Our History

About SEWF

Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) was established in 2008 by national social enterprise support agencies seeking a means to advance social enterprise development globally. Bringing together social enterprise practitioners, support agencies, investors, public, private and government representatives, the inaugural event in Edinburgh in 2008  provided a platform to bring together social enterprise leaders and champions from all continents to collaborate, share best practice and plan future developments.

This collaboration raised awareness of social enterprise as an expanding global mechanism for social change and explored the merit of ongoing collaboration for event stakeholders. Subsequent forums were planned and held in Melbourne in 2009 and San Francisco in 2010.

The event quickly gained momentum and recognition as a springboard for progressing the sector and establishing global relations; stimulating local agencies to bid to host the event in South Africa in 2011Rio de Janeiro in 2012Calgary in 2013Seoul in 2014Milan in 2015 and our most recent event held in Hong Kong in 2016.

Each event has reflected SEWF’s values of: 

  • Commitment to social justice;
  • Equality of opportunity;
  • Emphasis on education; and
  • Commitment to excellence.


The interest in the event and the legacy it has left in each of the host countries has prompted the SEWF Board to change the role of the company and its objectives from just a committee supporting event hosts but as catalysts for change in the sector.

Interested in hosting a future SEWF?

Interested in attending SEWF 2016?

SEWF Board

Social Enterprise World Forum Board of Directors is represented by permanent Member Directors from Community Enterprise in Scotland (CEIS); Social Enterprise Council of Canada; Social Enterprise UK (SEUK); Social Traders, Australia; Social Enterprise Alliance, USA and Independent Directors appointed for a two year period. The Board has also appointed an expert Advisory Committee.

Together, the Board and Advisory Committee offer unrivalled knowledge and experience in the sector and work cohesively to support event hosts but also work collaboratively to progress social enterprise development globally.

SEWF Board, Advisory Committee and country hosts are supported by SEWF Secretariat. The Secretariat assists and provides administrative support to the SEWF Board, organising all Board meetings, documentation and facilitates the dissemination of information on the delivery of SEWF’s. The Secretariat plays a significant role in coordinating the work carried out by the Board and Advisory Committee, working with local hosts on the international marketing and promotion of each SEWF. They also act as a key team member in the delivery of the SEWF.

Member Directors

Social Enterprise Council of Canada – David Le Page, Chair

David offers years of experience in social enterprise across many roles, in rural and urban settings, across cultures, and internationally. Currently, through Accelerating Social Impact CCC, he provides blended value business consulting and training; promotes a supportive public policy environment and advises social impact investors.

David is a founder and current Chair of the Social Enterprise Council of Canada; the Chair of the Social Enterprise World Forum Board; a partner in Buy Social Canada; and on the Boards of Vancouver’s Farmers Markets, Ethelo Decisions and Ethelo Democracy.

He is the lead Facilitator for the Groundswell Social Venture Program; a founding partner and content provider for the Social Enterprise Institute; and a Program Adjunct and an Instructor for the Sandermoen School of Business MBA in Social Enterprise Leadership.

Community Enterprise in Scotland – Gerry Higgins, CEO

Gerry is Chief Executive Officer at CEIS (Community Enterprise in Scotland) and a Director at the Social Value Lab, Ready for Business LLP, Big Issue Invest Scotland and Social Enterprise World Forum CIC. He brings over 30 years’ experience in developing and running social enterprises and works with government agencies and third sector partners in the UK and internationally to develop supportive social enterprise ecosystems. His current work includes oversight of major programmes, to develop public sector markets for social enterprises, to build the capacity of social enterprises to create sustainable and effective businesses and to introduce new forms of social investment to support business start-up and growth.

As CEO of the CEIS Group, Gerry leads a team of over 50 people to deliver business support, employability services, project consultancy, social research, social investment, business finance and event management. Gerry joined CEIS in 2006 having previously worked across the UK as the founding Chief Executive of Social Firms UK for 7 years. During this period Gerry was a founding director of the Social Enterprise UK and worked with the DTI to draft and introduce the first UK Social Enterprise Strategy in 2002. Gerry is interested in social change and committed to social justice and has spent over 30 years working in the social enterprise sector to assist individuals, communities and enterprises to fulfil their potential.

Key expertise: Social enterprise policy and strategy; public procurement; social investment; community asset development; social enterprise business support; and international social enterprise.

Social Enterprise Alliance – Jim Schorr, CEO

Jim has been a member of Social Enterprise World Forum’s board since the event’s inception in 2008. He is currently CEO of Social Enterprise Alliance in North America, and teaches as an Adjunct Professor at Vanderbilt University and as Senior Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley.

As a student in the early 1990s, Professor Schorr was inspired by the idea and ideals of emerging “triple bottom line” businesses, and went on to help launch Net Impact, an organization that has since inspired a generation of MBAs at 200+ universities on six continents to devote their careers to using the power of business to improve the state of the world. He subsequently served for 10 years as a Board Director and Chairman during Net Impact’s growth and global expansion. From 2000-07, Schorr was CEO of Juma Ventures, a San Francisco-based organization that today is widely regarded as one of the leading social enterprise success stories in the US. Professor Schorr also currently serves as an advisor to a number of organizations and events in the sector, including the Global Social Venture Competition, several emerging social enterprises founded by his former students, and Mekong Blue, a Cambodian enterprise reviving the tradition of artisan silk-making.

Social Enterprise UK – Peter Holbrook, CEO

Peter is CEO of Social Enterprise UK – the national campaign and membership body for social enterprises in the UK . Social Enterprise UK drives the policy agenda for social enterprise and social investment in the UK parliament and broadly represents the UK’s social sector to the media, corporate businesses, government, politicians and other stakeholders in both the UK and overseas.

Prior to taking on this role Peter was founder and CEO of Sunlight Development Trust which ran a diverse range of award winning social businesses ranging from primary healthcare to community radio and event catering. During his years at Sunlight, Peter was appointed by Government to be one of the UK’s Social Enterprise Ambassadors. Peter has particular expertise in community led regeneration, renewable energy, digital media, health inequity and is highly regarded as a public speaker, facilitator and thought leader.

In 2010, Peter was appointed as a member of the Cabinet Office’s Mutual’s Taskforce and in 2011 as a Trustee of the Big Society Trust (overseeing delivery of Big Society Capital and Access the Social Investment Foundation). In 2012, Peter was appointed a member of the EU Social Business Initiative Expert Group. Peter was Chair of the Social Enterprise World Forum until July 2015.

Social Traders – David Brookes, Managing Director

David was appointed as Managing Director of Social Traders Ltd in January 2009. He is the Executive Director on the Board and has responsibility for organisational management and strategy, corporate governance and stakeholder engagement.

Social Traders has developed a number of unique social enterprise programs and services. David has led social enterprise sector development initiatives, including the launch of the Australian Social Enterprise Awards program in 2013. He has been a member of the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) Steering Committee since 2010.

David has over fifteen year of senior management experience in the business sector having held a range of corporate affairs roles with Rio Tinto, Toyota and Amcor. At all three companies he was closely involved in the development of strategic business community-partnership programs and was a strong advocate for social and environmental responsibility over this period.

David also has policy and economic development experience having worked with a major industry association and local council in NSW.

He has a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics) from the University of Wollongong and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).

Independent Directors

Elena Casolari, CEO, Fondazione ACRACCS (Italy)

Since 2006, Elena has been the CEO of Fondazione Acra, an Italian Ngo supporting Social Enterprises and inclusive businesses in 16 countries.

Elena is also the Co-founder and Executive president of Opes Impact fund, the first Italian investment vehicle targeting early stage social enterprises in East Africa and India in key development sectors with the aim of contributing to covering the “pioneer gap” in the impact investment industry.

She serves as a Director of the Fondazione Umano Progresso, an Italian family run grant making foundation and of Education and Entrepreneurship Ltd., a social enterprise in Tanzania delivering vocational training in rural areas.

She is also Board Member of Social Enterprise World Forum C.I.C. based in Glasgow, an organization that seeks to galvanize the global movement of social enterprise, and member of the Steering committee of Opportunity Collaboration, a global network of leaders dedicated to building sustainable solutions to poverty.

Previously, she worked for over a decade in investment banking in emerging Countries (HSBC, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein and Nikko Securities). Elena graduated in Economics from Bocconi University in Milan and she was a researcher of economic models at the Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo for two years.

Dr. Jongtae Choi, Board Director, Work Together Foundation

Dr. Choi has worked in government and academic circles, focussing on economy and employment issues for the Republic of Korea for 35 years. In 2005, he served as a member of the Board of Directors for Work Together Foundation, appointed the year after as chairman for the Institute of Policy and Strategy Research in the Work Together Foundation. The WT Foundation’s mission is to create jobs offering support to social enterprises and social entrepreneurs.

Dr. Choi also successfully completed a term as chairman of the Economic and Social Development Commission in 2013, which is a social body that facilitates consultation on opportunities and issues around labour, industrial, economic and social policies. He has also been a practising professor at Seoul National University for 30 years, teaching Business Administration.

In 2000, he also served on the Board of Directors for the Korean Human Resources Development Service; served as President for the Korea Industrial Relations Association in 1990.

Dr. Choi completed his Ph.D. in Business Administration from Austria Linz University in 1972.

Dr. Mairi Mackay, Global Head Social Enterprise, British Council, Vice Chair

Mairi leads the British Council’s Global Social Enterprise programme, which promotes the development of social enterprise and investment to help address entrenched social and environmental problems, build trust between the UK and other countries, and support more sustainable, inclusive and prosperous societies.

Introduced in over 20 countries and delivered with the support of local and international partners, the programme provides training, investment and funding opportunities for social entrepreneurs, convenes policy dialogues, conducts research and promotes social innovation through media campaigns.

Mairi is an economic development professional with over 15 years of experience delivering international projects. Prior to joining the British Council, she served as Head of Greater China for Scottish Development International (SDI). She holds a PhD from the University of Strathclyde Graduate School of Business. She joined the SEWF Board in 2014.

Houghton Wan

Houghton has been a social business coach for over 30 local and overseas social enterprises. He is a Directors of Social Enterprise World Forum and was the catalyst for inviting the HK government and local practitioners to attend and share experience at the world forum. Moreover, he is a Consultant for the China Charity Alliance as well as a Director of Play House Education Foundation.

In 2006, he developed the first Diploma in Social Business for young people. In 2008, he was invited to Korea to present on social impact maximization during the 1st Asian Social Entrepreneur Summit. Between 2008 and 2012, he was a member of the organizational committee for the Hong Kong Social Enterprise Summit. His main responsibility is to source excellent speakers from foreign countries

Houghton attended the University of Manitoba and Hong Kong Baptist University for Computer Science and Social Science.

Advisory Committee

Nicole Etchart, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, NESsT

Nicole leads NESsT’s strategy, growth and impact worldwide including entrance to eleven countries and investment in a diverse portfolio of high impact enterprises that have improved the quality of life of over 350,000 marginalized people. Nicole is responsible for the development of NESsT’s new initiatives as well as its capacity and investment strategy and tools. She oversees a senior team to carry out NESsT’s goals while maximizing the organization’s resources and impact.

Nicole is author and editor of many publications and articles and has contributed to shaping the sector in emerging market countries. She believes in the power of collaborative change and serves on a number of Advisory Boards including the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs and the Impact Investing Policy Collaborative.

Prior to founding NESsT, Nicole served as the first Executive Director of the Association for Women in Development (AWID), and was the founding Program Manager of the Third Sector Project, within the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies. She was also the Director of the Global Education Office at Catholic Relief Services (CRS) where she oversaw programs focused on increasing awareness of poverty and development issues. Earlier in her career, Nicole served in both the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, overseeing programs in Africa and in the Caribbean Affairs Office of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Nicole’s education includes a master’s degree in International Studies from the Johns Hopkins University, Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa in Latin American Studies from Tulane University, where she also received the President’s Award for Academic Excellence and Extra Curricular Contribution. She was also a recipient of the Presidential Fellowship award for “fast-track” public leaders. Nicole holds triple nationalities, from Chile, France and the U.S. She was born Santiago, Chile and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. She loves to read, run, cook, garden and, of course, travel!

Peter Stadler, Chief Executive Officer, Fachberatung für Arbeits- und Firmenprojekte (FAF)

Peter has held the role of Chief Executive Officer at FAF since 1996. FAF is a non-profit social firm support structure, which operates all over Germany and provides advice to social firms, foundations, ministries, stakeholders of social firms and social entrepreneurs. In addition, FAF offers evaluation and advice to implement innovative projects; and develops strategies for inclusive work in an inclusive society in the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In 1983 Peter founded the first social firm in Berlin for people experiencing psychiatric problems. Peter is one of the founders of the Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Integrationsfirmen (BAG IF), which is a lobby organisation for 700 social firms in Germany and is now a share and stakeholder of FAF. He has been an Advisory Committee member for Social Enterprise World Forum since 2010. Peter is married, has two daughters and enjoys jazz, classical music, photography and cooking.

Dr. Susan Steinman

Dr Susan Steinman has been an Ashoka Fellow since 2002 and awarded with the Nedbank Business Women Association’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008 and recently (2014) received the CSR World Congress’ Award for Social Innovation in India for the work done by her social enterprise and the role she is playing in building capacity for the social enterprises at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).

The Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Social Economy (CSESE) was established in 2010 with Susan appointed as the founding director. She produced research on an enabling environment for social enterprises in South Africa and other research dealt with job creation in the social economy, addressing sustainability issues in consumer organisations and sustainability challenges faced by SME’s in rural areas. Susan is a member of the Steering Committee of the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) and the annual event was hosted by UJ in April 2011. Her passion is job creation within the social economy.

SEWF Consultancy

The SEWF Board and Advisory Committee are available for joint projects to support global social enterprise development. Since the launch of the Social Enterprise World Forum in 2008, the impact of the event in driving the sector in host countries has been insurmountable. This has been supported by the work of the SEWF Board engaging host country governments and key stakeholders in policy dialogue pre, during and post-event.

Following the success of these engagements, the Board and Advisory Committee have established a consultancy arm to SEWF CIC, allowing countries, out with those hosting the event, to draw on the Directors and Advisory Committee’s expertise to support development of the sector at a strategic and government level.