Social Enterprise World Forum 2019 makes history — first SEWF to be held in a developing economy

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: 23rd – 25th October 2019

The Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) is the leading forum for international exchange and collaboration in social entrepreneurship and social investment. And this year, it is making history — SEWF enters its second decade and for the first time is being held in a developing economy. The annual event was first held in Edinburgh in 2008 and has since been held on six continents.

The success of the event in galvanising the global movement of social enterprise has helped make it the sector’s primary creative focus for sharing learning, ideas and good practice. This year the conference is hosted by the British Council. Holding it in 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.

Sarah Crawley — live news and views from SEWF 2019, Ethiopia

And as in previous years, Sarah Crawley is on the spot, sending us live news and views of SEWF as it happens. Thank you, Sarah! She has just sent us the following…

*  *  *  *  *  *

Hello everyone, I’m back at the social enterprise world forum being held this year in Ethiopia in the capital Addis Ababa 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. 

Then I went to 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. 

And then I 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.

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.

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 a developing country 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

Coffee beans being roasted by hand over a charcoal fire, Ethiopia

Addis Ababa — the view from Sarah’s hotel room

View conference programme — Day 1

View conference programme — Day 2

View conference programme — Day 3

Over 200 speakers — see them all here

See iSE news for a slightly longer version of this post

Birmingham UK. Freelance research, evaluation and policy consultant specialising in social enterprise and the third sector. I maintain the BSSEC blog and website

Leave a Reply