PEOPLE AND PLANET FIRST
Gabriele and Ivana participated in the 2022 edition of the Social Enterprise Open Camp, winning together with their team the challenge dedicated to case studies, working specifically on “Needs Map İhtiyaç Haritası”, a social enterprise located in Turkey. The prize was the participation at SEWF – Social Enterprise World Forum 2023, in Amsterdam.
What follows is a logbook kept by the two prizewinners to tell us about their experience.
With the motto “People and Planet First” the SEWF celebrates social entrepreneurship and its mission in Amsterdam.
The world of social entrepreneurs gathered in a vibrant celebration at the Social Enterprise World Forum on 11-12 October at the Kromhouthal, Amsterdam. The event brought together social enterprise leaders, changemakers, impact investors, policymakers and purpose-led people from across the globe under one roof, fostering an atmosphere of learning, networking, and exchanging best practices, visions and missions.
With a rich blend of insightful talks and interactive workshops, the Forum provided a unique platform to raise awareness of social enterprise as an expanding global mechanism for social change, but also to showcase, discuss, and celebrate the power of social enterprises in shaping a better future for the people and the planet. Indeed, in her inspiring talk, Chair of SEWF, Hélène Malandain, announced the launch of People and Planet First—a shared identity to unite millions of enterprises around the world.
The program was jam-packed with a wealth of content and great speakers from various fields who shared their experiences and insights on how close creativity, innovation, collaboration and vision can drive meaningful and long-lasting impact.
The key topics covered were:
- Ecosystems: Increasing opportunities for trade, teamwork and collective action
- Fairness: Ensuring equality and inclusion for all
- Migration: Entrepreneurial solutions for better lives
- New Economy: Putting people and planet first
- Planet: Living and trading within planetary boundaries.
With so many different panels, workshops, and short films being displayed, we had to choose which sessions to attend. Not an easy task!
The atmosphere at the SEWF was full of generative energy, enthusiasm and positivity. However, some speakers also pointed out that the world is in a critical phase of its evolution, with so many complex crises hitting people and the planet. The world of social entrepreneurship must be prepared for scenarios in which countries will likely fail to meet environmental targets, the middle class will suffer irremediably from the impact of automation and AI, and migration will increase globally. Social entrepreneurs, thus, must keep fighting the good fight but stay realistic about what is at stake.
Now, more than ever, they need to educate people, be honest about the challenges ahead, collaborate intensively, and develop new skills to manage a new level of complexity and daily disruption.
An interesting point of view concerning climate change, analyzed the reasons why we should give greater recognition to the role of rural communities, rural social enterprises and indigenous peoples, who own the skills and knowledge necessary to manage, for example, soil, water and natural resources. We were astonished, for example, discovering that the Aboriginal people of Australia have a positive view of the fire and actively use it to manage soil: they are able to reduce the risks of large fires thanks to specific knowledge of local ecosystems and limited and accurately controlled burning.
A very different, but equally contemporary topic that was brought into the discussions, was that of automation and AI. They are often considered as enemies, however they can have positive applications with inclusive societal effects. This is the case, for example, of an AI system capable of understanding how a person’s skills are interrelated and extrapolating from them a CV that socially disadvantaged people, such as refugees or those who cannot afford to acquire qualifications and certifications, can spend on the labour market.
An interesting example regarding technological impact was about teaching the use of mobile phones and financial knowledge to empower Nepalese and Indian women and help them build micro-businesses. By selling more sustainable devices and tools to the local community, those women can free themselves from precarious employment, increase their income and save for their children’s education while, at the same time, creating a healthier and cleaner environment for them and the people around them.
With many experts we have also discussed about the relationship between corporations and social startups. Startups, especially social ones, face common challenges such as securing financial resources and finding the right talent to fuel their growth. Although it is not uncommon for some companies to offer a range of opportunities and services for smaller and younger enterprises, most of the time social enterprises do not seek them out. There seems to be a lack in communication and in the reciprocal transmission of value that can be strengthened with networking and learning opportunities.
Another important reflection, that emerged from the presentations, is that investments are predominantly focused on exporting traditional products rather than building internal wealth: this can damage the local ability to develop new products and services. Therefore, foundations should promote a wider range of activities and help create a robust research core inside communities and countries.
Of course, social enterprises are made up of people. And so there was no shortage of workshops focusing on inclusive leadership, methods to improve collaboration by identifying and managing polarities, inner development goals, and the use of imagination, art, spirituality and emotions as tools to create solutions from standpoints that are original, yet also closer to the true essence of the humankind.
It’s up to us!
The Social Enterprise World Forum was more than just an event; it celebrated the power of human creativity, compassion, and collaboration. By bringing together individuals and organizations committed to making a difference, the Forum reaffirmed the belief that social enterprises are catalysts for social change and a sustainable future. They shall aim to turn the current system upside down with their work.
We hope we have managed to convey some of the spirit of the event and that its echoes will resonate with you, inspiring you to take action and drive positive change in your communities.
Ivana & Gabriele