“Standing on a burning platform” – highlights of the Social Enterprise World Forum, Edinburgh

Date: 26.09.2018

Peter Williams, DTW Wales Director

I was very fortunate to benefit from a bursary from Welsh Government (with San Leonard of Social Firms Wales and Menna Jones from Antur Waunfawr) to attend the tenth Social Enterprise World Forum in Edinburgh, from 12th – 14th September 2018.

I attend many conferences and policy forums which sometimes leave me with a sense of “déjà vu” but I attended the SEWF with an open mind and came away really inspired, particularly by the people that attended but also by the breadth of vision and ambition of the speakers and participants.

More than 1,400 social entrepreneurs, social and community enterprise practitioners attended, from 47 countries, along with Government representatives, investors, academics, young people, innovations and thinkers.  There is a good summary of the highlights, from 40 speakers and delegates at the SEWF by Impact Boom and extracts from the main debates are on the SEWF Facebook site

San and myself arrived too early for registration on the first day (a first for me!) and were sent away and by serendipity ended up in Grassmarket Café (info@grassmarket.org), a social enterprise supporting vulnerable people coping with homelessness, addiction and a range of challenges.  Talking to the right person, wearing the right t-shirt, Claire Pattullo from Edinburgh Social Enterprise we managed to piggyback on a British Council sponsored tour of social enterprise cafes in Edinburgh, led by Zakia Moulasui, founder of the inspirational, Invisible Cities, social enterprise who train people affected by homelessness to become walking tour guides.  I spoke to people from Fiji, New Zealand and Khazakstan on the tour, hearing how they are building networks, tackling big issues in their countries.

There were so many inspiring stories, people and social enterprise examples and ideas at SEWF, it is hard to capture them all here but there was an overall sense of urgency too in the face of tremendous challenges, if social entrepreneurs and people want to change the world and a call for action or a stepped change.  Indy Jahor in particular challenged delegates to be “deeply audacious” in taking action, thinking really big in terms of ideas and impacts, “if we don’t, this world is going to hell in a handcart”.  Lord Victor Adebowale reinforced this message saying “I believe social enterprise is the future of business.  But we are running out of time.  We are standing on a burning platform – not just economically, but environmentally and politically”.