Social Enterprise World Forum – Reflections and Learnings from Holly & Araina

Social Enterprise World Forum 2017.

The U.S. Embassy was proud to be apart of the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF), which was held in Christchurch back in September.

U.S. Embassy Youth Council members,  Holly Sutich and Araina Kazia Pereira, share their thoughts on their first SEWF experience…


My Reflection of SEWF 2017

By U.S. Youth Council member, Holly Sutich.

Going into the Social Enterprise World Forum, I expected to learn more about social enterprise on a global scale and where it was positioned in terms of possibilities for the future. I got this and so much from the conference and have left with a burning desire to make a difference.

One of the greatest things that I got out of the conference was meeting the most extraordinarily passionate and inspirational people who fight for what they believe in and work every day to make a dent in the social issues that plague society. From listening to people speak in large plenary sessions to having more intimate conversations and delving deeper into the issues that social enterprise faces, I have deepened my understanding of where we are and what still needs doing. The concept of collaboration versus competition was a particularly interesting point for me, as being in university and studying business, I am constantly surrounded by the idea that you need to have a competitive advantage and out-do our rivals to be the best. In social enterprise, there is this huge opportunity to build each other up and help better society through collaborative enterprise. However, there is a huge attitudinal shift that needs to take place, especially in New Zealand where ‘tall poppy syndrome’ is so common, and organisations find themselves competing, rather than collaborating for the greater good. I believe that government and not-for-profits can tackle social issues so far, and that it is business’ obligation to step up and take on the challenges of bettering society. As an entrepreneur myself, creating a healthier alternative energy drink, I want to have a social impact that aligns with our business. We have decided to provide ‘clean energy’ to our customers through the product and use part of that revenue to clean New Zealand’s waterways in our goal of a healthy, truly green country.

I am also passionate about pushing for a legislation change in New Zealand that identifies social enterprise as a separate entity to a for-profit or charitable organisation. Under the current legal structures available, growth for social enterprise is stunted and if a change were to take place that looks at existing models in the United Kingdom, growth of the sector will increase and entrepreneurs will be more empowered to make a difference.

The forum was such a great chance to learn more about the sector, mingle with like-minded people and drive my passion and determination to make a difference in the world. I couldn’t be more grateful to the US Embassy and AUT for helping me make the most of this amazing opportunity.


Key Learnings from the Social Enterprise World Forum

By U.S. Youth Council member, Araina Kazia Pereira.

The Social Enterprise World Forum presented attendees with a plethora of discussion topics, fresh thoughts, insights into social enterprise and its place in our economy. SEWF highlighted the pivotal role that social enterprises play in creating successful communities for a better tomorrow.

Some key learnings from SEWF…

The socialism vs capitalism debate…

During the forum, of common interest was the debate regarding whether social enterprises were just a socialist initiative and how they could change from being purely social initiatives to revenue generating initiatives. The idea of social enterprise as capitalism based on social values, or driven by social change was encouraged. SEWF highlighted that social enterprise did not have to be one or the other but actually would benefit from being a bit of both. Suggesting that this is the direction that social enterprises globally are pursuing, in order to be more sustainable and increase their impact.

Social value as a product of economic, environmental and social initiatives…

Social value was described using the following equation;

Economic + Environment + Social = Social value.

Essentially adhering to the triple bottom line will result in sustainable social value. Again emphasising the mix of social good and generating revenue. Suggesting, that in order to increase and have sustainable impact, social enterprises are also needing to focus on their competitive survival and ways in which they can increase their economic performance.

Sustainable and Resilient communities…

Social enterprises as for runners of building sustainable and resilient communities, was an interesting discussion during the forum and one that so clearly reflected the work of social enterprises in the Christchurch community. Increasing cultural vitality within communities was presented as a driving force for social enterprises. Challenging the prospectus of social enterprises enabling the creation of sustainable and resilient communities through the increase of purpose led regeneration, cultural vitality and understanding systemic problems that they are addressing within their community.

Growing impact through collaboration…

Shared impact and common values through effective collaboration on both an individual and societal value was discussed as another direction in which social enterprises are heading in. This should see social enterprises benefitting both with their commercial and their social impact. It was important to note the importance of social capital within enterprises in order to establish and encourage successful collaboration both within and external to social enterprise.

Drive determining Future…

The most common thread between all speakers at the forum was their drive and the idea of being purpose led in their business processes. Taking it all the way to the basics, most speakers discussed their ‘Why’ and demonstrated their tenacity to achieve the goals that they set. Suggesting that one’s future in any means, not just for social enterprises, is driven by knowing and being passionate about their ‘why’ and running with tenacity, resilience and drive towards their set outcomes.

The four days was filled with plenty of discussions, workshops, networking and idea sharing with other socially driven people. Ready for next year in Edinburgh! Huge thank you to the US Embassy for sending me to such an incredible forum!