SEWF 2022 Policy Forum: Creating effective policies for future generations
“If your future is in your hands, what can you do today for a better tomorrow? How can we be better ancestors?” – Bridgette Engeler, pracademic and professional futurist, Swinburne University of Technology (Australia)
This year, we kicked off our annual programme of events starting with the virtual SEWF 2022 Policy Forum (24-26 May), co-hosted by White Box Enterprises. Over 750 participants together with 30 speakers and moderators joined us from 55 countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Our participants enjoyed a rich and wide variety of online panels, discussions and networking sessions around four key themes ⏤ Community-led Solutions, Policy & Systems, Future of Work and Climate Solutions ⏤ with a dedicated 2-hour block for each.
Throughout the event, a key detail mentioned by most speakers was “the future.” How policy development can impact sustainable climate practices, encourage value-based economic leadership and better work conditions for the benefit of future generations, were some of the questions that were discussed.
Some of the highlights included:
Promoting community-led initiatives and Indigenous businesses with effective policies
We began the first day of the Policy Forum with Matt Pfahlert from ACRE in Australia, giving a Land Acknowledgement to the Turrbal and the Jagera People, the Traditional Custodians of the land on which SEWF 2022 Co-host White Box Enterprises is based. Officially opened by The Honourable Di Farmer, Minister for Employment and Small Business and Minister for Training and Skills Development, from the Government of Queensland, the next hours were followed by speakers from across the globe sharing their social enterprise journeys and expertise. We explored key policy levers to support Indigenous business, how grassroots social enterprise leaders have been engaged in policy development in Jamaica, the impact of policies on job creation in the EU and more.
Amongst those advocating for community-led solutions was Meg Allen, co-founder of Wilderness Collective from Mallacoota, in Victoria, Australia. Meg shared her experiences working in communities that came together in the aftermath of the horrific bush fires, illustrating how social enterprises can foster social and community cohesion essential for community rebuilding and resilience.
Israr Qureshi, Professor at the Australian National University (ANU), also advocated for more community-centred responses to address the global challenges we face. When speaking about the need for improved collaboration between government, social enterprises and Indigenous businesses and communities, he emphasised the need to learn from and invest in the Indigenous resources and skills that are already present in communities.
“Resources cannot simply be dumped onto rural communities. We need to bring resources and skills required by the community depending on the existing set of skills and resources within the community”. – Israr Qureshi
This sentiment from Israr was also echoed during Block 3 of the Policy Forum, where Michelle Evans, Director at Dilin Duwa Centre for Indigenous Business Leadership in Australia posed the question of how to expand Indigenous businesses by creating more Indigenous-friendly policies.
“From an Indigenous perspective, wanting to put First Nations’ needs front and centre is very important. It is quite a different approach because of the history of colonisation in this country… and there is quite a lot of work to be done”. – Michelle Evans
Creating sustainable work environments and climate solutions
The role of policy in enabling social enterprise response to the refugee crisis cannot be overemphasised. Over the years, jobs4refugees has supported over 25,000 refugees to get into the labour market specifically in Germany, by providing mentoring and training on necessary work skills needed. Franziska Hirschelmann, CEO of jobs4refugees advocates for companies and policies to include alternative pathways for people who have been previously trained with pre-existing knowledge and skillsets, to access the labour market in new environments that they find themselves in.
Effective policies are also enablers and catalysts that can lower barriers for social enterprises and Indigenous businesses, supporting them to continue doing good and providing solutions that address some of society’s most pressing challenges. As Maeve Curtin, SEWF’s Policy & Research Manager describes it, social enterprise policy development plays a role across every sector and industry, affecting social enterprise practitioners, public sector actors, individuals and organisations who stand to benefit from social enterprise goods and services.
Spotlighting an example of strong policy development and innovation within Victoria, Australia, The Honourable Jaala Pulford MP, Minister for Employment; Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy; Minister for Small Business; and Minister for Resources at the State Government of Victoria highlighted that the Government of Victoria’s budget has seen a 40% increase in its social enterprise spending since Victoria’s Social Procurement Framework was adopted in 2018. This example highlights that it is not just policy development that plays a key role in supporting social enterprise, but that strong implementation that engages communities, individuals and organisations the policies are designed to support is just as critical.
When it comes to implementing policy in a way that is demand-driven, Huda Jaffer, Director of SELCO Foundation in India reflected that sometimes, systems and policies need to be decentralised. In her experience this is especially the case when enabling social enterprises to generate creative climate solutions:
“Make climate and clean energy agendas in multiple languages… Make it available at a local level … so that you’re creating an inclusive platform. Then what happens is that you have communities that are facing these challenges come up with solutions which are more demand-driven and need-based rather than very centralised and supply based”. – Huda Jaffer, Director, SELCO Foundation, India.
Listening to those who engaged with the Policy Forum and continuing the conversation
In exchanges with SEWF after the event, via our feedback form and through the event chat, participants often commented on the breadth of content. For some, this meant being exposed to examples of work happening in countries that are often represented in global social enterprise policy conversations. For others, this meant thinking more about the role of social enterprise in policy arenas different from their own expertise. One participant commented on the session featuring examples from Jamaica specifically saying, “I really appreciated hearing about the experiences in Jamaica from both the perspective of the government representative and the practitioner. I’d love to hear similar things from other countries that are usually underrepresented in these events.”
SEWF will continue to strive for diverse representation across all our events and especially when it comes to highlighting examples of policy innovation. We believe this is critical to provide the kind of learning and inspiration this Policy Forum was designed to showcase. We want all those who participate to leave feeling inspired like a participant from Australia who shared their favourite part of the Policy Forum was:
“Being exposed to more of the sector ⏤ so much good stuff going on! Provides a sense of hope and optimism that maybe we can create enough shift and momentum to achieve the scale of change needed in the timeframes required to keep our communities liveable in the face of rapid change and intense challenges/threats (e.g. climate change)”.
We are also glad that conversations from the SEWF 2022 Policy Forum have inspired speakers and participants to co-create better futures through advocating for effective social enterprise policies. As SEWF engages our community to continue these policy conversations and facilitate collaboration, we will focus on learning from our community’s feedback and the direction you want to see policy move. This includes maintaining event elements that led one of our participants from Nigeria to share that they wished they could have rated the experience beyond the 5-star limit as well as suggestions for facilitating more policy action.
While the SEWF community were examining how to learn from positive policy and innovation at the SEWF Policy Forum, the World Economic Forum was also featuring the potential of the social economy and social procurement in Davos. For too many years the work of social enterprises and their intermediaries have been hindered by an indifferent private sector and unengaged governments. The tide has firmly turned in favour of the social economy and this insightful piece by our colleague Francois Bonnici at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, and keynote panel involving the European Commission and our partner Jeroo Billimoria from Catalyst 2030 will help the social economy to be more on the front foot in advocating for policy and systems change.
We are encouraged that social enterprise is no longer an isolated conversation and is featured in many different policy forums, but there is always an opportunity to translate this increased policy interest in social enterprise into more action.
⏤ Written by Tessa Porter and the SEWF Team
Social Enterprise World Forum is coming to Brisbane, Australia in 2022 co-hosted by White Box Enterprises! SEWF22 is the flagship event for the global social enterprise community, providing space for purpose-led people, policymakers, philanthropists, intermediaries and entrepreneurs to connect, learn and be inspired. Be sure to get your Early-Bird ticket to attend SEWF22 in-person (in Brisbane) with a Physical Pass, or attend virtually with a Digital Pass.