Key Takeaways from the Social Enterprise World Forum

By Kristina Roberts

key takeaways

key takeaways

The 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.

    1. 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.

obsolete model

obsolete model

2) The tyranny of the “OR” is giving way to the power of the “AND.” 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. (Watch for a major announcement from JS Daw & Associates about creating shared value in an upcoming blog post.)

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. TheNeechi 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.

    1. 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.What were some SEWF highlights for you? Share your key takeaways with us!