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Wrap up from Social Enterprise World Forum 2019: Day 3

The final day of the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) is here! Another year done and dusted. What a crazy 3 days. If you missed our breakdown of Day 1 and Day 2, click the links to read our takeaways.

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.

Today began with a plenary on food-based social enterprises, chaired by Peter Holbrook CBE from Social Enterprise UK and the Social Enterprise World Forum. We heard from Feteh Asrat from Temsalet Kitchen in Ethiopia, Mike Curtin from DC Central Kitchen in the USA, Emma-Kate Rose from the Food Connect Foundation and Queensland Social Enterprise Council in Australia and Kim Lim from PichaEats in Malaysia about innovative solutions to food security challenges across the four continents.

The always inspiring Mike Curtin, shared some of the specific decisions from DC Central Kitchen’s most challenging situations to illustrate the rules of righteous entrepreneurship and how they have created tangible practices for social enterprises. One of Mike’s rules include maintaining a sense of productive impatience or “relentless incrementalism”, which means being fiercely persistent about doing things a little better, bigger, and bolder each day. At DC Central Kitchen, the narrative is all about “the redemption of the giver, rather than the liberation of the receiver”.

“Mother Teresa was asked ‘how can you possible do what you do… it’s a drop in the ocean?’ she answered ‘and that ocean will never be the same” – that is what social enterprise is all about’.”

Mike Curtin | DC Central Kitchen

Kim Lim from PichaEats focused on the power of food as a platform for connection and conversation. From humble beginnings learning how to set up a buffet line by watching instructional YouTube videos, PichaEats now has 500 corporate customers and has served over 130,000 meals.

Australia’s Emma-Kate Rose (whoop whoop!) shared her experience growing Food Connect Foundation who has initiated Australia’s first multi-farmer, direct-to-consumer social enterprise, developed Australia’s first Local Food Hub and achieved certification as a B Corporation. For over a decade, Emma-Kate has worked to democratise the local Queensland food system from an unfair, exploitative commodity market into a true cost, integrated, and fairer food system. Food Connect’s demonstrated solutions to addressing the root cause of seemingly intractable food justice problems, saw it raise more than two million dollars through equity crowdfunding in late 2018 to become Australia’s first community-owned local food hub. Despite Food Connect’s accomplishments and impact, Emma-Kate knows there is still much work to be done “because we didn’t change the entire food system yet”.

“I think the secret is our relationships… we treat everyone who supports us with respect… the business skills are transferred.”

Emma-Kate Rose | Food Connect Foundation

After a quick break, we jumped into our late-morning activities. Similar to yesterday, we had a number of options and it was difficult to choose which workshop/seminar/panel to attend. I ended up landing on “The changing face of social investment”, which critiqued the different approaches available to fuel social entrepreneurship that lie between traditional charity and commerce. The plenary featured Elena Casolari from OPES Impact Fund / Social Enterprise World Forum (Italy), Michael Sudarkasa, from Africa Business Group (South Africa), Yves Moury from Fundación Capital (Colombia), Medha Wilson from MicroLoan Foundation (UK) and Bethel Tsegaye from Startup Factory Ethiopia (Ethiopia).

Bethel from Startup Factory Ethiopia – “ the first venture-builder in Ethiopia” – stressed the importance of social investors having “a roadmap of the right investment at the right stage of the enterprise”. Likewise, on the other side of the fence, social entrepreneurs should understand the world of social investment and the different players in order to be able to navigate the landscape. She also touched on the “missing middle” – a phenomenon in social investment that has been widely documented and refers to the frustrations of social ventures seeking access to growth capital.

“The problem is size, the minimum for debt is half a million dollars, it’s more for equity… and sometimes with equity, nobody wants to go in alone.”

Bethel Tsegaye | Startup Factory Ethiopia

Michael Sudarkasa from Africa Business Group, explained that, when it comes to investing in African-based social enterprises, “most capital is coming from Western countries”, indicating “a very shallow market”. His suggestion to counter this is “more domestic fund managers”. For the Africa Business Group, who specialises in designing, promoting, facilitating and implementing African economic development projects, advocating for increased public-private dialogue is one way they are proactively contributing to building the region’s social investment market.

“Partnerships is critical to de-risk investments.”

Michael Sudarkasa | Africa Business Group

Yves Moury from Fundación Capital, further emphasised the challenge of scale and questioned if the impact investing hype will live up to it’s promise.

“Micro-credit is not the magic bullet… credit is exclusive by definition… My question is whether impact investing is large enough to solve the obscene problems we face?”

Yves Moury| Fundación Capital

When it comes to attracting early stage funding, Medha Wilson from MicroLoan Foundation said the focus is primarily on the founder presenting the idea, which always takes precedent over the product or business plan. When weighing up potential investments, Medha assesses how the entrepreneur “adapts to change, and how they act and react”.

“We have a saying that the only thing we know about your business is that you’re wrong. In early stage businesses, investors are looking at the entrepreneur, not so much the business model… are they capable of overcoming the hurdles that come their way?”

Medha Wilson | MicroLoan Foundation

After lunch, I attended a session titled “Structures, systems and frameworks supporting social enterprise development”, which was chaired by Chris White from Social Enterprise UK and included Agnes Wairegi from Thomson Reuters Foundation (Kenya), Roberto Randazzo from The Legal Network for Social Impact (Italy) and Serene Tay from Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE).

As a frontrunner in growing social enterprises, Chris White shared some learnings from the UK, which has seen trailblazing progress over the last decade. According to Chris, this has been the result of “political leadership, which comes from understanding and awareness”. In his experience, developing effective systems and structures can be fast-tracked through “co-design, creation and production so organisations can better work together to delver social impact”. In this way, “rather than the market following government, it will be the other way round”. The UK defined social enterprise decades ago, with designated legal models that allow for more comprehensive governance. Social enterprise now “influences $25 billion of public spending and is continuing to gain traction”. Nevertheless, “measuring social impact is [still] a major challenge”.

“We need to achieve more of a movement in our own respective countries.”

Chris White | Social Enterprise UK

In Singapore, “a proliferation of measurement is creating a burden” according to Serene Tay from raiSE, who cautioned the “social enterprise sector to avoid the measurement overload experienced by the charity sector”. As a sector developer, raiSE seed and nurture new enterprises by providing advisory services, programmes, training and resources. Interestingly, raiSE has “many experienced executives that want to use their skills to create a social enterprise as well as SMEs that want to convert into an social enterprise model”. Looking ahead, raiSE and Serene are “pushing for higher standards of credibility, legitimacy and social value reporting standards”.

“Social enterprise needs to be audacious… we need to look beyond the sector.”

Serene Tay | raiSE

Agnes Wairegi from Thomson Reuters Foundation shared her thoughts on social enterprise structures, advising that “whatever you choose or have chosen can have a significant impact on your ability to achieve social change”.

On the topic of government involvement, there seemed to be two points of view. On the one hand, some are concerned that additional regulation will stifle creativity and innovation. Conversely, the Thomas Reuters Foundation’s recent poll revealed government support and access to investment as critical to developing a thriving social enterprise sector.

“Social enterprises kind of work in silos and sometimes don’t realise there are tools and resources available to them that can influence their ability to achieve their social impact.”

Agnes Wairegi | Thomson Reuters Foundation

When it comes to the best way to support the global growth of social enterprise, Roberto Randazzo from The Legal Network for Social Impact, believes in “the need to exchange experiences from the ground” and that “a peer-to-peer perspective would help to accelerate progress in individual countries”. While it may be a way off, his wish is for “a global common place to discuss issues around policies, rules, regulations and frameworks”. For now however, Roberto maintains “the main problems with creating a common system are linked to not-for-profits running commercial activities, the tax system, and asset lock rules.”

“Solutions are not in law, they are not created by government, solutions come from the market and today the best solutions are using hybrid structures.”

Roberto Randazzo | The Legal Network for Social Impact

The Social Enterprise World Forum 2019 concluded in style with a round up of the week’s side events and closing remarks which emphasised strengthening our understanding the different contexts in which we work as well as the need to connect social enterprises with each other, policy makers and the wider sector.

“This is the continent of now and of the future.”

Moses Anibaba | British Council Regional Director

A closing performance by World Voice Choir and amazing wrap up video by Digital Storytellers (below) brought many of the 1,300 delegates to tears. Finally, the Social Enterprise World Forum 2020 host city was announced… *drumroll*… Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada! You can sign up for information, advanced registration and special offers here. We can’t wait! If you’re going to be there, be sure to let us know!

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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.

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