SEWF 2020 Halifax postponed

Category: News

Posted by: Jo Seagrave / 25 March 2020

SEWF 2020, Halifax postponed until June 2021

In light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, SEWF C.I.C. and the SEWF 2020 host Common Good Solutions, have agreed to postpone this year’s event in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Instead of gathering in Canada from 23-25th September 2020 the global social enterprise community will come together in Halifax from 2-4th June 2021. Further info will soon be available at

The international social enterprise community is directly impacted by the global pandemic and while the situation may have improved in many countries by September, this will be a time for recovery and rebuilding. SEWF C.I.C. and Common Good Solutions would like to express our solidarity with all those in the social enterprise movement who are in the frontline of delivering services to those affected by coronavirus. We encourage social enterprises and their supporters to attend to the welfare and wellbeing of clients and colleagues but also to stay connected with our global community

SEWF digital event announced: 23-24th September 2020

SEWF C.I.C. and Partners will host a two-day digital forum from 23-24th September 2020 to assist the world of social enterprise to come together and plan for the future. The event will involve contributions from different locations and we expect that this will be our largest ever SEWF gathering.

Our climate change strategy, set SEWF on the path to increasing digital engagement as a complement to our annual forum. We have seen SEWF produce a legacy of change in many countries and never has this been more important as the world seeks and demands change in the relationship between communities, markets and governments.

Further details will be available in due course and will be posted via our newsletter and social media channels.

SEWF 2019 post-event report

To whet your appetite for our future events and to remind you of what can be achieved when we come together, view the highlights and download the SEWF 2019 post-event report.

The SEWF 2019 Hosts, The British Council, worked with SEWF C.I.C. to calculate the carbon impact of the event in Addis Ababa last October. The methodology outlined in the SEWF climate change strategy has resulted in a carbon offset payment of £12,606  to SELCO Foundation in India. This will provide financing for sustainable lighting solutions for 400 households and energy solutions for 10 schools benefiting 600 students.

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Coronavirus update

Category: Uncategorized

Posted by: Jo Seagrave / 13 March 2020

We are aware that many of you will be concerned about Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the potential impact this will have on SEWF2020 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We would like to reassure you that Social Enterprise World Forum C.I.C. is working closely with the 2020 hosts and will take all necessary steps to keep people safe.

As an international gathering, we are not only following the guidance and advice from the Canadian Government, as this year’s host but are also reviewing the situation globally. The event is due to take place from 23-25th September and we are exploring all options for a global gathering to continue as planned.

We will continue to post updates on our website but if you have any direct queries or concerns, then please don’t hesitate to contact us at

In the meantime, our thoughts and best wishes go out to our entire community as you deal with the impact Coronavirus is having on you individually, as a community and/or as an organisation.

Gerry Higgins, Managing Director
Social Enterprise World Forum C.I.C.

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Broadening our partnership engagement

Category: Uncategorized

Posted by: Jo Seagrave / 10 March 2020

Broadening our partnership engagement: SEWF works with LUMS Entrepreneurial Society in Lahore, Pakistan to learn and teach about social enterprise in the region From December 26th – 30th

Maeve Curtin, SEWF’s Strategic Policy Adviser, attended the 14th Annual Young Leaders and Entrepreneurs Summit in Lahore, Pakistan. This 5-day Summit hosted by the LUMS Entrepreneurial Society (LES) at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) was an SEWF partnership event that brought together over 700 student delegates from high schools, colleges, and universities across Pakistan and South Asia. Over the course of the Summit, students explored different elements of
entrepreneurship testing their business acumen and receiving valuable feedback from successful entrepreneurs. Featured image shows SEWF’s Maeve Curtin with one of the teams competing at YLES. For this challenge they had to rebrand and launch and new product line for Girlythings, a social enterprise that provides health and hygiene products for women and girls with and without disabilities.

What initially seemed like a traditional business and case competition was in fact marked by LES’s deep commitment to inspiring attendees to understand social enterprise and to consider the viability of social enterprise careers. At the very least, YLES acquainted delegates with a potentially unfamiliar concept and helped them recognize the role social enterprises can play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

SEWF partnered with LES to elevate their social enterprise competition round and help frame the entire event within the context of social enterprise. In addition to speaking at the opening and closing ceremonies about the potential for a new global impact economy and how young people will play a critical role in this type of transformational change within society, Maeve also gave a workshop on social enterprise that was open to all delegates.

Top: Students from a high school in Lahore who participate in LES’s social outreach programme competed throughout all of YLES and had an additional opportunity to learn about social enterprise.

Beyond engagement with the students at YLES, there was also an opportunity for SEWF to engage with social enterprise leaders from across Pakistan. SEWF had the opportunity to visit with various social enterprises in and around Lahore to see their work in action.

One of the social enterprise site visits was to Project PAVE’s demonstration fields where SEWF saw firsthand the impact of this seed and fertilizer project on rural farmers across the region.

LES also convened a roundtable on the future of social enterprise policy and practice in Pakistan at LUMS and invited social enterprise leaders from across Pakistan to attend. SEWF learned about the state of social enterprise policy in Pakistan from social enterprise leaders on the ground and shared information on social enterprise policy progress globally.

The roundtable with social enterprise leaders across Pakistan demonstrated a need for more collaboration among sector leaders and highlighted future opportunities for policy action that will ease barriers for social enterprises.

This partnership with LES is ongoing and one that SEWF hopes will lead to more students, and delegates generally, from South Asia attending the SEWF youth and main forums in years to come. SEWF will also continue to support policy developments that advantage the growing social enterprise movement in Pakistan.

Photo Credits: LES Media Team

Read more about our Partnering for impact

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SEWF 2020 flies west from Addis Ababa to Nova Scotia

Category: Uncategorized

Posted by: Jo Seagrave / 04 December 2019

Pioneers Post by Julie Pybus on 26th October 2019

The Social Enterprise World Forum 2020 will be held in the town of Halifax in Nova Scotia from 23 to 25 September.

The 2020 host city was announced at the close of the Social Enterprise World Forum 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Friday 25 October.

Lauren Sears, managing director of Common Good Solutions, the organisation that will host the event, 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.”

Halifax is a town of 0.5m people on the Atlantic coast of Canada with a strong fishing industry. The Social Enterprise World Forum was held in Canada in 2013, when Calgary was the host city.

We want to put Halifax on the map

Speaking to Pioneers Post in Addis Ababa before the official announcement was made, Sears explained that she and her fellow Nova Scotians had been convinced to bid to host the 2020 forum after attending the forum in 2018 in Edinburgh, Scotland”.

“Edinburgh was a transformative experience,” she said. “It made us realise that we can do more, and that people are doing fantastic work all over the world. We want to put Halifax on the map.”

She added: “I have felt so welcomed by our Ethiopian hosts, and we share that spirit.”

Photo © Synergy Habesha

The area has a strong network of rural enterprises, she said. “We are a very proud region and people, and incredibly resilient.”

People who come to the 2020 forum could expect to be offered lots of opportunities to learn about best practice, said Sears. She added that she also wanted people to have the opportunity to work together during the event, and that the hosts would help delegates make useful connections before they arrived.

David Upton, Common Good Solutions CEO, added that invitations would be extended to a wide range of “purpose-led” businesses as well as social investors.

Young people would be strongly involved as well as first nations peoples.

A key theme would be the UN Sustainable Development Goals. “There is work to be done on these,” said Sears.

For further information on SEWF 2020 or to book your place, visit

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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 CIC partner with APSES 2019

Category: Uncategorized

Posted by: Jo Seagrave / 30 April 2019

Bookings have opened for the Asia Pacific Social Enterprise Summit (APSES), taking place in Kaohsiung, Taiwan on 11-12th May 2019.

SEWF is happy to partner with the organisers of this event, first established in 2013 to help Taiwan’s social innovation ecosystem grow and to showcase the ability and willingness to help solve global problems. The event is viewed as one of the most significant social enterprise events across Asia-Pacific with over 1200 social entrepreneurs, corporate and government representatives attending each year and this year will be no different.

SEWF MD, Gerry Higgins and Director, Jae-Gu Kim will be among 60+ speakers from 15 Countries talking at the two-day summit.

The event will be opened by Shiza Shahid, Founder of Malala Fund and NOW.Ventures and Tonya Surman, CEO, Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) and will address social enterprise, ecosystem, social empowerment, tech for good and 7 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Book your tickets and find out more about the event programme and speakers

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This year’s SEWF Global Forum will be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 23-25th October. The tracks and themes for the event have been announced with the programme due in the coming weeks.

For further info on the event, download the event flyer or visit the website:

In a recent interview with Impact Boom, the SEWF 2019 Project Co-ordinator, Adenew Mesfin said “Our strapline for this year’s forum is local traditions, fresh perspectives. The reason we use the word traditions is because Ethiopia has a long history of social enterprise engagement, not under the label of social enterprise, but supporting the community.” Read the full article

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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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The struggle to follow through on your corporate purpose

Category: Uncategorized

Posted by: Jo Seagrave / 16 January 2019

Digitalist Magazine by Alexandra van der Ploeg, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, SAP

15th January 2019

The world’s population today has the most knowledge available to help us achieve a world of equality, where people treat others as they expect to be treated. All businesses, big or small, want to make money but they also want to share their successes and help others to achieve diversity and inclusion. But sometimes, it can be hard to find the right way to help make a difference because at the end of the day, you’ve got to get your work done to keep your customers, employees, and stakeholders happy.

What if there was a simple way for you to make an impact on society without taking away resources from your daily business? Social enterprises have become mature and well-established businesses, providing reliable and high-quality services through regular procurement processes to businesses big and small, helping them to meet their business targets. Social enterprises are businesses that trade to intentionally tackle social problems, improve communities, provide people access to employment and training, or help the environment. Using the power of the marketplace to solve the most pressing societal problems, social enterprises are commercially viable businesses existing to benefit the public and the community, rather than shareholders and owners.

Social entrepreneurs play an important role in combatting inequality – they reduce poverty, build food systems, celebrate diversity, promote Indigenous culture, meet health needs, create employment opportunities for those with disadvantages, deliver community owned energy and address environmental issues and social exclusion. Profit models vary between organizations.

If every business in the world engaged with just one social enterprise in its procurement process, the overall effect on the world could be enormous. The Social Enterprise World Forum is working to encourage corporations to engage with social enterprises and to help people to understand more, they’re providing a free online course, How Social Enterprises Enhance Corporate Supply Chains. The course features representatives from both big business, including Johnson & Johnson and PwC, as well as social enterprises who work with big business. Attendees can hear from both sides and see what experiences have been gained and how they can become involved.

I truly believe that this is the future – working together to meet our business goals and incorporating diverse suppliers can have an incredible impact on our world!

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How procurement will save the world

Category: Uncategorized

Posted by: Jo Seagrave / 19 December 2018

Forbes by Robin Meyerhoff, Brand Contributor, SAP

6th December 2018

In August, Microsoft made headlines by requiring its suppliers to implement paid parental leave policies. Any company that wants to sell goods and services to Microsoft must offer its employees a minimum of 12 weeks paid leave by this time next year.

This is one example of large companies that are pushing suppliers on more than just price point — going beyond financial costs to consider social and environmental costs as well. At the recent Social Enterprise World Forum (an annual event designed to encourage the growth of social enterprises) participants discussed how more sustainable procurement requirements adopted by large companies could positively impact profits, people and the planet.

Corporate and social enterprise panel at SEWF 2018 discussing social supply chains

Dr. Marcell Vollmer, SAP; Julian Hooks, Johnson & Johnson; Jeremy Willis, PwC; Adele Peek, Foundation for Young Australians and Philip Ullman, Cordant Group discuss benefits and reasons for engaging social enterprises in corporate supply chains

Johnson & Johnson, one of the largest healthcare companies globally, attended the event. Julian Hooks is the Chief Procurement Officer, Corporate Tier, at Johnson & Johnson. He said, “We try to make the world a healthier place one person at a time and we’re doing that in part through our procurement strategy.” To deliver on that promise, Johnson & Johnson prioritizes buying from suppliers that are women or minority-owned businesses.

According to Hooks, in 2017 the company spent 1.45 billion dollars with businesses owned by women or people of color. He believes, “to change the face of healthcare, you need to change the face of the supply chain. That’s what does good in society and makes an impact.” Since Johnson and Johnson operates in 165 companies and works with 70,000 suppliers around the world, it has the potential to significantly boost diversity amongst business leaders globally.

Technology Makes Social Procurement Easier Technology can also help promote goods and services offered by social enterprises to commercial businesses. That’s where SAP, a global software provider, has stepped in. Marcell Vollmer, Chief Digital Officer of SAP Ariba, spoke at Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) about how the Ariba Network (from SAP’s 2012 acquisition of e-procurement cloud vendor, Ariba) connects over 3.5 million companies around the world to socially responsible businesses.

“When we talk to procurement professionals, we see people trying to tackle supply chain issues such as slavery, poverty and diversity. But they are struggling because they lack visibility and data on their suppliers,” explains Vollmer. SAP Ariba provides that visibility and can track over 200 different criteria such as environmental performance, fair labor and business practices or diversity in management. This information allows companies to conduct risk assessments and rankings of potential vendors, which result in more ethical and sustainable supply chains.

Given that SAP Ariba connects over 3.5 million companies to exchange approximately 2.1 trillion dollars in commerce, it presents a huge opportunity for social enterprises to connect with a bigger market. And an easier way for companies to enact more sustainable business strategies by buying from socially responsible providers.

SAP is also developing an ecosystem of partners that helps companies find businesses with social purpose. For example, SAP Ariba has made headway eliminating products made by enslaved workers through its partnership with Made in a Free World by providing transparency into suppliers’ labor practices. It also works with organizations like ConnXus to promote supplier diversity by helping companies identify small, minority and women-owned sellers.

To learn more about how social enterprises can enhance corporate supply chains, register for a new massive open online course (MOOC) created by SAP and SEWF. The course begins January 22, 2019.

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SEWF announces new Chair and Managing Director

Category: Uncategorized

Posted by: Jo Seagrave / 14 December 2018

Social Enterprise World Forum is delighted to confirm Professor Jim Schorr of Vanderbilt University, Nashville Tennessee as its new Chair. On December 10th Professor Schorr took over from David LePage of Buy Social Canada who had held the position for three years.

SEWF is also pleased to announce that Gerry Higgins will become its first Managing Director on January 1st 2019. The appointment of a Managing Director has been made possible by the support of international business software company SAP as the first SEWF Global Partner. This 3-year partnership allows SEWF to add vital capacity to its work in growing and supporting the social enterprise movement around the world.

Gerry Higgins, will combine his role of SEWF Managing Director with a new role of Director of International Enterprise at Community Enterprise in Scotland (CEIS), having served as CEIS CEO since 2006.

Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) has moved well past being a once-a-year activity and now serves a global community of social enterprise and their supporters. With SEWF Host partners secured for 2019 and 2020 and plans for Regional and Partnership Events, SEWF will deliver an enhanced programme of support to policy makers and social enterprise development initiatives in response to increasing demand around the world.

New Chair, Jim Schorr said, “It has been fascinating to be part of the growth of the global social enterprise movement for the last decade, since the first world forum in Edinburgh. It is an honour to be replacing David LePage as Chair of SEWF at this exciting time for the organization and for social enterprises globally”

Outgoing Chair, David LePage, “With Jim’s leadership, Gerry’s engagement, SAP’s support and a global network built over the last ten years, SEWF is well positioned to take the next steps in the creation of a supportive ecosystem for social enterprise.”

For details of SEWF Global Partnership with SAP
For details of SEWF Programmes

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Are you a social enterprise looking for new customers to work with? Or, maybe you’re looking to diversify your supply chain by working with social enterprises who positively contribute to solving social, economic, or environmental challenges?

If you said yes to either of the above questions, then we’ve got the perfect learning opportunity for you! There’s a free Massive Open Online Course, How Social Enterprises Enhance Corporate Supply Chains, starting from January 22, 2019 and you’re invited to join. All you need to sign up is a valid email address and all video units require just 20 minutes of your time to complete. You can learn at any time that suits you and on any device. Here’s how it works!

The course introduces you to a variety of corporate and social enterprise representatives, sharing their experiences and helping you find the right solution for your business. The course runs over a four-week period, so every Tuesday from January 22, there will be new content released. You’ll find five videos per week and they’re approx. 20 minutes each – you can watch them in one sitting or one a day. And if you have questions or would like to discuss the content, you can meet your peers and the content experts in the discussion forum.

If you’d like to earn a Record of Achievement at the end of the course, you can complete the weekly assignments. These are multiple choice tests that you can take any time throughout the week, but you must submit them before the weekly deadline (every Wednesday before 9:00am UTC).

If you can’t commit to completing the weekly assignments, don’t worry – you can dip in and out of the content at any point, choosing the topics that appeal most to you. After the course finishes on February 27, you can still access all of the course content – you won’t be able to create new discussions or take the weekly assignments but you can still benefit from the course content.

Ready to learn? Enroll today for free – just create an account with your email address and when it’s time to start, we’ll send you a reminder with some more information.

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Why social entrepreneurs and big business need each other

Category: Uncategorized

Posted by: Jo Seagrave / 31 October 2018

Edinburgh’s Old Town is famous for its castle and buildings dating back to the Medieval era. But something new is taking root in the capital of Scotland; It is quickly becoming a global hub for social enterprises.

While there is no formal definition of social enterprise, it is usually defined as a commercially viable organization focused on benefiting the public – rather than shareholders or owners. This can mean anything from helping alleviate conditions for people living in poverty, to protecting the environment. And the sector is booming: 42 percent of social enterprises have been established in the past 10 years.

In a country of less than 5.5 million people, Scotland’s social enterprise sector includes approximately 5,600 organizations, contributes 1.68 billion pounds (about $2.2US billion) to the economy annually, and employs over 100,000 people.


Advancing Collaboration Between Social Enterprises and Big Business

So, it’s fitting that the eleventh Social Enterprise World Forum, an annual global event designed to “create a global social enterprise movement,” was recently held in Edinburgh. Over 1400 delegates from 47 countries gathered to collaborate, network and discuss how they could help tackle the world’s social and environmental problems. Throughout the event a common theme emerged: the need to strengthen the relationship between the commercial and social business sectors.

Gerry Higgins, CEO of Community Enterprise in Scotland, founded the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) and has over 30 years of experience starting and running social businesses. “Partnerships between social and private enterprises have come a long way,” he said. “But over the last few years we’ve really reached a tipping point – the corporate sector is recognizing that it can make a significant difference in communities through social enterprise partnerships.”

In part, Higgins thinks the impetus comes from millennials. “Young people are realizing that business as usual isn’t good enough, and that we have a lot of challenges globally.” This generation has inspired more interest than ever in the social sector, but also put pressure on big business to show their responsibility towards addressing social and environmental challenges.

Higgins believes that bringing corporate and social worlds closer together is a win-win for both. Companies are being asked increasingly to report on how they positively impact communities. One way they can demonstrate socially responsible business practices to shareholders is by buying from social enterprises. Conversely, corporate buyers provide social enterprises with a new and potentially lucrative customer base, which will help increase their social impact.


SAP Doubles Down On Commitment to Social Enterprises

As a global business software provider, SAP agrees that working with social enterprises is mutually beneficial — and is doubling down on its commitment to the sector. The company participated in SEWF as the organization’s first global partner. The three-year partnership will help drive growth in the social enterprise sector and includes a new massive open online course (MOOC), designed by SAP and SEWF members to teach participants how social enterprises can enhance corporate supply chains.

For many years, SAP has supported social enterprises primarily through its social sabbatical program, that matches SAP employees with social enterprises, NGOs and non-profits where employees use their expertise to help organizations address strategic challenges. But Alexandra van der Ploeg, vice president of corporate social responsibility at SAP, believes there are two main reasons why there is more momentum than ever across the company to engage with social enterprises.

First, in 2015 the United Nations established the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at fighting poverty, equality, and climate change. “Agenda 2030 and the SDGs have increased awareness about the private sector’s role in helping to achieve the societal, economic and environmental goals of the UN,” said van der Ploeg.

Second, (but related) the investment community wants to see that corporations conduct business more responsibly. Van der Ploeg explains, “There’s a push from investors that makes this a pivotal moment. They are urging companies to look beyond the economic bottom line to the triple bottom line that measures economic, social and environmental achievements.”

She believes SAP can help accelerate social enterprises with its technology, employees and ecosystem. SAP technologies can boost social enterprises and help them scale, for example, SAP Ariba can connect buyers worldwide to purveyors of socially-responsibly made goods.

Employees can volunteer their expertise and time to support existing social entrepreneurs and maximize their impact. Or start their own through internal initiatives like 1 Billion Lives initiative, an incubation program that supports employees who want to launch socially-minded businesses. Last, the SAP ecosystem of partners (including for, and not-for, profit organizations,) can provide social entrepreneurs with new business opportunities and markets.

This dovetails neatly with SAP’s purpose: to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. Adaire Fox-Martin is an Executive Board member at SAP SE, in charge of Global Customer Operations across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Greater China. She has long been a champion of social entrepreneurship; for example, she started SAP’s 1 Billion Lives program. As Fox-Martin put it, “The opportunity that we have with social enterprises is to allow our employees to live our values, engage with projects and ideas close to their hearts and truly help the world run better.”

Next year SEWF will take place in Ethiopia, one of Africa’s fastest growing economies with over 100 million inhabitants. Ethiopia already has a strong social enterprise sector. Watch this space.

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Brand social enterprise as Capitalism 2.0

Category: Speaker & Partner Blogs

Posted by: Jo Seagrave / 24 July 2018

By Eric Lombardi

Eco-Cycle International


Let’s brand the “profit-for-purpose” social enterprise as Capitalism 2.0

The not-for-profit shops we all know and love, like thrift stores and animal shelters, conduct business and are fulfilling a beneficial social purpose. This form of nonprofit social enterprise is widespread and growing, but I wouldn’t say it is revolutionary in the way I’m thinking. My focus is on a relatively new approach to business called the “for-profit social enterprise”, and if it grows to a large enough scale it could have profoundly positive impacts on the U.S. and the world.

The current world leader in this approach to social business, the U.K., especially Scotland, has created a legal vehicle for for-profit social enterprises called “Community Interest Companies” (CIC’s). The creation of legal status is important and at the heart of the revolutionary potential of social enterprise. The legal form one chooses for a business entity has important financial implications related to raising money, paying taxes and public transparency. And so it is for the social enterprise (SE) – a new set of regulations and rules from the government determines the financial structure and opportunities for the future.

Social enterprise legal forms are different in every country, but a review of the various approaches from the U.K., the E.U., Australia and Canada show an emerging trend with common elements:

  1. The SE must be created and operated to fulfill a social or environmental mission first and foremost;
    The profits must be returned to fulfill this mission either wholly (100%) or partially (more than 51%);
  2. Dividends paid to investors must be limited to a percentage of net profits, usually between 0-35%;
  3. Assets of the SE are “locked” in the way assets of nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations are locked;
  4. eaning that they can only be sold to another SE or nonprofit entity pursuing a similar mission;
  5. The financial accounting of the SE must be open to public review in a manner similar to nonprofit organizations.

Social enterprises in the U.S. are currently operating as small businesses in many sectors, such as restaurants, food production, and reuse/recycling programs. Their profit-for-purpose missions include job training and skills development for hard-to-employ populations, environmental protection, housing for the homeless, youth development, and economic justice. The only legal form that requires an American for-profit social enterprise to pursue their social mission first and profit second is called the “Low-profit Limited Liability Company” (L3C).

The future holds the potential for SE to grow into something much more significant than it is today, and, dare I say, could be a social revolution in how we view capitalism itself. I am imagining a social enterprise with a large work force, capital assets and marketplace savvy sufficient to partner with local governments to pursue the community-scale public missions that require new infrastructure for climate-smart waste, energy and transportation systems. The traditional “single bottom-line” (profit) business approach is clearly not working fast enough to prevent global warming from increasing, so a new approach is needed.

I can imagine bigger and better outcomes for our communities when SE links arms with the government to spearhead the creation of well-funded facilities to support Zero Waste and Zero Carbon goals. The SE wouldn’t necessarily have to do all the direct work, it could play an oversight role by subcontracting out projects to private sector companies willing to support the mission and limit their profit-seeking in exchange for an increased degree of market safety. I would call it a form of negotiated competition.

The strength of this new approach would be that the government, representing the community interest, would establish a clear vision and goal for the future, while the SE would bring the sector expertise and transparency to the table. Together this public-private team would be constantly monitoring, planning, analyzing and adjusting multiple contracts and programs, always with the dual goals of achieving tangible progress while participating in the financial gains and losses within a negotiated range.

Could it work? My experience running a recycling social enterprise tells me it can because we did it on a small scale. In the 1990’s we grew a network of ten small recycling drop-off centers throughout our County in cooperation with the local governments. Our social enterprise designed, financed, and operated the centers on behalf of the government in exchange for negotiated risk/reward contracts with the goal of our SE making around a 10% profit each year, getting our investment back, and after ten years turning over the ownership and operation of the centers to the local government. Public ownership of the green infrastructure is essential for ensuring longevity and scale regardless of market forces.

The future growth of profit-for-purpose enterprises offers the traditional business sector new ways of participating and supporting social and environmental programs that have high non-financial benefits but limited profit opportunities. The financial operating systems for our nations are a bit like computer operating systems, and we all know how even the best of those are given “upgrades”.

I think Social Enterprise is an upgrade to capitalism, and that can be nothing but good in these times of social and environmental challenges.

Eric Lombardi has been working at the cutting-edge of the Zero Waste and Social Enterprise Movements across the world since the mid-90’s. His working mission has been to transform the “waste management” industry into a resource management industry.

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By Marie Marin 

CEO, Employers For Childcare

Back in the late 1990s, responding to the barrier a lack of affordable childcare presents to working parents, I developed a community project encouraging employers to implement family friendly policies. From this project, reliant on funding, Employers For Childcare has grown to be a completely self-financing social enterprise, contributing 100% of profits to our charity supporting parents to get into and stay in work. Having been a working mother of two boys I identify with the challenges and frustrations experienced by the thousands of parents our charity supports. Although my sons are now grown, and childcare is no longer a personal concern, access to appropriate childcare for all remains an issue close to my heart.

In supporting parents to get into, and stay in, the workforce it can help to reduce poverty and inequality across the UK.

Childcare as an economic issue

That is why our ethos is to address childcare, not only as a social issue, but as a labour market and economic issue. We do this in several ways, providing immediate support and assistance to families at the same time as understanding and addressing root causes and fundamental issues. It was important to me, from the beginning, that our charity became part of the solution, not simply highlighting problems. Everything we do is underpinned by our ongoing research which we share with policy makers, politicians, third sector organisations, employers and parents.

And what have we found? Well we know that an inability to pay for childcare is a key contributing factor to poverty and inequality. In 2017, our research with parents in Northern Ireland revealed almost one third of households were paying more for childcare than on their mortgage or rent. Close to half of parents reported their household had had to ‘go without’, or cut back on another expense, in order to meet their childcare costs. It isn’t acceptable that some working families struggle to heat their homes, or are reliant on foodbanks, in order to meet their childcare bill.

Having found that many families were unaware of the support they are entitled to, we established a Family Benefits Advice Service operating a helpline offering free, impartial and confidential advice on childcare and financial support available to parents – right across the UK. As well as the helpline, our Advisors offer community and employer outreach, delivering 458 advice and information sessions last year.

In 2016/17, we identified collective savings of over £14.8 million for the parents we supported – with an average saving for working parents of £4,130. This is money these families are entitled to, but were unaware they could be claiming and makes a huge difference to them.

Lobbying Government
Not content to accept the status-quo in terms of the support available to working parents, we address policy directly and lobby Government on childcare, family and work-related issues. We are currently calling on the UK Government to keep Childcare Vouchers, a valuable form of financial support to working families, open to new entrants, beyond the planned closure date of October. We have prepared briefings for MPs and suggested ways in which Government can keep Childcare Vouchers open, alongside Tax-Free Childcare, within their funding envelope. Our work continues….

Looking ahead
We are in the process of expanding our social enterprise, developing a new project comprising an indoor activity centre which will be inclusive and accessible for all, particularly addressing the requirements of families who have a child with additional needs. Hopefully I can provide an update on progress at September’s conference!

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Puzzles and partnerships

Category: Speaker & Partner Blogs

Posted by: Jo Seagrave / 24 June 2018

By Alexandra van der Ploeg

Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, SAP

What if all 7.6 billion people in the world tried to put together a jigsaw puzzle? Each person with a piece of the puzzle. The private sector; public sector; social entrepreneurs; policy makers—the list goes on. Could we do it? Would we agree on why we should do it? Where would we start? With friends and family or with employers and countries? Could we “create an app for that”? Chances are, we’d never finish the puzzle and most likely would feel too daunted by the task to even start.

Does that mean it can’t be done?

Like the world trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle, our work is connected, but our efforts may not always be. Three years into Agenda 2030 we see more corporations developing strategies to contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With that comes increased awareness of a whole sector that has been working for years on systemic change – social enterprises.

With principles such as innovation, transformation and purpose embedded into the DNA of a social enterprise, it is only logical that we should see increased partnerships between corporations and social enterprises in the pursuit of collective impact. It’s why SAP is honored to partner with the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) for the second year in a row, as we understand and believe in the power of an open platform like SEWF to unite different stakeholders and enable collaboration and knowledge sharing to effect sustainable social change.

The social enterprise movement is of course not new. In the last 20 years we have seen the emergence of organizations crucial in developing the sector, such as Ashoka, the Skoll Foundation, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, Social Enterprise UK and 10 years ago the Social Enterprise World Forum, leading to a staggering number of social enterprises that are founded across the globe every day. Just recently I learned that in the UK alone there is a vibrant social enterprise community with around 70,000 social enterprises, employing almost 1M people – numbers that demonstrate how powerful this sector has become in such a short period of time!

Yet I would argue that we are seeing two trends with the potential to increase the relevance of social enterprises even further. One is of course Agenda 2030 and the other being the growing demand by society that companies serve a social purpose. Let me elaborate a little.

In September 2015, the world was witness to a historic moment – the adoption of Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals by all 193 UN member states. Historic 1) as for the first time ever there was a clearly outlined and unified plan of action to create a world without poverty, a healthy planet, and a just, peaceful society for everyone 2) the adoption of the SDGs resulted from an unprecedented inclusive process, with governments, business, civil society and citizens.

Over the last two and a half years, the world has taken crucial steps together, but it is also clear that multi-stakeholder partnerships and true collaboration are required to achieve the SDGs. With their core competence in social innovation and transformation, social enterprises bring a level of expertise to the table second to none, making them an invaluable partner in achieving collective impact for the SDGs.

So what about purpose?

Purpose matters to just about everything. Social enterprise or not, people want to support companies dedicated not only to solving business problems, but that have a social conscience, as well.

In January 2018, Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of BlackRock Inc., issued a letter to CEOs with a very clear message. When the owner of an investment fund that manages 1.7 trillion USD in active funds, calls for companies to make a positive contribution to society beyond their financial performance, it sends a ripple effect through the business community. In other words, to stay relevant and secure future success, companies are learning to make decisions that create collective economic, social, and environmental impact. Who better to look to than social enterprises that have made systemic social change their reason to exist?

As I shared in my puzzle metaphor, we are all working on different pieces of the same problem, we just might not always be working together (yet!). Partnerships built through ecosystems like Social Enterprise World Forum help all of us to forge uncommon collaboration to deliver on our shared purpose.

What’s next?

I look forward to continuing the dialogue on how the pursuit of partnership, a shared purpose and innovation lead to greater impact for all. No organization can go it alone, but together, we can transform industries, grow economies, lift-up societies, and sustain the environment.


SAP is a SEWF C.I.C. Global Partner

As market leader in enterprise application software, SAP is committed to helping companies of all sizes and industries become best run businesses. Now more than ever, being the best means making a difference. It means connecting people and information to address the world’s biggest challenges. SAP is thrilled to sponsor SEWF.


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Today, Asia is faced with numerous unsolved problems.

Tomorrow, how can Asia utilize social innovation in tackling difficult issues?

On May 5-6, 2018, Tomorrow Asia, 2018 Asia-Pacific Social Enterprise Summit』, taking place at Taichung Cultural and Creative Industries Park , is the largest social enterprise summit in Taiwan with more than 30 international speakers from 15 countries, will  present trends of social innovation in the field of Food & Agriculture, Ageing, Minority Employment, Environment & Green Energy.

Join representatives from public, private and civil sectors to seek opportunities and change Asia’s Tomorrow!

There will be two sessions across two days for people to watch via the live streams:

May 5  

9:30-10:00 (CST) Opening Ceremony,  

10:00-11:00 (CST) Keynote Speech 1Lucy Iron Fish Enterprise (Cambodia) – Gavin Armstrong (Fonder and CEO)

Speaker biography: Dr. Gavin Armstrong is a committed impact entrepreneur. He is currently serving as the Founder and President of “Lucky Iron Fish Enterprise®”, a social enterprise attempting to alleviate iron deficiency around the world using a simple health innovation. Through this role he was a Fulbright scholar at Auburn University and was awarded the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 in the Social Entrepreneur category in 2016. In 2017 he received the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award and was named Social Entrepreneur of the Year by EY Canada.

A long-term advocate and activist against hunger and malnutrition, Gavin is the first Canadian to receive the Clinton Award for international work against hunger and is the inaugural recipient of the international Michaelle Jean Emergency Hunger Relief Award. He has also helped the Lucky Iron Fish win multiple Cannes Lion awards and several Clio Design Awards. He has also received a Silver Innovation Award from the Edison Foundation. In 2015 Conscious Company Magazine featured Gavin as one of the seventeen Rising Social Entrepreneurs of the year. He is also the youngest recipient of the Social Innovator of the Year Award from the Lewis Institute at Babson College. In 2017 Gavin was named one of the 50 philanthropists changing the world by Town & Country, and in 2018 was named in the top 100 visionary leaders by Real-Leaders magazine.


May 6

10:00-11:00 (CST) Keynote Speech 2 One Earth Innovation(UK) – Reed Paget (Managing Director)

Speaker biography: Reed Raget is the founder of “One Earth Innovation”, a green product incubator which has worked on projects ranging from low-energy computing to Bio-char. Projects currently in the pipeline include creating the world’s most sustainable denim jeans.

Reed’s previous businesses include Belu Water, the UK’s most eco-friendly bottled water brand. Belu is the world’s first carbon neutral bottled water, the first in Europe to use compostable bottles made from corn, the first to promote PVC-free bottle caps and the first to commit all profits to clean water projects.

He was named UK Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008 by the Schwab Foundation; he was a Social Enterprise Ambassador for the UK Cabinet Office between 2007-2010, and he is on the Advisory Board of the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

Reed started his career as a journalist and filmmaker. Along with producing television news in New York, he produced and directed the award-winning documentary film American Passport. Shot in 11 war-zones on five continents, the film documents waning days of the Cold War from the military crackdown in Tienanmen Square to Scud Missiles landing in Israel. The film has screened in 15 countries on Canal Plus and the Independent Film Channel.

Conference official website:


Social Enterprise World Forum is proud to help promote the conference! People can access conference and watch the live streams at: on both the 5th and 6th of May.

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SEWF 2017 is still influencing what I do today

Category: Speaker & Partner Blogs

Posted by: Jo Seagrave / 04 April 2018

By Michelle Ferguson

Director of Scotland’s Bravest Manufacturing Company

Why would I want to fly around the world to be part of the SEWF 2017, especially as I don’t enjoy flying? Wouldn’t it be just another conference where you scribbled down some notes and collected business cards from people you would never hear from again?

I can say a definite no, that wasn’t the case.

Scotland has made a huge headway in terms of social enterprise with a national 10-year strategy, business support programme, social investment, and education and leadership initiatives. But I saw first-hand how much we can learn and gain from spending time with other people making change around the world.

The experience of networking and collaborating with other social enterprise leaders has fundamentally changed the way I think about my social enterprise. Although we are a small enterprise in the West of Scotland we are very much part of a global community of social enterprises, and my experience at SEWF has been transformational.

Yes, we have a lot to share but the knowledge, passion and experiences that come from hearing from other nations, leaders and practitioners about their developments and the impact they are making to their communities is both insightful and inspiring.

It wasn’t just the keynote speeches, the shared understanding and purpose that made the Forum stand out for me – it was actually the discussions at coffee stands, the people who in normal circumstances you wouldn’t get the opportunity to speak to.

I was having a quick bite of lunch on my own one day when I was joined by Wan-Ju Yu, a legislator from Taiwan. We chatted about our countries and the difference social enterprises can make to economies, in addition to the positive benefits to cultures and to society. She had set up her own social enterprise and due to her success had been approached to stand for government. She is now influencing decision making at a senior level.

I don’t think I have spent time with anyone as unassuming and inspiring as Wan-Ju Yu. She made me realise the impact we can make and that governments around the world really are focusing on what our sector is delivering.

Another day, standing waiting to join one of the facilitated sessions, I met Lucretia de Jong from Try Australia, the oldest non-profit/social enterprise in their country. They have really innovative ways of working which improves the lives of their beneficiaries, offers new skills, valuable work, and training and gives them the opportunity to build a home. Their team-centric approach really struck a chord with me and in my new position as Director of Scotland’s Bravest Manufacturing Company, I am going to implement many of the strategies she shared with me. In fact, a lot of the things we are putting in place here are because of what I heard and learnt in New Zealand.

Those were just two of the remarkable people I met. I also made connections with many others whom I continue to be in contact with – not just from around the globe but from Scotland and the rest of the UK. The most difficult thing was choosing which sessions to attend. My advice is to book as early as possible.

So if you are like me, you want to hear from the most influential speakers, leaders and politicians who are involved with the worldwide social enterprise movement I would wholeheartedly recommend that you attend the World Forum in Scotland.

It is an experience which will change your perception and invigorate and challenge you in a way that no other event of its kind will.

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New speaker announced for SEWF 2017

Category: Uncategorized

Posted by: Jo Seagrave / 12 May 2017

Graham Lewis, CEO and Co-Founder of Green Propellor, Canada is a passionate social innovator with a breadth of international experience in social enterprise. He is responsible for creating a variety of social enterprises with Green Propellor being his latest venture. Graham will bring vast knowledge and learning to Social Enterprise World Forum 2017.


To find out more about Graham, click here

If you are interested in speaking at SEWF2017, contact the team here

For further information on the event including the programme, other speakers or how to register, click here

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