Our History

About SEWF

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

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

The event quickly gained momentum and recognition as a springboard for progressing the sector and establishing global relations; stimulating local agencies to bid to host the event in South Africa in 2011Rio de Janeiro in 2012Calgary in 2013Seoul in 2014Milan in 2015Hong Kong in 2016Christchurch in 2017 and our most recent event held in Edinburgh in 2018.

Each event has reflected SEWF’s values of: 

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


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

Interested in hosting a future SEWF?

Interested in attending SEWF 2019?

SEWF Board

Social Enterprise World Forum Board of Directors is represented by a Managing Director, permanent Member Directors from Social Enterprise Council of Canada; Social Enterprise UK (SEUK); Social Traders, Australia; Social Enterprise Alliance, USA and Independent Directors appointed for a two year period.

The Board offers unrivalled knowledge and experience in the sector and work cohesively to support event hosts but also work collaboratively to progress social enterprise development globally.

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

Member Directors

SEWF CIC – Gerry Higgins, Managing Director

Gerry is Founder and Managing Director of Social Enterprise World Forum and Director of International Enterprise at Community Enterprise in Scotland (CEIS). Gerry took on the role of Managing Director in January 2019 as Social Enterprise World Forum required more capacity to support its ambitious programme to build a global social enterprise movement.

Gerry is also a Director at Social Value Lab, CEIS Ayrshire, DSL Business Finance, Social Enterprise UK and Societi. Gerry has a BA in Education and a MSc in Business Studies and was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of Social Enterprise UK in 2017.

Gerry has many years’ experience in developing and leading social enterprises and works with government agencies and third sector partners internationally to create supportive social enterprise ecosystems. His current work includes oversight of major programmes to support social enterprise development and to contribute to social enterprise policy at home and abroad. Gerry is committed to social justice and has spent over 30 years working in the social enterprise sector to assist individuals, communities and enterprises to fulfil their potential.

Social Enterprise Council of Canada – David LePage, Chair

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

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

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

Social Enterprise UK – Peter Holbrook, CEO

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

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

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

Social Traders – David Brookes, Managing Director

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

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

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

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

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

Independent Directors

Elena Casolari, CEO, Opes Fund (Italy)

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

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

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

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

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

Professor. Jae-Gu Kim (South Korea)

Jae-Gu Kim is a former President of the Korea Social Enterprise Promotion Agency.
Now Jae-Gu serves the Korean Presidential Committee as the vice chairman for the social economy committee and Korean National Advisory Board of Global Impact Investing Steering Group, as a member of the steering group. Jae-Gu is also the planning committee chairman of the promotion team for the Korean Social Value Wholesale Fund.
Jae-Gu is the Dean of Graduate School of Real Estate and has served as a professor of Business Administration at Myongji University since 2002.

All Jae-Gu’s degrees, from a bachelor’s to a doctorate, in Business Administration, was granted from Seoul National University. After that, he built his research career at the Korea Labour Institute and Stanford University.

Paula Woodman, Global Head of Social Enterprise, British Council

Paula leads the British Council’s Global Social Enterprise programme, which promotes the development of social enterprise and investment to help address entrenched social and environmental problems, build trust between the UK and other countries, and support more sustainable, inclusive and prosperous societies. Introduced in over 20 countries and delivered with the support of local and international partners, the programme works to improve the ecosystem that social enterprises face in their country including business development and finance, general awareness, as well as understanding from Government.

Paula has over 20 years of experience in enabling a more impactful business environment, including creating an evidence base, mainstreaming the agenda within education, and innovating in the area of ethical consumer labels. Paula has been awarded as a WISE100, recognising her achievements as a leader in the social enterprise movement. Paula is a visiting fellow at the University of London and sits on the steering group for ‘The Future of the Corporation’ challenge from the British Academy. Previously she co-founded a UK-wide social enterprise, as well as having led as a Director at a social enterprise infrastructure organisation.

Hélène Malandain, Global Relationship Director, Ākina Foundation (New Zealand)

Hélène’s background is in marketing & communications and she worked in a range of creative agencies in France, the UK and NZ, including London-based social change PR firm Forster.

She joined the Ākina Foundation in 2014 to design and deliver NZ’s first social enterprise accelerator programme that saw 11 ventures graduate at the end of the 6-months intensive programme. Hélène then stepped into the role of Project Director for the 2017 Social Enterprise World Forum and spent two years leading the team that designed and delivered what became the largest Social Enterprise World Forum ever, with over 1600 delegates hosted over a week in the city of Christchurch.

Hélène joined the SEWF Board in August 2017. In the meantime, and on the back of hosting the event in Christchurch, Hélène will be actively building on the legacy of SEWF 2017. As Global Relationship Director at Ākina, Hélène will lead or facilitate conversations, collaborations and partnerships that will enable the next stages of growth for the NZ social enterprise sector.

Hélène has also recently joined Conscious Consumers, a social enterprise that connects conscious consumers to businesses that want to make a positive difference in the world. She is the Head of Brand and supporting the team ahead of the upcoming expansion to the UK.

SEWF Consultancy

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

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