My favourite photo (left) is from the SEWF After Party. The legends in this phot include: Jeroen Van Overbeek who operates a sustainable water filtration social enterprise in Indonesia, Amber O’Connell from the Victorian Gov, Bruktawit Tigabu founder of WhizzKiss Workshops who creates multi-media content that educates 5 million African children per episode, Lauren Markett currently on a break but ran a social enterprise in a New Zealand prison for women, and Gladys de-Ben Rockson MD, CEO at the Ben-Rockson Foundation and model.
The awesome high achieving humans in this picture are smiling so brightly, knowing that we have all established connections for life in Addis Ababa. A successful SEWF is being celebrated and cups are full of inspiration, laughter and energy for whatever adventures the year brings. SEWF is a time when social entrepreneurs come together to learn, celebrate each other and develop ideas that will benefit the world.
Can’t wait for Nova Scotia in September 2020.
Earlier in the year after negotiating over dinner with my twelve-year-old son Henly about fair usage of his Xbox, my amazing wife Gosia agreed that it might not be a bad idea if he came along to Ethiopia with me. Whilst not without its risks, Henly was warmly welcomed by all Ethiopians and the entire SEWF contingent. The trip has and will continue to shape Henly’s life. We don’t yet know fully what the effects will be but since his return things are different. He appreciates simple things like a glass of tap water, the benefits of a structured tax system come up at the dinner table and every time younger brother Byron complains about a first world problem, Henly suggests a family trip to Ethiopia. For me, SEWF Ethiopia made me hungrier than ever for us all to build the businesses, change the systems, push the policy makers and use the incredible tool of business to build a future for all of our world’s children.
The SEWF in Ethiopia has been a source of hope. It represented an important gathering of people that take action and that work towards a different society. However, beyond the bright lights of the fancy United Nation venue, beyond the great meals and beyond the interesting presentations, as social entrepreneurs we need to remember that there is much more than our individual mission statements. All our social enterprises need to work and converge towards a shared vision for a socially just and ecologically sustainable society. We need to keep in mind the holistic perspective. On the top of those mountains, I was easily reminded what I fight for. Our planet.
Pictured: Simien Mountains, Ethiopia. One of the many natural treasures of Ethiopia.
One of the key highlights was around the fact that the forum was held in an emerging country like Ethiopia. That of itself was an amazing experience and being amongst 70 other countries and their delegates and learning and listening and talking was phenomenal. The collegiality amongst the Australian delegates was second to none and I know that deep, deep partnerships have been established, which is so inspirational I think the three key takeouts for me was the sense of urgency; that we are running out of time. We need to get onto this now. The sense of synergy and collaboration, that we can’t do this alone, we need to do it together, and the power of storytelling.
These three components together really stayed with me long after the forum was finished.
What does it take to create and maintain happy, functional networks of social entrepreneurs and enterprises? You know, groups of amazing change makers who feel that supporting each other through grassroots organising is just as important as the impact they’re aiming to achieve in the world. In my current role as QSEC’s Chair the task of creating something meaningful and useful for time-poor members has often kept me awake at night.
So it was with overwhelming joy that this year’s program at SEWF2019 included a session on networks. The mini-plenary titled “Social Enterprise Networks – connecting entrepreneurs, supporting leaders and driving a global movement”, was chaired by none other than the fearless and loving Chair of SENVIC, Cinnamon Evans, and included Atayam Simineh (Social Enterprise Ethiopia), Peter Oloo (Social Enterprise Society of Kenya), and Lalith Welamedage (Lanka Ventures). Here are my takeaways from the session, and from spending quality time with my peers for over a week in Ethiopia.
- Developing country or not, we all desire the same outcomes.
- We need investment!
- A new network can be started by anyone!
- Indigenous-owned businesses ARE social enterprises – full stop.
- Let’s go global!
- Making time to connect face to face is really important and needs to be funded.
SEWF 2019 was a life-changing experience which was enormously effective in developing both the global and local social enterprise ecosystem. The week-long activities brought together 1200 delegates from 67 countries to create a great space for fantastic relationship building and knowledge sharing. I’d like to thank everyone involved in helping make the forum a success and to the funders of the 2019 SEWF Bursaries for their support.
I was lucky enough to attend the SEWF Youth Week in the days preceding the Forum. This event is for people aged approx. 18 to 35 who are working in the social enterprise or impact economy sectors. As the only non-African young person attending, I was a little nervous that I’d be a fish out of water and take a while to fit in. I needn’t have worried – it was the most exuberant, fun and welcoming experience of my entire time in Ethiopia. I was immersed in a microcosm of the talents, knowledge and strengths that reside in the young people throughout the region. I met people from Somalia, South Sudan, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Eritrea and Ethiopia, all of whom have big hopes for the future of their countries and a firm belief in the potential of social enterprise business models to address some of the huge social, economic and political challenges faced by their communities.
These two photos represent the vibe of the Youth Week and the incredible positivity of the people who attended. The photo on the right shows the Youth Week Ambassadors (including me) laughing with the same unbounded fun that is displayed by the older SEWF representatives on the screen behind us. It’s a great juxtaposition of two generations – and our collective love for this sector. The photo on the left is a collection of ‘buzz words’ written by members of the Youth Week in the last session of the last day of the program. It was our chance to sum up everything we feel about our potential as young people to make a change!
So it’s a wrap – 3 days of intense deep learning from some of the Greatest Social Enterprises, Facilitators, Agitators and Funders on this planet. Now more than ever before we need to change the way we go about business – we are facing unprecedented human population growth – limited resources – skill loss and automation. Social Enterprises are complicated businesses – but they are also trying to solve complicated deeply important problems that face our people and planet. We need to give Social businesses the time to develop make mistakes and get going – this is the responsibility of ALL of us. Always that question – Small is beautiful, or Big is better…or just get started… My big take-away – the accounting system has been operating for several hundred of years – it gives a clear red or black number – now is the time to develop an equivalent model that captures the social/human capital impact of a business. On a final note I’m so please to have been part of the 63 strong Australian contingent – none of this would have been possible without the unrelenting support from:
#Social Traders #qsec #EnglishFamilyFoundation #QueenslandGovernment #impactBoom #philanthropy Australia #SEWF2019 #docent #substation33 #whitebox #impaqtqld