It’s no surprise that Berlin, London and Hong Kong are hot spots for business leaders looking to launch enterprises to make the world a better place. But Santiago, Chile, and Nairobi, Kenya, are right on their heels.

That’s what the Thomson Reuters Foundation found when it surveyed hundreds of experts in 45 countries, including investors, academics, policymakers and social entrepreneurs themselves. (The concept of social entrepreneurship is to create a successful business — often technology-driven — that can generate profits while driving social change.)

Pioneering programs to propel banking by mobile phones and improve conditions for slum dwellers have put the capitals of Chile and Kenya into the top five, the foundation said.

It singled out TECHO, a Santiago-based nonprofit that fights poverty and seeks better housing for slum dwellers. Begun in 1997, TECHO attracts a burgeoning network of volunteers and after expanding to other countries has become the largest nongovernmental organization in Latin America.

“Just five years ago, most people didn’t understand the concept of social entrepreneurship,” María José Montero, head of Chile’s Impact Investment Fund, told the foundation.

The Chilean government has nurtured the country’s social entrepreneurs, offering equity-free funding, office space and mentoring.

People walking through a large city square (Shutterstock)
In bustling Santiago, Chile, social entrepreneurs are flourishing, thanks in part to government support. (Shutterstock)

In Kenya, the communications company Safaricom revolutionized banking and bill payment for even the poorest with its M-Pesa mobile money service, inspiring entrepreneurs in other African countries to offer similar services.

“In Nairobi, [people] want to learn more and help to drive change,” says Stephanie Koczela, co-founder of Penda Health, a medical group. “They understand that they are striving to make the city a better place.”

The Kenyan government does not subsidize social enterprises, but its entrepreneurs have a track record of attracting private investment capital.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation is a London-based charity originally formed by the Reuters news organization in 1982 to train journalists in Africa. Today, it operates globally to support press freedom, human rights, empowering women and the rule of law.

In addition to citing hot spots, the survey names the top 10 economies for business leaders to tackle social problems: the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Israel, Chile, South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia and France.