Reflections on SEWF 2013, by Allyson Hewitt

Allyson Hewitt at SEWF 2013

Now I may be a bit biased given that it was hosted in Canada, but I honestly believe this was the best Social Enterprise World Forum I have ever had the pleasure of attending. It built on the tradition of social enterprise, particularly recognizing the historical leadership of the UK, and moved us to think about the links between social enterprise and the broader social change imperative; a uniquely Canadian positioning.

The organizing team worked so hard, by design, to ensure inclusion. If you were just discovering the field of social enterprise you had the opportunity to learn the essentials from terrific leaders in the field through sessions such as Social Enterprise 101, which was offered in both English and French.

For those of us who have been around this game for some time, it was terrific to see the engagement of new players.

[box] I heard an Elder state this was the first conference of this type in his memory to have a stream and keynotes reflecting the experience of Indigenous peoples and the session on Rural Realities was critical especially given our increasing focus on urbanization as more and more of us move to cities.[/box]

Hewitt at SEWF 2
Allyson Hewitt and Trico Chairman, Wayne Chiu enjoying the SEWF Rodeo

It was also wonderful to see so many players in the corporate world join us.  In one of the sessions I attended on Corporate Social Innovation the attendees were lined up along the sides of the walls and out the door.  We often talk about the fact that social change requires multi-stakeholder engagement but we spend a lot of time talking to ourselves and those that agree with us.  With this conference we have broken down many of these silos and in our wake there is some discomfort as we transition to this broader, more inclusive, approach to social change.

One area where those silos are blurring is in the field of social finance.  My colleagues in the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing worked with the Trico Foundation to bring our extremely popular Social Finance Forum to Alberta. Started in 2007 under the visionary leadership of Tim Draimin, Tim Brodhead and Bill Young, among others, we were able to engage Sir Ronald Cohen in our work in Canada, which was fledgling at the time, and to keep him engaged in that work as we go forward.  It was terrific to welcome him back to Canada – via Skype – and to have him share his deep knowledge and unique perspective with the corporate, political and social enterprise leaders at this pre-conference event.

[box] The event welcomed all three levels of government and given the state of our federation in Canada this is virtually unprecedented.[/box]

This monumental task was achieved in part due to the leadership of the Government of Alberta who organized a pre-conference session with other political and bureaucratic staff from across the country. I am especially appreciative of the efforts of Dr. Eric Hoskins from the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment in Ontario and Minister Jason Kenney of Employment and Social Development Canada for taking so much time out of their intense schedules to join us. Obviously the issues we discussed are resonating in political circles.

On a personal level and because I am privileged to attend so many of these events, I rarely expect to learn anything new. However I, along with many other seasoned practitioners, walked away inspired by the wisdom of everyone from Al Etmanski and Mary Gordon to llse Treurnicht (more bias), the Honourable Paul Martin and Pamela Hartigan.  Consistently they recognized a place for us all in this movement.  They talked about the role of social entrepreneurs at the systems level, disruptive, bridging and receptive innovators and “entrepreneuring”. They challenged our complacency, they offered hope, they offered a way forward… and that is well worth the price of admission.

To everyone on the organizing committee in general and to the remarkable leadership of Wayne Chiu and Daniel Overall of the Trico Foundation, congratulations on a job well done – and as for the rodeo – well my friend that was the proverbial tasty icing on the well baked cake. Yahoo!

Allyson Hewitt, Director, Social Innovation Generation (SiG)@MaRS

Allyson Hewitt


Allyson Hewitt is the Director of Social Innovation Generation (SiG)@MaRS. In this capacity she supports social entrepreneurs and builds the capacity for social innovation to flourish. She has helped establish the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, the MaRS Solutions Lab and the Youth Social Impact Academy.


As the Executive Director of Safe Kids Canada, she was a passionate advocate for children; and at Community Information Toronto she launched her own social innovation, 211, three-digit access to human service information for which received the Head of the Public Service Award.


A sought after mentor, public speaker and social venture advisor, Allyson has been leading and volunteering in non-profits for over 25 years. Her education is in Criminology, Law, Public Affairs, Voluntary Sector Management and Leading Change.



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.

  • Categories

  • Archives