Background Image

Wrap up from Social Enterprise World Forum 2019: Day 2

Day 2 of the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) has come and gone in a whirlwind, and I can’t help but sit and reflect on how inspired I am by the commitment to social change from people all over the world. Check out the day 1 wrap up here.

Obviously I couldn’t attend every session and there will no doubt be talking points that I missed. If you were in attendance, please feel free to add your summary and thoughts in the comments section.

The day began at 9am in a room of smiling faces, fuelled with Ethiopian coffee. Chaired by Nicole Leske from SAP in Germany, the first session addressed how social enterprises are driving the fight for gender equality. We heard from James Mitchell from Orkidstudio in Kenya/UK, Lynda Toussain from Unjani Clinics NPC in South Africa, Ellen Chilemba from Tiwale in Malawi and Metasebia Shewaye Yilma from Queendom Media in Ethiopia.

With construction being one of the most male dominated industries in the world, Orkidstudio works to benefit communities through innovative architecture and construction.

“It’s not just about gender parity and equality… the built environment sector has a huge impact on the areas we live in, so to have such a small percentage of our global population represented in the construction industry is scary, and it needs to change.”

James Mitchell | Orkidstudio

By empowering black women professional nurses to own and operate their own sustainable healthcare clinic, the Unjani Clinic initiative is transforming healthcare in South Africa by helping alleviate burdens on public health systems and improving access to quality, affordable primary care. The Unjani Clinic Network is a nurse-led network of primary healthcare container clinics in the township communities of South Africa, while the non-profit (Unjani Clinics NPC) raises the funding in order to empower black women professional nurses.

As long as you can articulate your business plan and the values you want to achieve, it’s not different to going to a bank to ask them to loan you money… it’s exactly the same as going to a corporate for sponsorship… it’s very important to align what you do to the corporates you approach… and that involves a lot of research.”

Lynda Toussain | Unjani Clinics NPC

Since inception, Unjani Clinics NPC has has 1 million engagements and is currently doing 4,000 consultations a month. By focusing on the 10 to 12 million South Africans who are employed but uninsured and leveraging social franchising principles, Unjani Clinics NPC aims to scale from 100 to 1,000 clinics by December 2030.

Ellen Chilemba’s social enterprise journey was kickstarted by her hero, Muhammad Yunus, who spurred her to question if the same model that worked in Bangladesh could be applied in Malawi?

“Why can’t we start our own micro loans so girls can go to school and break the cycle?”

Ellen Chilemba | Tiwale

In Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, only 13% of secondary school aged children attend secondary schools, predominately because of the fees involved. This most impacts girls as the cultural preference is to pay for males to attend school. In response, Tiwale empower women to develop sustainable ventures that “transform communities from poverty-stricken to entrepreneur-vital”.

According to Ellen, there are several “magic ingredients” that have contributed to Tiwale’s success including “putting the community first to foster a sense of trust and openness, especially when it comes to things that aren’t working”, and “always looking to create new avenues of income”.

“Only 2% of the world’s music industry are women… our next step is to push more women into the music industry through DJ’ing and production workshops, partnering with software companies and local festival and event spaces.”

Ellen Chilemba | Tiwale

After a quick coffee and networking break, attendees broke off for a series of workshops and seminars. There were so many incredible options it was hard to choose! From how to raise the profile of social entrepreneurs globally to connecting rural women with global markets, to engaging with traditional knowledge and indigenous resources, I oscillated between a number of choices. I ended up sitting in on the session titled, “Social enterprise networks – connecting entrepreneurs, supporting leaders and driving a global movement”.

Facilitated by Cinammon Evans, Chair of The Social Enterprise Network of Victoria (SENVIC), the panel featured three regional located networks – Ayatam Simneh from Social Enterprise Ethiopia, Peter Oloo from the Social Enterprise Society of Kenya and Lalith Welamedage from Lanka Social Ventures. The session explored the importance of social enterprise networks and focused predominately on the challenges involved in setting up and maintaining them.

“It took us 8 months to get registered… every day, 7 hours waiting in line… and we have influential people and still we couldn’t figure out how to do it.”

Ayatam Simneh | Social Enterprise Ethiopia

Through events, mentoring and training, all three networks focus on responding to the context-specific needs and challenges of their country’s social entrepreneurs including how to establish, where to go for funding, the best way to approach government and much more.

Government recognition and policy was identified as a top network priority in Ethiopia and Kenya. In this regard, Ethiopia has seen recent developments which has the country’s social enterprise sector excited and hopeful. Similarly, The Social Enterprise Society of Kenya is currently “advocating for a legal framework so the issue of procurement, tax and investment is included within the law”.

“Many people don’t know what social enterprise is… Recognition and defining social enterprise and the social enterprise sector – that’s our key work.”

Peter Oloo | Social Enterprise Society of Kenya

On the other hand, social enterprise is legally recognised in Sri Lanka where Lanka Social Ventures – the only social enterprise incubator in the country – is working with the Ministry to move social enterprise into the mainstream.

“Our biggest challenge is to make our network members happy, to keep them together… Maintaining a network is very challenging because everyone has different needs.”

Lalith Welamedage | Lanka Social Ventures.

An intriguing debate on the value of establishing a global social enterprise network and/or movement, was the highlight of the session. Could an international organisation serve as a platform to effectively share learnings, knowledge, data and even markets? Or does this not make sense given that diversity of enterprises responding to unique local, culturally specific needs in distinct operating environments. In summary, while there was general agreement on the potential of an international network, strengthening local networks remains a more immediate a priority.

After lunch, there was another impossible choice to make. I landed on Models for growth – social enterprise experiences” chaired by Matt Davis, from RENEW and featuring Ahmed Smiley from Siyafunda Community Technology Centre, Amma Lartey from Reach for Change, Bradley Heslop from WSV Global and Luke Terry from Vanguard Laundry / White Box Enterprises (whoop whoop!).

Siyafunda Community Technology Centre supports and enables community transformation through access to technologies and the internet in South Africa.

“After 1994, South Africa needed to connect the community from a digital perspective, and still, internet is not a luxury, affordability and access continues to be a challenge.”

Ahmed Smiley | Siyafunda Community Technology Centre,

Actively pursuing Public Private Partnerships has helped Siyafunda CTC build its financial and programmatic sustainability by enhancing community inclusiveness, institutional networking, market promotion and access to data.

Reach for Change is all about unleashing the power of entrepreneurship and innovation to create better world. The core of Reach for Change’s work is through development programs like Innovation Labs for people that want to turn their ideas into a business.

“You need to have a product that delivers value and customer who is willing to pay, otherwise you don’t have a social enterprise.”

Amma Lartey | Reach for Change,

When it comes to knowing when is it right time to scale, Amma suggests your enterprise has a strong team, a proven market, customer loyalty, capacity constrained in your ability to meet customer demand, strong infrastructure, and an understanding of the legal requirements involved in scaling.

For Bradley Heslop, when it comes to tackling social challenges, it’s not about creating new solutions. Instead the focus should be on scaling proven-solutions and models. WSV Global does this in three ways. First, they build micro-social enterprises like Roots and Right Light. Second, by providing a “business in a box” for proven models, which include all tools, systems, dashboards, everything you need to properly set up and operate a social enterprise. WSV Global sell “business in a box” as a product to enterprises and are repaid via the subsequent sales of their goods and services. Using this franchising model they aim to impact 3 million enterprises by 2025. And third, through consultancy, advice and support for other social enterprise programs that have a rural focus.

“Simplicity scales.”

Bradley Heslop | WSV Global

In Australia, despite there being over 20,000 social enterprises, only 20 employ more than 50 people. Luke Terry is firmly committed to supercharging this statistic.

“How do we build jobs around programs, not create programs and then hope for a job at the end.”

Luke Terry | Vanguard Laundry / White Box Enterprises

Being “deeply in love with employment-based social enterprises”, Luke via White Box Enterprises aims to to create 5,000 jobs for young, disadvantaged by 2050. To do this, Luke is leveraging his wealth of experience building… In responding to the funding “missing middle”, White Box Enterprises’ ‘GROWN’ Fund intends to be a funding mechanism that starts out as a grant but ends as a loan – the social enterprise only begins repayments after surpassing $50,000 revenue a quarter. Luke’s advice for enterprises hoping to scale: “fill your weakness and leapfrog”.

“As social entrepreneurs we are partnership aggregators… and sometimes trust is more important that the paper it is written on.”

Luke Terry | Vanguard Laundry & White Box Enterprises

The day wrapped up with a panel on the future of business and planet, chaired by Baroness Glenys Thornton from the UK with panelists Kibret Abebe from Tebita Ambulance in Ethiopia, Lorna Rutto from Ecopost Kenya, Heerad Sabeti from The Fourth Sector Group in the USA, Sabrina Chakori from the Brisbane Tool Library from Brisbane, Australia (whoop whoop!) and Harish Hande from the Selco Foundation in India.

The session explored sustainable solutions for the future of business and the planet. One solution, Ecopost Kenya have saved 500 acres of trees from being cut for consumption by recycling 500 million kilograms of plastic waste since 2009.

The amazing Sabrina Chakori reminded us that we need to be thinking post-growth – a worldview that sees society operating without the demand of constant economic growth.

“I was born in 1998, we are a generation that inherited a sick planet… prosperity can not be measured by GDP… we need to plan economic de-growth before we collapse”

Sabrina Chakori | Brisbane Tool Library

Sabrina’s enterprise, The Brisbane Tool Library, allows people to borrow hand and power tools, as well as camping gear and other items (sport equipment, kitchen/party appliances and Christmas decorations).

“We need humility and to learn collaboration before we take the moral high ground.”

Harish Hande | Selco Foundation

The discussion encapsulated the self-reflexive nature of the Forum, an event that is not merely self-congratulatory but acknowledges our complicity in annihilating our one and only planet. The audience’s questions and panelist’s responses revealed a shared awareness of not becoming obsessed with scale and mainstreaming.

Day 2 of the Forum was huge, and to be honest, I’m pretty overwhelmed with everything I’ve learnt. Tomorrow is the final day and despite exhaustion, I’m not ready for it to be over just yet!

Share this post on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn and you’ll go into the draw to win some awesome African social enterprise goodies. Don’t forget to tag Social Change Central!

Jay Boolkin
Jay Boolkin

I'm passionate about positive social change and the power of social entrepreneurship to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems. I believe that for-purpose business models can become part of the mainstream and I am enthusiastic about advocating for business models that are genuinely built around a social or environmental mission.


Post a Comment

Join as a member to get unlimited access


Already a Member? Log in

Subscribe to Social Change Central

No spam. It's a promise.

Password reset link will be sent to your email