Live from the Social Enterprise World Forum — Melbourne 2009

I’m writing from the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) 2009 in Melbourne right after the opening ceremony on Tuesday 6th October.

I arrived late Monday evening (5th Oct) having travelled for about 24 hours via Heathrow and Bangkok.

I was very lucky to meet Gerry Higgins (CEO of CEiS) at the airport, along with his party of 20 people on a study tour of Australia, part-funded by the Scottish Government. I am impressed by the vision of these study trips which Gerry has been running for the past 3 years. He brings together key individuals from social enterprises, trading VCOs, infrastructure organisations, banking and the public sector for two weeks and of course they are experiencing new and exciting social enterprises, cultures and travelling together. The great by-product being real understanding of how one another’s sectors work and superb networking. It’s a great aspiration of mine to get together a similar trip from the West Midlands — it can only be good — maybe we can get AWM to fund this?

SEWF is the first event of its kind to take place in the pacific region and it will build on the success of the inaugural conference held in Scotland last year. Leaders and champions from the USA, Asia, Europe, Canada, Africa, New Zealand, UK and Australia are all attending.

In Australia they aim for the conference to act as a catalyst raising awareness of social enterprise and for growing the sector there. There are about 400 people here, from all countries – it’s sold out!

The opening ceremony was amazing — we were inviting to a ‘smoking ceremony’ at the Parliament House of Victoria which was led by Aunty Joy Wandid Murphy the leader of the indigenous population whose land Melbourne is built on. The smoking part involved burning damp leaves and it is symbolic of starting afresh and rebirth. There was dancing and music from the didgeridoo and face painting with traditional markings. I was lucky enough to get yellow paint smeared down my face – I felt very honoured. The aboriginal people were charming and very welcoming.

The session was opened by a whole range of speeches from dignitaries including a minister and a local politician and of course words from the host agencies (Social Traders and Social Ventures Australia).

The programme looks great and I now can’t wait for today when the input starts!

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

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