iSE | Updates from the Social Enterprise World Forum 2019

 Social Enterprise World Forum

The Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) is a key event in the social enterprise calendar, aiming to advance social enterprise development globally.

Past events have taken place all over the world – South Africa, Hong Kong and Christchurch to name but a few – and this year’s international exchange in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is even more monumental as for the first time in SEWF history, it’s being held in a developing economy.

With the theme of ‘Local Traditions, Fresh Perspectives’, Ethiopia provides a unique opportunity to create a truly global social enterprise movement that can share experience, build networks and deliver solutions for a more inclusive and sustainable future for all.

As a finalist of the Social Enterprise UK Women in Social Enterprise Award, iSE’s CEO Sarah Crawley was lucky enough to receive a British Council bursary to attend, and in true iSE SEWF tradition, Sarah will be sharing her experiences live from the capital.

SEWF 2019 Day 1

Hello everyone, I’m back at the Social Enterprise World Forum and it really wouldn’t be a world forum if I didn’t share some of my experiences with you!

It’s amazing to be here. The daytime weather is lovely, with temperatures of up to 24 degrees but it’s much cooler at night. The altitude is high at 2400 feet — we are in the foothills of Mount Entoto which can give you interesting sensations (slightly giddy!) but which also helps keep the temperatures pleasant.

Addis Ababa is extremely busy, huge amounts of construction, new roads and very tall buildings combined with a crazy traffic system where I just can’t work out who has right of way but everyone seems to negotiate their way through trouble!

This year I decided that I wanted to join a couple of the study tours of social enterprises before the conference starts on Wednesday and today was Tour One.

The visits today covered two different women-focused social enterprises, both supporting disadvantaged women, some with HIV. First I went to Shega Crafts, which enables a network of women’s craft and producer co-operatives to link their traditional products with available markets.

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The next stop on the tour was Entoto Beth Artisans, a women’s craft enterprise creating custom jewellery from recycled materials. Located on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, the community on Entoto Mountain is around 5,000 people, about half of whom are affected by HIV/AIDS. The aim of both of these enterprises is to help women who are living with HIV/AIDS restore their lives and create economic and social opportunities and a regular income.

We then visited Selam Children’s Village, a fascinating organisation that provides community homes for orphaned children using social enterprise activity to generate 40% of the income that supports its care, education, youth training, economic empowerment and elderly care programmes.

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Cows provide the orphan children with milk everyday with enough left over to sell in the local community.

All of these organisations are doing extraordinary work in the hardest of conditions, creating tremendous social value and building on cultural traditions to earn income from their social enterprise activities.

A personal highlight has been being part of a coffee ceremony, very important in Ethiopia and a real privilege for me. The photo below shows the coffee beans being roasted over charcoal, they are then ground, coffee is made and then poured from a great height we were able to sample its deliciousness. Coffee is a big deal here and I now know why.

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What did I learn today? I learnt that without social enterprises people and children facing life-changing issues would have no chance to change their lives, learn new skills and have opportunities to be happy. I learnt that Addis Ababa is a crazy mix of old and new with a city that includes the extremes of a rich culture, poverty, huge economic growth and traditional ways of doing things. I think this will be an unforgettable week.

Best wishes to all,  Sarah

Find out more about the SEWF 2019 programme and see more live updates on the BSSEC blog here