Further to my earlier post, greetings from a rather chilly Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Social Enterprise World Forum 2017. A great start today, but the weather is cold and I shall definitely wear warmer clothes tomorrow.
When attending conferences, I always wonder how they will start the event. Will they get the context right? Will it be heavy-going with political speeches which need strategic ‘buy in’ and future resources in order to become a reality? Or will it just be a very local context which loses the international participants and makes them wonder why they attended?
Wonderful news! – none of those happened today. I have the most fantastic video I took of Maori children welcoming us with tribal chants and dance much as we are used to seeing when New Zealand sports people greet their local opponents. It was amazing, very powerful and certainly caught your attention.
This was followed by the story of how Christchurch has started the process of rebuilding itself and how this has provided a platform for social enterprise to be part of this process. They spoke about community development meeting economic development and manged to get onto national news!
And then the conversations began… Today was mostly about confirming the shared values across the diverse sector (and around the world!) that is social enterprise. Common themes were place-based social enterprise development, innovation, empowerment, quality and learning.
The most interesting conversations were in the corridors, with social entrepreneurs tackling hugely varying issues, such as rural regeneration in Myanmar through clothing production and design, building cotton-growing capacity and offering 15,000 farmers a more stable and diversified income base.
Or another concerning developing a customer relationship with corporates rather than seeking CSR.
Another theme quite frequently heard was the challenges facing infrastructure and support organisations as governments everywhere it seems reduce funding for such services– but that’s probably because I am naturally attracted to organisations similar to ISE and want to learn as much as I can about different approaches.
I met a Sydney social entrepreneur who runs a training kitchen to create ethnically diverse food by building on the skills base of refugees, while using the kitchen to train the students in English and the norms of Australia with a view to building social cohesion. The products sold offer a wage for the students and links into Australian society… Could this be a radical approach through USE-it for hospital catering or a pop-up café in Birmingham?
The conversations continue this evening and I am all prepared for my workshops and plenary session tomorrow. Wish me luck!
Sarah Crawley, iSE