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Why I Love Conferences

I have a confession: I love a good conference.

I’ve really missed the chance to convene with peers and partners in the social enterprise sector over the past two years though, and am thrilled by the return of in-person gatherings this year.

As such, you can imagine how excited I am about the Social Enterprise World Forum coming to Australia this year.

The Social Enterprise World Forum is the leading event for the global social enterprise movement and is happening in Brisbane in September, the first time it has been in Australia since 2009.

Having attended the previous three in-person Social Enterprise World Forum’s in NZ, Scotland and Ethiopia I’m pretty pumped it’s coming to Australia and want to help founders make the most of it.

This got me thinking about what made those experiences – and the other great events I’ve attended over the years – so good.

And it sounds like a cliché, but it’s true: it’s all about the people.

When a conference is a convening of a community or, even better, a movement, you can feel it.

There’s an energy to the experience. A sense of being part of something, of being around your people.

The fact that you’re all there together means you have at least one significant thing in common: you care about this topic enough to show up and spend a couple of days thinking, learning and conversing about it.

And for the Social Enterprise World Forum that topic, of course, is social enterprise.

Social Enterprise is a topic I’m endlessly fascinated and inspired by. As an emerging sector, there is a lot to learn from the experiences and insights of diverse founders, investors, intermediaries and other supporters.

None of us has all the answers yet. Not only as individuals but as a sector we need to be exploring, experimenting, evolving and learning.

And a conference like the Social Enterprise World Forum is the perfect place to find people to explore, experiment and learn with. It is naturally amongst people who share an interest and desire to see the social enterprise movement reach its potential that many valuable potential partners can be found.

This has always been where I have gained the greatest benefit from conferences. It’s not the learning that comes from the stage it’s the learning that comes from great conversations, and the relationships I’ve formed as a result of those conversations.

I’ve met co-founders, investors, collaborators and business partners at conferences. I’ve had incredible conversations that have opened my eyes to new approaches and potential. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I’ve made many great friends.

“The biggest thing I’ve always gained from attending conferences isn’t the learning that comes from the stage, it’s the relationships I’ve formed. I’ve met co-founders, investors, collaborators and business partners at conferences. I’ve had incredible conversations that have opened my eyes to new approaches and potential. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I’ve made many great friends.”

And this is why I’m so excited about the Social Enterprise World Forum, a chance to see old friends and meet new ones. Many of these strong relationships are with people I have attended previous Social Enterprise World Forums with.

When you’re both willing to travel to Ethiopia to attend a conference you clearly have something to talk about. It sounds counter-intuitive, but much of the value I’ve gained from attending international conferences are stronger relationships, and new partnerships in Australia, formed with people who were also making the effort to be there.

It really is about the people you meet along the way.

Therefore, it didn’t feel right to me to just fly into Brisbane for two days and call it a World Forum.

Like the previous journeys I’ve taken to the SEWF, I wanted to create something more experiential that would build community amongst the travellers.

Hence the Social Enterprise World Forum Road Trip was born.

The road trip will take 45 social entrepreneurs and supporters from Sydney to Brisbane over two days, Sunday, September 25 to Tuesday, September 27, with the Forum then starting on Wednesday.

We will spend this time visiting social enterprises, learning from each other and forming a more connected community.

This will give people the time to have longer conversations and get to know each other better through shared experiences, which doesn’t happen when you just happen to be sitting in a conference centre together.

As a result, we will arrive more confident, more connected and more ready to engage the global social enterprise movement and to make the most of this opportunity.

If that sounds like fun to you, SEWF Road Trip tickets are now on sale!

There are also 15 sponsored seats available thanks to our sponsors City of Sydney, City of Parramatta, MinterEllison and Future Super. Applications close 7 August.

Find out more at https://opportunities.startsomegood.com/sewf-roadtrip-2022/.


Tom Dawkins is the co-founder and CEO of StartSomeGood, a social enterprise that helps people design, launch and grow social impact projects, and the host of the Social Enterprise World Forum Road Trip.
Jay Boolkin
Jay Boolkin

jay@socialchangecentral.com

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.

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