iSE | Social Enterprise World Forum Day Four

Day Four of the Social Enterprise World Forum and iSE’s CEO Sarah Crawley shares her experiences so far…

The conference has further picked up pace today with themes such as social enterprise growth, social franchising, partnership working for growth, and money (soft money i.e. grants and impact investing) being discussed.

It’s been fascinating, and hearing about social enterprises effectively addressing large scale social and environmental issues has been particularly impressive. I have been finding out about businesses addressing period poverty by making and selling affordable sanitary towels as a franchise, toilets that reuse human waste as fertiliser, and the rental of solar lights to enable people to work and live at night without having to use kerosene.

I want to share with you an amazing debate between Ndidi Nwuneli (a woman who has scaled many social enterprises) and Harish Hande (a renewable energy social entrepreneur).

The topic was ‘small is beautiful or bigger is better’. The speakers came from contrasting perspectives. One took the view that when a social enterprise business gets to scale it becomes less democratic. Conversely, the other took the view that scale is beautiful and enables social businesses to have impact. One queried whether scale really means impact: surely poor people should be empowered to develop their own solutions rather than being ‘done to’.

Ndidi made some great points about scaling-up which I think can be helpful to social enterprises everywhere. Social businesses, she said, should:

- Be demand driven
-Engage with the community
-Measure their impact
-Be simple
-Have low costs

Opinions were mixed and when it came to a vote and the audience was split 50:50 — but it was a really great conversation.

Last day tomorrow…