Well it really has been an amazing start and I hope the next two days are as good as Wednesday was!
Scottish musicians and especially drummers formally opened the Forum bringing the 1400 people together from 45 nations. To give an idea of other countries’ commitment to social enterprise there are over 140 people here from Canada, over 60 from New Zealand and 150 from Taiwan! Quite impressive and in fact 53% of the delegates are international.
There were three plenary sessions yesterday following the opening speeches from politicians and one completely stole the show. Work has been going on in Scottish schools to help young people experience social enterprise. This presentation was awesome and covered two examples that both started with the issues young people themselves wanted to address — one from a primary school and the other from a secondary school. Both understood that they needed to trade if they were to solve the problem and d this in way that would make their efforts sustainable.
The primary school took as their issue family integration. It is a multicultural school with many nationalities represented: often the language spoken at home is not English (or Scottish!). This group started a café and baking session on Friday afternoons in the school and raised money for family activities. This has led on to additional intergenerational work.
The other idea involves reducing plastic waste and is very clever — and this, by the way, came about as a result of the young people themselves steering, not the adults!
This group identified that there needed to be water points around Edinburgh to reduce waste from plastic water bottles and their business raised money to develop a map of water bottle refill points with signage. This work continues and is growing.
I think these young people can teach us all something.
It would be good replicate some of this work in Birmingham and work with young people so they can solve their own issues using social enterprise.
Other sessions yesterday covered inspirational social enterprises. An amazing one from Indonesia where they have worked to establish a more effective marketplace for over 900 indigenous farmers, supporting their businesses and growing their income to encourage young people to remain in farming. Across Asia young people are moving to cities for work and 1 million farms are being lost a year. This woman is doing amazing work!
My final highlight was my invitation to Edinburgh Castle to the welcome session by Nicola Sturgeon. The real understanding by Scottish politicians of social enterprise, its role in the economy, community and regeneration, is really impressive.
For those who are interested and who like me have never been to Edinburgh Castle, I was really surprised at how high and how very steep its location is — definitely built to stop invaders!
Signing off —