40 Key Highlights & Insights From Speakers & Delegates At The Social Enterprise World Forum In Edinburgh

What happens when 1400 social entrepreneurs from 47 countries come together to advance the global social enterprise movement? During the Social Enterprise World Forum, as proud media partners, Impact Boom interviewed over 40 people to hear their key highlights and takeaways in an effort to advance the conversation beyond the forum.

In its tenth year, the Social Enterprise World Forum didn’t disappoint. It’s important to note the huge effort of the entire SEWF CIC Board, as well as team members Joanne Seagrave, Johnny Henderson, Jess Gildener, Helen Harvey, Anna Brow and Kayla Andrews, in making it a success, as well as the entire Scottish social enterprise movement, which has, over a sustained period created positive change, and proven itself to be one of the global leaders.

The week produced a hive of exciting activity, with fringe events around Scotland, an academic symposium at Glasgow Caledonian University, a rural symposium, a zero waste symposium, study tours and young talent program.

Earlier this year when Gerry Higgins told us that, ‘there isn’t a single senior official in a governmental department that isn’t aware of social enterprise,’ he wasn’t joking. Scottish government support from a variety of levels was highly evident during the world forum, proving that the government are going beyond talking. Deputy First Minister John Swinney provided a clear overview of the government commitment in a hearty speech during the opening ceremony. Earlier in the week, Deputy Lord Provost of Glasgow, Philip Braat welcomed SEWF Academic Symposium delegates to a Civic Reception at Glasgow City Chambers alongside Professor Michael Roy. Councillor Rhiannon Spear launched Glasgow’s Social Enterprise Strategy at the same event.

Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh, Frank Ross also spoke clearly of the government commitment during both the welcome ceremony and at a Civic Reception on the final day of the forum.

And certainly one of the week’s highlights was an invitation from Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to attend the Social Enterprise World Forum reception at Edinburgh Castle, where she welcomed delegates and gave a shining example of support to other government ministers around the world. That same day, Scottish Parliament held a debate on social enterprise, where bi-partisan support was evident. What’s for sure is that Scotland are going beyond talking. They’re acting and implementing to drive positive social change and to me that makes them a leader of the movement globally.

Some of the key themes to emerge from our interviews and conversations during the forum included:

  • The need for the movement to think more audaciously and create true system change. This discussion was largely sparked by Indy Johar during a panel discussion alongside Mairi Mackay, Jan Owen, Dai Powell and Faraz Khan.

  • The importance of collaboration and working together, rather than in silos. Self-organisation of the sector was highlighted as a ‘must’ during various conversations and presentations, to help propel the sector forward. Two panels in particular focussed on social enterprise ecosystems and were highly useful in advancing the conversation and drawing attention to a range of international learnings and strategies.

  • A strong drive and necessity to support the youth-led movement, harnessing the immense energy and drive of our future leaders to create change. Jan Owen stated that, ‘what’s front of mind for our youth is ‘how do we add value rather than extract value?’ ‘Our next generation is much more fluid and will not stand for inequality,’ she said. Students from St Alberts Primary and Broughton High School stole the show during the opening ceremony with shining examples of youth collaboration.

Personally, I drew great energy from the amazing collection of people leading the global movement and have returned to Australia recharged and with fresh knowledge, strong inspiration and a sense of having a supportive global community.

How might we best take the momentum built at the forum home? SEWF Chair, David LePage shifted our attention to this during his closing address with the aim of creating a social value marketplace for the common good.

With the great news that the forum will be hosted in Ethiopia in October 2019, this year’s forum drew to a close with an energetic handover and celebration. We’ll most certainly look forward to seeing you there.


40 speakers and delegates from around the globe share their key highlights from the 2018 Social Enterprise World Forum.

We value your voice too! Please add your comments and personal highlights at the bottom of this article.


Highlights from the interviews (listen to the podcast for full details)

A huge thank you to our Contributing Editor Nikoline Arns for helping conduct interviews and providing strong team support during the week.


Helene Malandain, Akina Foundation and Member, Board of Directors, SEWF CIC

My name is Helene Malandain, and I work at the Akina Foundation in New Zealand and I'm also on the board of Social Enterprise World Forum. To me, this event has been incredible, in particular this morning at the plenary where we talked about, what is the challenge for us in the next ten years. I think it's really good time for us to reflect on what's happened in the last ten years and how much work has gone into building our infrastructure, and it's really great to see how everyone is now talking really confidently about things like social procurement and social impact investment in the next ten years.

What was said this morning was…

we need to find a way to make it easier for people who are not in this room to actually join the movement. That really excites me.

David Brookes, Managing Director, Social Traders.

Hi, I'm David Brooks with Social Traders. SEWF in Edinburgh was a great success. 1,400 delegates from 47 countries around the world with over 50% of the delegates coming from outside the UK. The first time the majority of attendees has come from outside the host country. It's been a really big privilege to be part of and contribute to SEWF over the last ten years. This year's gathering was testament to the growth of the social enterprise movement globally and a maturing of the conversation around the challenges and opportunities. For me, it was particularly pleasing to have such a strong focus on the supply chain and opening up procurement channels in the public and private sector as one of the key themes of this year's programme.

One cannot continue to be other than utterly impressed by the political and government leadership to social enterprise in Scotland.

The reception at the Great Hall in Edinburgh Castle to hear the First Minister speak of Scotland's longterm commitment and vision to the growth of social enterprise in the economy was absolutely awesome. A great highlight of the week.

I'm hopeful that SEWF will return to Australian shores in the not too distant future, providing us with an opportunity to showcase the progress in social enterprise policy and practise since Social Traders and SVA hosted the event back in Melbourne in 2009.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaking at Edinburgh Castle during SEWF.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaking at Edinburgh Castle during SEWF.

Matthew Taylor, Policy Advisor at Victorian Government

I work for the Victorian government in social procurement, and also co-founder of Met Design, a Social Enterprise in Melbourne. My takeaway is that individually and collectively, the purchasing decisions we make have a profound impact, not only on our economy, but our environment and our communities.

By changing the way that we spend our money, we change the world.

Prof. Jo Barraket, Director, Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne University

Hi, I'm Jo Barraket from the Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne. So a couple of key takeaways for me, one is that…

the Social Enterprise ecosystem needs to be more integrated.

And another, from Australian reflections on the strength of the policy environment in Scotland, is that we do need a national response in Australia, but I really think it needs to come from social entrepreneurs leading policy makers, rather than the other way round.

Alex Hannant, Director, Yunus Social Business Centre, Griffith University

I'm Alex Hannant. I'm the director of the Yunus Social Business Centre at Griffith University, and just reflecting on highlights in the Social Enterprise World Forum up here in Edinburgh. Three things come to mind. One of them is really just about continuity of growth, coming back here. So I've been coming to these things for a number of years now and just starting to really get a sense of ongoing scale and sophistication of activity, and seeing just massive diversity of solutions, tackling local niche, global, big problems. So the scale of activity is heart warming.

The second point, in regards to the ecosystem building, is reinforcing how important self organisation is, how important it is for social enterprises, intermediaries, actors that want to be part of this movement, organising themselves, and articulating what they want. What they want from government, what they want, in terms of finance and a market access, dictating the terms rather than being dictated to.

And the third and last is the sense of point of intervention. So this whole idea of trying to think more deeply around where are the points of leverage in solutions. Trying to get to the peak of intervention rather than the bottom. And so, the world is changing very fast and thinking what are the really strategic and risky areas that we have to respond to now? Be that around regulation, be that around capital flows, be that around environment, but how do we get to a dominant position in supply chains and market and innovation change rather than just picking up the bottom and maybe sort of the more local humble, which is great…

but we also have to, I think, get far more ambitious about our point of intervention in the scale of intervention.

Jan Owen, CEO, Foundation For Young Australians

Hi, I'm Jan Owen from the Foundation for Young Australians. My key highlight of the Social Enterprise World Forum really has been the idea and the debate, (this is my takeaway as well, by the way), that ten years on from when we had the first Social Enterprise World Forum, that landscape has changed dramatically. So much work has been done at all levels of social enterprise, whether it's deep in communities or whether it's like at a kind of a policy level.

But now we have this incredible opportunity to step into the new economy and to actually lead the way. And so, for me, the idea about the ambitiousness and the audacity of that and also the strategic kind of vision around that is very, very, very important. We have an opportunity to really shape the future with social enterprise.


Marty Donkervoort, University of Manitoba.

Hi there, it's Marty Donkervoort here from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I teach a course on social enterprise to the University of Winnipeg and sustainability at the University of Manitoba.

My biggest takeaway from this conference is being inspired about thinking on a bigger, larger scale.

I just can't wait to get back to Winnipeg and talk to the media about what's happening around the world and to talk to my students in my class and, basically, encourage them to think much bigger than what I've been telling them about what's happened in the past around social enterprise. So very inspired. I'm happy I came. It's a wonderful meeting.

Tom Dawkins, CEO, StartSomeGood

I'm Tom Dawkins from Start Some Good.com, and…

my number one highlight of the World Forum I think was the call in this morning session from Indy [Johar] and others for greater ambition and more imagination.

Not just tinkering around the edge of the capitalist system, not just replacing swapping products that with slightly more sustainable ones, one by one, but really rethinking the role of business and aspiring to build companies and enterprises that come to dominate that new world of business and change the world for the better in the process.

Sarah Deas, CEO, Co-operative Development Scotland

For me, the most significant aspect of the conference was the session this morning where we were challenged to think about transformational change and to rethink the future in every aspect. And I think that really gears us up to have a different impact on the world.

Gerry Higgins welcomes delegates at the opening ceremony.

Gerry Higgins welcomes delegates at the opening ceremony.

Mike Kennedy, Director, Common Good Solutions

My name is Mike Kennedy from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. I am a director with Common Good Solutions.

The biggest takeaway from the conference is just we have to think bigger.

Indy Johar completely blew my mind on the final day of the conference, encouraging us to think beyond the bake sale and thinking billions of dollar industries and go unapologetically, deliberately after that. So when I go home and moving forward, it's just positioning this and thinking about this on a much bigger scale than I ever thought possible. So walking away inspired and grateful.


Bradley Daye, Placemaking 4G

So my name is Bradley Day from Halifax, Nova Scotia. There's a few key takeaways for me. One, this is my first Social Enterprise World Forum. And so, just the language of social enterprise was kind of foreign to me. So being able to articulate now that language of Social Enterprise was very important.

But I think the key takeaway is exposure. Not enough people understand what a social enterprise is. And just making people more aware of what social enterprise is, is a very important thing.

And that's, I think, the next step first for social enterprises. Getting the word out there about what we are and what we're doing, and who we are.

Joseph Huyer, Research Officer, Common Good Solutions

My name is Joseph Huyer from Common Good Solutions in Nova Scotia, Canada. One of the key takeaways that I am being a part of the conversation is in right now is, we're trying to figure out in what kind of policy, structures, or impact and what is a social enterprise, and where do we put the boundaries there? So we don't really know. It's quite a new thing in Canada, and around the world as well. So Scotland have a very interesting structure here. It's legally bound, and we're trying to figure out whether or not that's the perfect approach. And it's been really interesting to have conversations to see if it's about the impact or if it's about the structure so we can hold people accountable for their impact.

I'm not really sure if I'm fully for structure or fully about strictly getting the impact. I think we're gonna need a blend of both. I think people still need to be held accountable. But, within social enterprise, it's such a dynamic ecosystem, and it changes so quickly, that it'd be difficult to stay within the boundaries of such rigid structures.

Helianti Hilman, Founder, Javara

I think what I'm taking back home, what's very interesting from this forum is that the level of diversity of the social enterprise, the range of the sector, the range of the starting point, the range of the intention is actually surprisingly very diverse. And also, in terms of the approach. And I think it's good to be in the forum where we can learn so much of the diversity itself.

Leila Alexandra, The Community Grocer

My name is Leila Alexandra, I'm from the Community Grocer. We run weekly affordable, fresh fruit and vegetable markets in Melbourne advocating for healthy, connected communities. And my takeaway from the Social Enterprise World Forum is that social enterprises are inherently cross sector and have social environmental issues at their heart and values, and they are the future.

Davinia Nieper, Making It Happen & P2P

Hello, this is Davinia Napor from Making it Happen in Queensland, Australia at the Social Enterprise World Forum in Edinburgh.

My take on this was to always stick to our core and always be led by heart whenever we're doing business and good for our community. That will lead us to the right track.

Claire Carpenter, CEO, The Melting Pot

This is Claire Carpenter from the Melting Pot in Edinburgh, Scotland Centre for Social Innovation. I'm here at my second ever World Forum. I was in New Zealand last year, Edinburgh this year.

So for me, what's brilliant is being able to meet and connect with my Scottish scene, but more importantly the international scene again, and seeing how it all connects together on a global perspective where we bring together the startups, the mature businesses, and they're the thought pioneers in the movement.

It's really exciting to be part of a global movement, not just a national movement, and to spend time with people. That's the critical thing.

Michelle Knights, Parent 2 Parent

Hi, I'm Michelle Knights from Australia. I'm from an organisation called Parent to Parent in Queensland. I've really enjoyed the Social Enterprise World Forum this year. And I've really been looking and connecting with people who are looking at ownership models to transfer that economic ownership back to marginalised communities and marginalised people within those communities. And I've made loads of connections here at the forum that we're going to continue our worldwide network. So it's been a great outcome.

Dr Michael Roy, Senior Lecturer, Yunus Centre for Social Business, GCU

My name is Michael Roy, and I'm senior lecturer in social business at Glasgow Caledonian University in Glasgow, Scotland. I was responsible for chairing the Academic Symposium as one of the fringe events of the Social Enterprise World Forum 2018.

I suppose one of my key takeaways from the event was just the sheer variety of perspectives and the richness of dialogue that comes from different cultural perspectives in social enterprise. It never ceases to amaze me the power of people coming together as groups to affect social change and address social vulnerabilities within our communities.

Reminding us that social enterprise is, above all, a collective endeavour.

Nikoline Arns, Contributing Editor, Impact Boom

My name is Nikoline Arns and I’m a Visual Design Consultant for social enterprises. What I take home from the Forum is the incredible openness of the people and the willingness to debate certain subjects that are controversial in this industry and not to judge, but to be open to other opinions. And to put it out there. I think that is really powerful in this gathering and will really accelerate this movement.

Participative session lead by Tom Allen (Impact Boom), Eliane Trinidade (Folha), Julie Pybus (Pioneers Post) & Adam Pillsbury (British Council).

Participative session lead by Tom Allen (Impact Boom), Eliane Trinidade (Folha), Julie Pybus (Pioneers Post) & Adam Pillsbury (British Council).

Dallas Mugarra, Thamarrurr Youth Indigenous Corporation

Hello. My name is Dallas Mugarra, and I work with Thamarrurr Indigenous Corporation that’s based in Bright, North East Victoria. But we are directed by the committee who is a local from the community where I'm from called Wadiya, southwest of Darwin, three hours drive. And in Scotland, it's been so interesting and challenging too for me, because of all of its different...

My highlight is whatever you do in your work, you do it with the people, not yourself. So, to do that is to establish relationships so that you can work closer and get things done in your work placement or market or whatever you're doing, to get it done.

Rebecca Crawley, Thamarrurr Youth Indigenous Corporation

The key insight is just knowing that this is not a journey that we have to take alone.

And I really look forward to getting together again with people that I've met.

Sean Barnes, Social Procurement Lead, The Akina Foundation

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. The people, the people, the people.

Mike Townsend, Halifax, Nova Scotia

My takeaway from the conference is the power of collaboration and the power of vision.

Yash Ranga, Jaipur Rugs Foundation

Hi, I'm Yash from Jaipur Rugs Foundation. And, in India, down there we work with these 40 thousand women artisans from different communities. And coming here to the forum, the feeling of cultural exchange, the feeling of multilingual experience, the feeling of multicultural experience, gives a lot of energy to us to get that experience back there to the communities we work with.

It's all about connection. When we come here, the feeling of connection that we have is just fulfilling. And, in social enterprises, we all need to be connected strong enough, so that we can get the best impact out of our people.

So, that's what I take home.


Uma Prajapati, Founder, Upasana

My name is Uma Prajapati and I'm from India. My organisation name is Upasana, which is in south of India in Pondicherry.

My key highlight in Social World Enterprise Forum has been meeting these like-minded people.

I came here to inspire myself and I'm totally inspired. There is so much connectivity. There is so much inspiration. I feel charged to go back and continue at full blast. Thank you.

Susan Palmer, Gather My Crew

My name is Susan from Gather My Crew in Australia. My key takeaway would be the permission giving that I heard so often about, it's okay to make mistakes.

It's okay to not know what you're doing, and it's still okay to keep going out there and just trying and learning from that.

And, for someone who sometimes knows what she's doing and sometimes questions it, it's really nice to know that that's okay, and just keep on going.

Julia Cambage, Try Australia

Hi, Julia Cambage from Try Australia. It's been a fantastic conference.

The key takeaway for me is, how important impact is, and measuring it.

Andres Morales, Co Founder, Minca Ventures

My name is Andres from Minca, a London based organisation. I think it'd been two parts. First of all, I reckon, one of the insights that I'm going home with is people. I mean, the experience of meeting people who are actually giving a damn about the world, and they try to do better, embracing different economic models in order to tackle social or environmental issues. I think it's amazing. So I'm going to the people.

And another insight, which I think is very important, is that although it can be a bit controversial, the fact that there are private companies involved here; I think it's really important to bring them over, because, at the end of the day, they are the people who have the economic means. They are the people who know about the market. So it's important to play the game, but also always following the principles. Right? So I think those are the two insights.

Carolina De Andrade, Social Good Brasil

Hi, my name is Carol from Social Good Brazil. And my greatest insight from the Social Enterprise World Forum is that data can be super inspiring, and not only techy.

Karen Chinkwita, The Malawi Hub

My name is Karen Chinkwita. I'm the CEO of the Malawi Hub for the Academy in Malawi.

The one thing I'm taking back from the forum is that a movement is not built in a day. It has taken a lot of organisations, a lot of friends, a lot of colleagues to create a great environment for social entrepreneurship in Scotland.

And we're taking that best practise back home by creating the platforms that are needed to support a movement in our country. So there's the right people to build the capacity, the right people to fund, the right place to set up, and friends to take you along your journey in Malawi.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Lord Victor Adebowale CBE, CEO, Turning Point

It's fully subscribed. You've got 40 countries here.

So, the key insight is that we have the platform to build the future, create the future of business.

We have the platform right here. It's not- why not now? So, yeah. It's not as though you’re half subscribed and people don't give a shit. You've got the platform, execution mover, basically. We've got to get on with it.

Matt Pfahlert, CEO, Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship

The main insight that I've received from this Social Enterprise World Forum is something that someone said to me. And they said, ‘you know that when you bring forward social enterprise ideas into a rural community, you are implying that everything that they've done up until that point in time is not good enough.’ And so, that's why rural communities resist the change, because they feel really quite threatened and attacked.

Kathy Wong, CEO, Moeloco

Hi, my name is Kathy Wong, and I am the chief energy officer of Moeloco, a social enterprise that puts school shoes on children's feet in India, through selling a rubber flip flop that leaves positive messages in the sand. I'm also the host and producer of a web TV show called Crazy Dreams TV, where we interview social entrepreneurs from all around the world sharing their stories and business model.

There was so many takeouts at the Social Enterprise World Forum, but the one I loved was the quote that said, reimagineering imagination. And by that, it was around how to empower the youth of today to allow them to explore the problems that they want to explore. Because they will find their own answers, but we need the wisdom of the elders or the older people to actually help us provide them with the backup and support that they need to find those solutions for themselves.

Robin Dick, Social Innovation Program Manager, CQ University

SEWF 2018 biggest takeaways were;

involve children, collaborate, think big, embrace humanity.

Eric Lombardi, Eco-Cycle International

I'm Eric Lombardi from Eco Cycle International in Colorado in the United States. And I've just finished another week at the Social Enterprise World Forum. And I, once again, am energised for the coming year. And, once again, the discussions went to a new level. I was at year one when there was 400 of us. And this year is year ten. There was 1,400 of us. And this conversation is one of the most important on the planet. And it didn't disappoint again this year. So next year, Ethiopia. Hope to see you there.

Josiah Lockhart, CEO, Firstport

To me, the forum was a place where those of us who work in and around the social enterprise ecosystem were able to gather from across the world to challenge and discuss the future of the space. What I got most out of the forum was a challenge. A challenge, particularly from those countries who haven't grown up with a supportive ecosystem, places like Ethiopia and Taiwan, who have just harnessed the energy and just ploughed ahead and made it work, despite the challenges they face.

What I think is, we no longer have an excuse, any countries in the world, for not pressing forward and making it happen.

And I'm excited to hear how the next few years will explore that and grow.

Adenew Mesfin, Project Manager, SEWF 2019, Ethiopia

My name is Adeneu Mesfin. I'm the product manager for Social Enterprise World Forum, at the British Council, Ethiopia. We will be hosting the next Social enterprise World Forum. We're excited to do that.

At this forum I learned that the social enterprise movement is growing. It's dynamic, it's innovative, and that we need to try and harness the youth to take it forward.

So we're hoping that we will incorporate a strong youth element in next years Social Enterprise World Forum. Join us.

The Ethiopian Delegates dance and celebrate during the official handing over, as hosts of SEWF 2019.

The Ethiopian Delegates dance and celebrate during the official handing over, as hosts of SEWF 2019.

Jaison Hoernel, CEO, Good Cycles

I think the one thing that, for me, is probably the most important that I'll take away from this, is that coming together and seeing and being able to compare those similar yet different stories, it's really inspiring. It's really helpful. And it sort of enlightens and invigorates you, but…

the challenge is now, how do you keep that momentum going for the next 24 months or 12 months? How do you take that and how do you share it, especially as one person from an organisation coming in?

How do I take that and bring it home with me, and share it? But it's inspiring and that's the best thing about it.


Since January 2018, I’ve been excited to be exploring the option of the Social Enterprise World Forum returning to Australia, a call of which has received strong support from key leaders and organisations in the Australian social enterprise movement. I’ll look forward to continuing collaboration with Australia’s sector to make this a reality and welcome you to get in touch if you’d like to support our collective movement. Colleagues from this year’s Australian delegation, many of whom are (or will be) featured on Impact Boom are simply amazing and I look forward to working with you all.

Within Australia, I’m looking forward to helping drive and support a conversation and action around a national social enterprise strategy, and building on conversations which took place at the forum.

I’d like to thank the Yunus Social Business Centre, Griffith University for their support during my role as Social Entrepreneur in Residence, fellow Board Members and friends at the Queensland Social Enterprise Council, Logan Social Enterprise Network, Sunshine Coast Social Enterprise Network, ImpaQt and the amazing alumni from our Elevate+ Social Enterprise Accelerator Program, supported by Brisbane City Council.

I’d also like to thank the Lord Mayor’s Trailblazer Grant, an initiative of Brisbane Marketing for assistance in attending the forum this year.


What were your key highlights from SEWF 2018? PLEASE add your COMMENTS BELOW.

Find interviews with speakers from SEwF 2018.