Community | SEWF Events

SEWF23 Collective Action. Sustainable Change: How social enterprises put People and Planet First

by Kasia Kotlarska / October 2023

If we don’t put people and planet first, everybody is losing. We need go back to the essence of life on earth to do the hard work of transformation. –  Hélène Malandain, Chair, SEWF 

The Social Enterprise World Forum 2023 (SEWF23), organised together with Co-hosts Amsterdam Impact and Social Enterprise NL, emerged as a beacon of hope in a world marked by the consequences of climate change and political turmoil.  

SEWF23 is a global gathering that aims to advance the cause of social enterprise, an impact movement that prioritises People and Planet. Against the backdrop of contemporary challenges, this event underscored the urgent need for positive change and illustrated how social enterprises can disrupt the cycle that threatens our planet and societies. 

On 11-12 October, over 2000 participants from over 80 countries gathered in Amsterdam, online and in 27 Community Hubs worldwide. They heard from over 130 speakers and took part in over 40 sessions on social procurement and circular economy to embracing AI technology to boost productivity.  

SEWF23’s mission is crystal clear: to promote and celebrate the transformative power of social enterprise. It serves as a platform for visionaries, innovators and changemakers from around the world to come together, share ideas and create sustainable solutions to some of our most pressing global issues. The overarching message is to prioritise people and the planet, which is an imperative that has never been more critical. 

SEWF23 in numbers 

  • 2000+ participants 
  • 80 countries represented 
  • 40+ sessions 
  • 400 bursaries awarded (Physical and Digital Passes) 
  • 20% of speakers under 30 
  • 60% of speakers identified as women or girls 
  • Around 80% were first-time SEWF speakers and the majority were social enterprise leaders and practitioners

Our world stands at a crossroads, facing unprecedented challenges with climate change causing natural disasters and displacing communities. Meanwhile, political divisions and conflicts appear to be intensifying, threatening global stability and cooperation. It’s a worrying landscape, one that demands urgent action, global cooperation and innovative thinking.

Enter social enterprises, the catalysts for change in this turbulent era. These organisations are not driven solely by profit; they are propelled by a profound commitment to creating a better world. They place People and Planet first by addressing social and environmental issues at their core. Social enterprises empower communities, foster inclusivity and implement sustainable practices, all while delivering economic value. 

Spotlight on the Netherlands 

The event kicked off with an inspiring welcome address by SEWF23 Co-hosts and a panel shining a spotlight on the Netherlands. Participants had the privilege of hearing from four remarkable Dutch social enterprises – Fairphone, Freshtable, Makers Unite and Roetz-Bikes. This session provided valuable insights into our 2023 co-host country and its vibrant social enterprise ecosystem. 

What is the world you’re going to leave behind for your children, for the ones you love and for all of us? – Thami Schweichler, Makers Unite / United Repair Centre 

Putting People and Planet First 

Day 2 at SEWF23 began with a crucial topic: Living and trading within planetary boundaries.
During the session, the Chair of SEWF, Hélène Malandain (Aotearoa New Zealand), announced the launch of People and Planet First – a shared identity to unite millions of enterprises around the world. We are very excited to be the steward of this groundbreaking collaboration with a network of networks that already spans 77 countries. 

“As the custodian of ‘People and Planet First’, SEWF will be working hard to ensure that it supports our ecosystem building efforts and enables the increased visibility, reach and influence of the global social enterprise movement. But ‘People and Planet First’ belongs to everyone and it is our hope that all of you will soon breathe life and meaning into it, amplify it and make it part of your story. “ – Hélène Malandain, Chair, SEWF 

Disrupting the status quo 

SEWF23 showcased how social enterprises disrupt the status quo. By channelling their resources, ingenuity and determination into meaningful projects, they provide tangible solutions to global challenges. Whether it’s combating poverty, advocating for clean energy, or championing ethical production, these enterprises demonstrate that profit and purpose can coexist harmoniously. 

As SEWF23 drew to a close, it left participants with a rekindled sense of hope and purpose. The event demonstrated that amidst adversity, there is opportunity. By prioritising People and Planet, we can chart a course towards a fairer and more sustainable future. Social enterprises are not merely a passing trend; they represent a movement capable of reshaping our world. 

In the face of the climate emergency and political strife, SEWF23 served as a reminder that change is achievable and it begins with each of us. Together, we can disrupt the cycle of destruction, constructing a world where compassion and sustainability are not mere ideals but guiding principles. The journey may be challenging, but, as SEWF23 illustrated, it is a journey worth embarking upon for the wellbeing of future generations. 

“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re too small to change the world” — Jorien van Lookeren Campagne, Social Enterprise NL

Thank you to all the partners and sponsors. We’re grateful for your unwavering support., The Postcode Lottery Group, Rabo Foundation, SAP, The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Kingdom Relations (BZK), The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, FNO, Gingras Global, IKEA Social Entrepreneurship BV, PricewaterhouseCoopers B.V., the Netherlands, Anton Jurgens Fonds, Euclid Network, Johnson and Johnson, The Scottish Government

MT/ Sprout, Pioneers Post, Impact Boom 

And our social enterprise suppliers.

Chocolatemakers, De Koekfabriek, De Prael,, Food2smile, Fruittuin van West , Gosling Koffie, Johnny Cashew , Koeckebackers, Kumasi, Lemonaid, Mama’s Koelkast, Oscar Circulair, Plastic Whale, Reflower, Roze Bunker, SELCO Foundation,Speaksee, The Good Wine,Tony’s Chocolonely,VanPlestik, Villa BuitenlustWilder Land


SEWF23 Photo Gallery

Photo by Roos Trommelen