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. Where once social enterprise initiatives and developments were known only within the nations or even regions where they served, here was an opportunity for leaders and practitioners from around the world to network and exchange ideas.
Spurred by its success, a steering group was quickly convened and it was agreed that there was potential beyond the initial experiment. The decision was made to hold one such event on each continent before reviewing the need and value for 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, in light of 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 102 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 social enterprise sessions and 83% of participants said they were inspired by the content.
Read the SEWF Digital 2020 event report.
Beyond the annual event
SEWF today is so much more than a single annual event. We now connect specific communities through forums focusing on rural, policy and youth agendas, with an increased focus on increasing participation through our digital offering.
We’ve also worked hard to increase our sustainability by establishing a Community Interest Company with a global board of directors, which gains income from partnerships and consulting as well as event licensing and registration fees.
Through all of these activities, we continue to work to progress 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.
Read more about our activities and impact.
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.