influence to drive and scale massive social change.”What Works” summits are intimate events, limited to 200-250 of theworld’s most influential leaders from government and business, social investors and key disrupters in social change, and strategic partners in the social progress movement, who, together, can guide and mobilize global resources and policies required to drive and scale social progress.
  • Relevant – It is critical to build on and advance global debates, and not simply provide another forum to replicate these discussions. “What Works” will pull from the headlines and facilitate learning, sharing and innovating on issues that are of the utmost importance to the participants and to people and communities around the world.
  • The “What Works” summit will be a forum to operationalize the global debates and agendas developed at UNGA and G20 summits, tackle the most pressing and divisive societal challenges of the day, and showcase what’s working and what’s not to generate new ideas, collaborations and innovations towards social progress actions and impact.
  • Global leaders may be invited to deliver keynotes, but participants at “What Works” summits should also be the presenters and the panelists, sharing their experiences and challenging their peers on stage and off.
  • Data driven and action focused – While debate is important, action is critical. The “What Works” summit will be a forum for participants to openly share and collaborate with peers and potential partners, co-design practical steps to accelerate social progress, and spark ideas that can be put into action within their own organization and networks.
  • “What Works” will deliver a strong and specific call to action to challenge participants to own and drive efforts to advance social progress.
  • Participants will benefit from the findings from the Social Progress Index to uncover key trends and define specific actions to address social challenges.
  • Leaders from countries showing the greatest social progress will share the specific policies, programs, innovations and other actions that lead to their achievement.
  • The social progress and social inclusion lens will be applied to better understand and generate solutions to address the challenges and opportunities in advancing the SDGs.

Partnering to Advance Social Progress

The Social Progress Imperative and Cognitio are proud to partner with the World Bank in presenting “What Works 2019”. We are also grateful for the support from other sponsors including Iceland’s Prime Minister’s Office, Arion Bank, Deloitte Iceland and Iceland Monitor.

To learn more about “What Works 2019” and stay informed about the latest “What Works” events and updates, visit

For information regarding sponsorship of “What Works 2019”, please contact Rosbjörg Jónsdóttir (rosbjorg at or Luke Greeves (lgreevesat

Credit: Illustrated conversations at “What Works 2017” by RIDG

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