Year: 2019


SEWF 2019 – Changing the course of history!

Category: Uncategorized

Posted by: Jo Seagrave / 04 November 2019

Written by Nebiyou Worku, Communications and Marketing Manager, British Council Ethiopia

This year brought the Social Enterprise World Forum 2019 to Addis Ababa, from 23 – 25 October, hosted by British Council Ethiopia and Social Enterprise Ethiopia (SEE). The forum showcased the rich, vibrant, diversified and dynamic social enterprise sector in Ethiopia and welcomed 1200+ delegates from around 70 Countries.

This brought much-needed airtime to the social enterprise (SE) sector by catalysing the area’s young and dynamic social enterprise movement – both within Ethiopia and more widely across the continent and the world. Members of the global social enterprise movement came together in Addis to learn from each other and share their experiences.

Photo © Pioneers Post

What a wonderful and vibrant SEWF 2019 it was! The Forum rocked in Addis. The mood was electric and the passion tangible. Ideas sparked everywhere. 1200 plus entrepreneurs mingled. The study tours were superb. Volunteers astounding. The rural study tours were out of this world. Music was delightful. The applause was spontaneous. The food was lauded. The coffee? Don’t get us started!

In all these, as the forum was appropriately themed, tradition and perspectives were the keywords.

The event itself was a first-of-its-kind in many ways. It was the first time it took place in a developing economy. It was the first time 53 per cent of speakers were female. It was the first time almost half of the speakers were African. It was the first time 1000 tickets were sold out 50 days before the event. It was the first time the SE Journalism Award was presented, and the winners awarded a trip to see the UK SE and Media ecosystem. Even if they know it by heart, it was, almost certainly, the first-time millions of Ethiopians heard about the term Social Enterprise. It’s probably the first time many of the participants had ever been to Ethiopia….and the list goes on.

So, what else do we need?
Entrepreneurs act on their instincts, knowledge, partnerships, wisdom and more. They turn these into innovations and change the world. So, what happens now SEWF 2019 is over?

We change the world, of course.
So, we, the entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in Africa and the world want to effect change that touch the lives of the beautiful people around us. As it was echoed throughout the forum, there is no better time than now, and the world has never needed social enterprise as much as it does now.

We need to see social enterprise policy in Ethiopia, Africa and around the globe. We need to have social enterprises blooming throughout the world. We need this new ‘Capitalism’ boom. We want more corporates supporting the cause and becoming social enterprises themselves. We need to see youth employed in the social enterprise sector and become constructive. We need countless start-ups. We need numerous impact-investors growing. And we need them now.

As Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK succinctly expressed almost two years ago in the SEWF 2019 host city, Addis Ababa:

“More oxygen is produced by the millions of microscopic phytoplankton which are found in the oceans, than the trees. Small acts when multiplied millions can transform the world. In the same way, Social Enterprises can bring about a great change in the world.”

Together we can do it all.

Youth week (20-25 October 2019)

The Social Enterprise World Forum 2019 (SEWF2019) programme was officially opened by Peter Brown, Country Director of British Council Ethiopia, during a press conference on 18 October.

Photo © Synergy Habesha

The programme of activities commenced with the superbly interactive opening ceremony of the Youth week, on Sunday 20th October. The Youth week allowed 100 young individuals from around the globe to attend the week-long programme from 20 – 25 October. The objectives were to increase youth participation in social enterprise, amplify youth voice (unemployment, education, political participation), initiate youth networks, create an opportunity for investment and call for action.

The youth ambassadors selected from Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Australia were involved in discussions with other participants throughout the week, forwarding their views and suggestions on how their participation could be enhanced.
Find out more about our Youth Ambassadors here – and check out photos from the Youth week opening ceremony here –

Education and Academic Symposium (21 October 2019)

The 2019 education and academic symposium took place on 21 October, created a space for a cross-section of experts inclusive of academics and expert practitioners working in the field of social enterprise and education. These practitioners and academics learned, shared innovative experiences and discussed how to collaborate in the future to improve the role social enterprises are playing economically, socially and environmentally. This consisted of two strands:

  • Education for social enterprise and employability
  • Collaborations and Partnerships

Urban Study Tours (21-22 October 2019)

The urban study tours allowed two groups to visit different social enterprise shops and eateries in Addis Ababa, a city which buzzes with different cultures and ongoing development, including:

  • Sabahar: a certified member of Fair World Trade Organisation, this SE is committed to providing fair and reliable employment to traditional artisans. Sabahar is known for its uniquely designed and handmade silk, wool and linen textiles. For further info, visit –
  • Selam David Roshli Technical and Vocational College (SDR-TVC): Founded in 1989, Selam is famous for its family model village childcare and youth support program, Community Support Services, Health and clinic service, Formal education school and Technical and vocational education training. For further info –

Photo © Lidya Yohannes

Policy Forum (22 October 2019)

The Policy Forum co-hosted by SEWF CIC and the British Council in partnership with the Ethiopian Government and Social Enterprise Ethiopia (SEE) was a closed forum, by invitation only. This involved rich discussions aimed at broadening the understanding of, and encouraging collaboration on, social enterprise policy developments and sharing insights. The forum was opened with a live performance of Ethiopian traditional music.


Exhibition (23-25 October 2019)

The exhibition took place throughout the main forum and showcased products and services from social enterprises across the world. It was also a place where delegates and exhibitors built valuable networks.

Photo © Synergy Habesha

African Themed Welcome Reception (23 October 2019)

Following the opening ceremony of the SEWF, a very colourful and vibrant African themed evening took place at British Council Ethiopia HQ where delegates mingled, ate, drank and danced.

Photo © Digital Storytellers

Ethiopian Cultural Evening (23 October 2019)

Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent country. It is also Africa’s second-most populous nation. It’s capital Addis Ababa is often called ‘The Capital of Africa’ because it hosts the Africa Union as well as the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Ethiopia’s population is highly diverse, containing over 80 different ethnic groups; 83 different languages with up to 200 different dialects spoken. It has historic links with three of the world’s oldest religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The cultural evening provided delegates with an experience of the diversified Ethiopian traditions, and a variety of Ethiopian dishes – ranging from lamb (beg) or chicken (doro) wot (stew) in the surroundings of Addis Ababa Museum.

Photo © Digital Storytellers

SEWF 2019 Main Forum (23-25 October 2019)

“This is the right time for Ethiopia to host the Social Enterprise World Forum.” These were the words of Dr Tilaye Gete, Ethiopia’s Minister for Education, as he greeted 1,200 delegates from 70 countries and territories at the opening of the 12th Social Enterprise World Forum on Wednesday 23 October 2019. Read the full article here –

The main forum was an interactive event with multiple, diverse sessions including:

  • Social enterprises leading the way in tackling inequality,
  • Tech for Good – realising the potential for social change,
  • Innovation in youth engagement,
  • Social Enterprises addressing the challenges of migration,
  • Connecting rural women with global markets,
  • Creative and Cultural Enterprise; and
  • many more.

200 speakers from more than 50 countries led these sessions and shared their experience and expertise with 1000 plus participants.

Testimonials and quotes

“It’s a big deal to have the forum here [Ethiopia] and your presence here will leave a legacy.” Bruktawit Tigabu, founder of Whiz Kids Workshop.

“This Social Enterprise World Forum 2019 here in Addis Ababa has opened our eyes to all the possibilities of scaling up our service provision to blind and visually impaired people.” Founder of Visual Eyes Afrika-International, Molemisi Kono

“We envision a world where every woman is valued and given an opportunity.” The Co-Founder of Temsalet Kitchen

“We fight hunger differently.” Mike Curtin from DC Kitchen quoting Mother Theresa

“What worries me most in the fashion industry is the textile wastage, here at phinix, we collected over 4000 Kilos of textile waste, work with local artisans to produce beautiful shoes and bags for the market.” Pamela from Phinix, Malesia

“Any social enterprise should provide the best product or service in the market.” Tom Allen from Impact Boom

“I didn’t know that there are so many SEs in Ethiopia. Moreover, I got to meet lots of young people and learn.” Nancy Chebet, Participant from Kenya

Rural Study Tour (26 – 28th October)

Lalibela is known for its magnificent rock-hewn churches and Arba Minch for its raw natural beauty. But, the main focus, were the social enterprises there.

In Lalibela, the tour took the participants to BEZA Association and Ben Abeba. BEZA association was established to provide community care for people living with HIV/AIDS. For further info, visit Ben Abeba is the creation of Scottish lady, Susan Aitchison and Ethiopian man, Habtamu Baye. The restaurant, set in a jaw-dropping location, currently employs 50 staff and provides a training platform for locals who wish to get into the restaurant trade. The site continues to evolve with 4 luxury apartments due to open there next month. The restaurant is eco- friendly, and 50,000 trees have been planted in the surrounding area, to cultivate natural wildlife. For those in the UK, Ben Abeba and Susan’s tale will feature in Ben Fogle’s ‘New Lives in the Wild’ on Tuesday 5th November at 9pm.

Photo © Jo Seagrave

The Arba Minch trip saw three SEs and how they operate. These were Jano Handicraft Association, Paradise Lodge and The Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church Development Commission (EKHCDC.) EKHCDC is legally registered and licensed as an NGO and targets the immediate and long term needs of its beneficiaries with a particular emphasis on children, women, and youth. One focus area of EKHCDC is institutional capacity building programs that have so far benefitted over one million people.

SEWF 2019: “We’re not the only saviours of the planet”

As the climate emergency has become more prevalent in the last year, one of the stand out sessions was ‘The role of social enterprise in saving the planet’.

In a strongly worded address on the second day of the Social Enterprise World Forum 2019 in Addis Ababa, Harish Hande, CEO of India’s sustainable energy Selco Foundation, drew attention to some of the less attractive characteristics of some social entrepreneurs.

“Social entrepreneurs shouldn’t assume that they are the only ones who can fix the world and instead collaborate with each other as well as governments, NGOs and businesses.” wrote Julie Pybus of Pioneers Post in an article following the session.

Photo © Pioneers Post

Social enterprise Journalism Award winners Announced

Eden Berhane, ‘Semonun Addis’, EBS TV was announced as the winner of the first-ever Social Enterprise Journalist of the Year award during the SEWF press conference on 18 October at the British Council Ethiopia HQ.

Eden is the Executive Producer of ‘Semonun Addis’ show on EBS TV channel. She won this award for the exemplary programmes she produced on the show with regards to why and how Addis should recycle plastic bottles and the amazing story of Tesfa Creative Craftworkers.

Photo © Synergy Habesha

Her plan for the future
Eden notes that there are lots of problems being faced by Social Enterprises. She aims to start a social entrepreneurship award television show which will help to create and encourage the social enterprise sector in the country.

You can access her entries here

Why and how Addis should recycle plastic bottles?
Part 1:
Part 2:

The amazing story of Tesfa creative craft workers
Part 1
Part 2

Eden was given the honour of distributing certificates and awards to 4 journalist colleagues who won second, third, and special commendation awards after she spoke at SEWF 2019.

This award follows a session organised by British Council Ethiopia earlier in the year to bring journalists and social enterprise actors together to establish a better understanding of each other and how they can collaborate to publish more social enterprise stories.

SEWF 2020 flies west from Addis Ababa to Nova Scotia


Photo © Synergy Habesha

At the end of SEWF 2019, it was announced the Social Enterprise World Forum 2020 will take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia from 23 – 25 September. Lauren Sears, Managing Director of Common Good Solutions (the 2020 host organisation) told delegates:

“Halifax is the epicentre for social enterprise in Canada. Common Good Solutions will be welcoming the world to the Social Enterprise World Forum.”

Read the full article in Pioneers Post –

Thanks to our Partners


We would like to thank our Strategic Partner, (Social Enterprise Ethiopia,) the Platinum Partners (Johnson & Johnson, Reach for Change and SAP,) our Gold Partner (Vodacom,) Bronze (Diageo, ESELA, Europian Union, The Scottish Government and Turkish Airlines,), Media Partners (Pioneers Post, Impact Boom, The Rooftop) and Documentation partners (Digital Storytellers and Synergy Habesha) for making this event possible.


SEWF 2019 media coverage


Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporate:
FANA Broadcasting Corporate:
Addis Standard
The Reporter
Tadias Addis
Thomson Reuters
Business Insider

Follow our pages for more stories coming soon


Facebook pages:
Social Enterprise World Forum 2019:
British Council Ethiopia:

Social Enterprise World Forum 2019:
British Council Ethiopia:

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SEWF pays tribute to its Chairman, Jim Schorr

Category: Uncategorized

Posted by: Jo Seagrave / 18 March 2019

The Social Enterprise World Forum Board is to pay tribute to long standing director and recent Chairman, Jim Schorr by establishing a scholarship programme in his memory. Jim lost his battle with cancer on Monday 11th February 2019 and we are celebrating his impact and his legacy by enabling students from Vanderbilt University Tennessee to attend the Social Enterprise World Forum.

Jim was with SEWF from its inception in 2008 and also served as Chairman, President and CEO of Social Enterprise Alliance (USA). Previously, he was Executive Director of Juma Ventures, one of the U.S.’s most successful and admired social enterprises, and taught coursework on social enterprise as an Adjunct Professor at Vanderbilt University and as a Senior Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

SEWF Director, Peter Holbrook said –

“A very sad loss for all who were lucky enough to know him. What a great way to live a life, despite being so much shorter than it might have otherwise been”. “Jim was a hugely driven, smart and generous guy. He had charisma, a twinkle in his eye and loved to party.”

Gerry Higgins, the SEWF Founder and Managing Director said –

“We will treasure many fond memories of our time with Jim and we consider ourselves most fortunate to have been able to work with and get to know Jim through a hugely inspiring decade of progress for social enterprise globally.”

Information about Jim’s life and legacy can be found here and further information about the SEWF scholarship will be made available in due course.

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Rejuvenating rural communities through social enterprise

Category: Rural

Posted by: Jo Seagrave / 10 March 2019

By Matt Pfahlert

The inaugural Social Enterprise Rural Symposium was held recently on the Isles of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. This was an adjunct to the 10th Social Enterprise World Forum, hosted by Edinburgh.

This breathtakingly beautiful and remote location played host to 45 rural policymakers and practitioners from across the world with a lens on the role social enterprise is playing to rejuvenate struggling rural economies.

The forum combined workshop style lectures and discussion with field trips to Isle of Lewis and Harris social enterprises and rural businesses focussed on sustainable local employment.

I’m keen to share my reflections and learnings with you, in the hope that we can further the conversation around social enterprise in Australia.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise

  • The symposium was hosted by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), a Scottish government agency dedicated to building community capacity as a means to fostering inclusive economic development. A community development approach to economic development if you like. After 50 years of determined effort, their success in re-populating rural communities is now a world-leading model, from which we can learn so much.
  • As the key agency for economic development in the north of Scotland, HIE has invested in their people, basing them in the rural communities serviced by HIE. When I asked about the key reason for their success, all suggested it was the time they’ve spent in community, the trust built and the ability to be genuinely responsive to community needs. Their Case Managers work with communities to provide planning and capacity building and provide funding to support community-led projects to achieve sustainability.
  • All staff I spoke to had been with HIE for 10 years or more (some over 20). They’re experienced and savvy in their understanding of the community and the economic drivers of their region. They all feel humbled by the role they’re able to play to support sustainable growth in their communities. When asked about political interference, there wasn’t a department restructure in sight (unfortunately Australian public servants seem to have their departments restructured every 18 months, often having to re-apply for their positions, making concerted, long-term change almost impossible to achieve).


Scotland’s 10 Year Strategy for Social Enterprise

Scotland has a long-term approach providing the stability necessary for the conversion of ‘policy to practice’, including real outcomes and impacts. This is a dramatic contrast to Australia, where Victoria is the only state with a social enterprise strategy. This strategy was created in 2017. Scotland’s Social Enterprise Strategy has been in existence for over 15 years.

The Australian Federal Government so far has taken little notice of the opportunity social enterprise provides to many destinations and sectors of the economy. I can say this following recent meetings in Canberra with federal government ministers and their advisors, on both sides of politics. It is clear they are taking little notice of social enterprise as a lever for rejuvenating communities.

The long-term and bi-partisan Scottish strategy goes way beyond the ‘policy by announceables’ approach many Australian politicians so keenly employ. Both of Australia’s major parties are without a policy for regional Australia, which makes policy creation for social enterprise in rural Australia feel like a very distant dream.

Big business is not the answer

  • Scotland courted large national and multi-national companies up until 2007. The Scots said this approach failed, with millions of pounds spent on courting investment to drive economic growth in rural areas. The result most often was a ‘Leaky Bucket Economy’, where the money that flows into the community flows right back out again – thereby creating limited local employment or sustainable long-term economic benefit to the community.
  • Social enterprises in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland employ more people than the combined sectors of Forestry, Fisheries and Agriculture.

Leveraging Assets

  • Rural businesses that are thriving in the Outer Hebrides and other global locations, all have an authenticity about them. They have a strong and obvious connection to the place, its people, culture and heritage. If we use a wine analogy, the businesses are like ‘terroir’ – they are the product of their location and have a sense of place.
  • My favourite example is Harris Tweed (Isle of Harris) where a ‘Scottish Act of Parliament’ ensures that a rigid quality regime is upheld, where local artisans weave tweed in their homes on the island as part of a production system that guarantees both local employment and a stamp of authenticity. This business deliberately honours local people being able to live on the Crofts (engage in a traditional Crofting lifestyle) whilst supplementing their income through on-farm weaving. Harris Tweed is sold globally.
  • Successful social enterprises build on existing, emerging or remnant knowhow. They seek to offer value-added products and services to the marketplace, utilising local markets as well as global markets through web-enabled platforms.
  • People who are connected to a place by birth, experience, ancestry or interests are people who may want to invest in rural economies. These are people who already care about a destination, town or location. They have means and may have grown up in the area and moved away or, they have a special connection with your community through holidays, family, friends or pursuit. ‘Connected investors’ are paving the way for many new and exciting rural social enterprises.
  • An outstanding example is Harris Distillery, a new business that is proud of the role its playing in building employment for the island. Musicologist Anderson Blakewell, with an affinity for the Isle of Harris, founded the distillery with a view to providing economic regeneration for the fragile local community.


There is a deep belief that the Island’s natural assets can best be harnessed to address our acute economic problems through ambitious projects like our own, bringing this special place and its qualities to the attention of a wider audience’.


The capital to fund this enterprise (now employing 68 local people), has been a combination of local investment, public grants from the Scottish government and private investors with an affinity for rural life and an interest in the vision of the project. Over 20 million pounds was contributed by ‘connected investors’.

Access to Capital

  • The Scottish Government recognises the need to provide communities with access to finance, through grants and patient loans. They recognise the barriers to finance for projects outside the major cities.
The Scottish Land fund provides 10 million pounds per annum in grant funding alone to support local communities own their own assets.
  • The Big Lottery Fund in the UK dedicates a percentage of its profits to community and heritage projects in the form of grants. Their plaque is on many preserved buildings across the UK.
  • Big Issue Invest is a spin-off of the Big Issue, a global social enterprise magazine tackling homelessness. They provide patient finance to projects of community benefit, that wouldn’t ordinarily be able to secure commercial finance.

Community Owned Assets

  • There is a recognition by the Scottish Government that local communities are best at owning and managing their own assets sustainably. In fact, there is legislation that allows communities ‘the right to buy’ their valued assets when they come onto the open market, whether in public or private ownership.
  • The Development Trusts Association of Scotland (DTAS) provides advice and support to local communities embarking on their community asset ownership journey. In rural communities, this often starts with the retention of a valued local service. Over time, and with the confidence success brings, these groups often extend their interests to bold and ambitious community renewal enterprises.
  • The Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis are second only in fame to Stonehenge, for their links to the late Neolithic era, where they were a focus for ritualistic activity during the bronze age. The local people have built a community café and visitor centre, close to the site. It provides a hub for local meetings and functions as well as a thriving tourism driver for local employment. The young self-taught local chef, who runs the café, is building a great local business focussed on the best of regional produce, blending contemporary and traditional cuisine. The site is providing sustainable local employment and Gregor has just started a cooking show on Gaelic TV. A global star in the making!

The next generation, or a place to retire

  • All countries represented at the symposium have a very real challenge in common. New ideas, technology-enabled business models, changing tourism expectations and globalised economies are megatrends often at odds with the views of how retirees see the future.
  • With a lifetime of education and resources at their disposal, a common theme was vocal recent or soon-to-be retirees often resistant to change in the rural communities they inhabit, many wanting a ‘quiet life’ in their later years.
  • Our Scottish, Canadian and New Zealand counterparts cited examples where entrepreneurial and ambitious endeavours required to lead rural communities out of depopulation were often thwarted. Families and young people not able to find the necessary support for new ideas and eventually moving away or back to metropolitan locations. This issue is not helped by the average age of local elected officials.
  • Interestingly, the opposition to these projects rarely came from multi-generational inhabitants, as these residents have an investment in the next generation being able to forge a local future.
  • Symposium delegates all concurred that the next generation of social enterprise practitioners are incredibly bright, capable and willing to lead the change required to navigate a complex and uncertain future in rural economies. The majority of under 35’s are unwilling to pursue a career that doesn’t consider people and the planet at the centre of all their future decision making. This provides great hope for the change our global society desperately needs.

State of Play

  • HIE and its relationship with rural communities represents a genuine partnership model that has trust, mutual benefit and low political interference at its heart. Australia could benefit greatly from taking a community development approach to achieving inclusive economic development.
  • Scottish social enterprise practitioners enjoy a mature ecosystem of national support.
  • At least five provinces across Canada have social enterprise strategies. A national strategy is currently being developed with $1 Billion being suggested as the initial investment, half into a social enterprise capital fund, the other half into capacity building activities.
New Zealand
  • After hosting the Social Enterprise World Forum in Christchurch 2017, the New Zealand government is highly engaged in the development of a national strategy. Senior ministers in the NZ government attended the Social Enterprise World Forum in Edinburgh 2018 to gather intelligence and learn from existing and emerging best practice. They have already launched a Social Enterprise Investment Fund.
  • To my knowledge, apart from the Independent member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, there are few federal politicians who have taken an interest in the social enterprise sector in Australia, despite there being an estimated 20,000 social enterprises operating in Australia.
  • Victoria is leading the way with the recent development of a Victorian Strategy 2017-20. This strategy has a modest budget but still represents real effort with some good thinking behind it. The Social Procurement Framework, for example, is world class. Hopefully, there are some political champions emerging to build on a good start!


Next Steps

The Inaugural Rural Symposium for Social Enterprise provided an incredible vehicle for practitioners and policymakers to learn from each other and the experience of HIE. The growing movement of social enterprise recognises that the drivers present in rural areas are often quite different to those in the urban areas.

This symposium reinforced that there are a number of universal issues and opportunities. Through learning from and actively supporting each other, we can advance the policy and practice for rejuvenating rural communities.

I’m looking forward to the role we can play in building momentum for rural rejuvenation through social enterprise, as well as supporting the next generation of rural enthusiasts in complex, uncertain yet exciting times.



I’d like to acknowledge the support of the Dal Zotto family and their commitment to rural economic development. They provided me with a fellowship to attend the Rural Symposium through the International Specialised Skills Institute Fellowship.

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