SEWF’s goal is to grow the global social enterprise movement to accelerate our transition to a new global impact economy.


In 2008, more than 400 delegates from 29 countries congregated in Edinburgh, Scotland with one goal: to raise awareness of social enterprise as an expanding global mechanism for social change.

The Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) was the first event of its kind. SEWF provided an opportunity for social enterprise leaders and practitioners from around the world to network and exchange ideas.

Spurred by the first event’s success, a steering group was quickly convened where it was agreed that there was potential beyond the initial experiment. They decided to hold an event on each continent before reviewing the need and value of SEWF to promote social enterprise internationally.

Going global and online

Since then, SEWF has engaged with thousands of social enterprise leaders and practitioners from over 50 countries worldwide, holding forums in cities as diverse as Rio de Janeiro, Addis Ababa, Seoul, San Francisco and Christchurch.

In 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, we held the first SEWF Digital event. Despite having just a few months in which to pivot our plans, we were able to organise our biggest global event to date, with over 5,000 reserved places from participants across 100 countries.

The week-long programme followed the sun across all time zones, starting each day in Oceania and moving west to Asia, Africa and Europe before finishing in the Americas. A total of 234 speakers participated in 94 sessions and 83% of participants said they were inspired by the content.

Beyond the annual event

SEWF today is much more than a single annual event: we work throughout the year to support the global social enterprise movement, including through our policy and social procurement work. We also hold separate events for rural social enterprises, young people, policymakers and academics. In 2021, all our events will be digital to maximise participation and impact.

In recent years, we’ve worked hard to increase our sustainability by establishing a Community Interest Company with a global Board of Directors, which generates income from partnerships, event licensing and registration fees.

Through all our activities, we continue to work to grow the social enterprise movement globally, evolving the legacy from each Social Enterprise World Forum and meeting the needs of the rapidly increasing number of social enterprise practitioners around the world.

Want to be part of our story?

Our network is made up of social enterprises, policymakers, academics, corporate partners and more. Find out how you can get involved with our mission to champion the social enterprise sector and accelerate the creation of a global impact economy.

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