Key Takeaways from the Social Enterprise World Forum, by Kristina Roberts

key-takeaways-150x150The Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) 2013 was an inspiring three-day conference held in Calgary that gathered the best and brightest in this space from around the world.

The social enterprise model challenges the way things have been done by traditional businesses and nonprofits. These hybrid organizations attempt to combine the best from each sector in order to create both profit and positive social impact. In essence, social entrepreneurship is all about thinking differently. SEWF challenged us to think differently as well. The team at JS Daw & Associates had four key takeaways from the conference, which are summarized below:

1) Developing solutions to wicked problems requires collaboration between diverse problem solvers.

Collaboration is the thread that ran throughout every session of the conference. We affirmed that through collaboration impact becomes possible.

We must redefine the ways in which we work together. A new example that was brought to our attention at the conference was “pre-competitive collaboration.” This approach involves getting into a room with your hyper competitors in order to create change in the system in which you all operate.

2) The tyranny of the “OR” is giving way to the power of the “AND.” Buckminster

Jim Collins and Jerry Porras introduced this concept in their book Built to Last. They described how being forced to choose between concepts that seem contradictory often leads to missed opportunities. Social entrepreneurship confirms that we do not have to choose. It doesn’t have to be low cost OR high quality, prosperity OR sustainability, purpose OR profit… It is possible to have both.

It’s not about selling a product just to make money, it’s about selling products that create net profit AND net good. For example, Steve Jobs lured John Scully away from Pepsi by asking: “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?”

For corporate social innovation to thrive, we must find ways to combine social value with shareholder value and make it impossible to separate the two.

3) There is a lot of potential and willingness for deeper Aboriginal engagement in social enterprise.

The Right Honourable Paul Martin (Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative) reminded us that entrepreneurship is a natural state of mind for Aboriginal people — it has been part of their history and culture for centuries. Aboriginal entrepreneurship just needs to be encouraged, and that is everyone’s responsibility.

An innovative example of an Aboriginal social enterprise was shared with us by Dr. Wanda Wuttunee. Neechi Foods is a community store in north Winnipeg, which is based around the principles of an Aboriginal owned and operated worker co-operative. The Neechi Commons is composed of a supermarket, a restaurant, a fruit and vegetable courtyard and an arts store.

4) Social entrepreneurs should think about scaling deep instead of scaling up. You don’t necessarily have to replicate your model, but knowledge that can make the world a better place must be shared. Al

Etmanski identified the three types of entrepreneurs required to create positive social change and take it to scale. The ‘disruptor’ innovates and comes up with the big idea; the ‘bridger’ translates the new idea to the rest of the world; and the ‘receptor’ embraces the change and then spreads the knowledge.

A unique aspect of SEWF was the “Collaboratorium.” This was a space that was created for people to engage in topics of interest and share their knowledge and opinions with others. We noticed that this space was always buzzing with activity throughout the three days of the conference. Check out this video from Pioneers Post TV which features interviews with some influential SEWF delegates and showcases some more of the conference highlights.

Kristina Roberts and JS Daw & Associates

Jocelyne Daw
Jocelyne Daw

Kristina Roberts is Research & Communications Advisor for JS Daw & Associates. Founded by Jocelyne Daw, JS Daw & Associates partners with leading organizations to design groundbreaking community strategies and partnerships that create shared value, attain mutual goals and help solve complex community challenges. Our clients include nonprofits, foundations, government, and companies that are pioneering true social innovation and sustainability. Our work changes behavior, advances policy, builds communities and transforms thinking.   We work to help shift clients beyond traditional models of community engagement, community investment, corporate social responsibility, branding, marketing, and fundraising. Using our “Impact Journey” process, JS Daw & Associates ensures that your outcomes are measurable and infused with purpose.


More About SEWF sewfThe Trico Charitable Foundation was honoured to host SEWF 2013. It made history in a number of ways – it was a first for Canada and attracted a record number of speakers and attendees (1,000 individuals from more than 30 countries and over 100 speakers from 20 countries) – but we are most proud of the quality of the discussions on Skills Building, Social Finance, Indigenous Social Enterprise, Collaboration, Policy and Research, and Social Innovation.   We would like to thank the following partners for making SEWF 2013 possible:


Organizing Partners:

Lead Sponsors:

Presenting Partners:

Supporting Partners:

Friends of SEWF:

Media Partners:

SEWF2014 web bannerEach year SEWF gives a different host country an incredible opportunity to celebrate and nurture its own social enterprise movement. The inaugural SEWF met in Edinburgh, Scotland. Since then it has been to Melbourne, Australia; San Francisco, U.S.A; Johannesburg, Africa; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Learn more about SEWF’s history here.   SEWF 2014 will be held in Seoul, Korea from October 12-16. Hosted by the Work Together Foundation, this significant international gathering has an ambitious agenda: “Social Change through Social Enterprise”. Learn more here.

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