The Social Enterprise World Forum 2018 was held in Edinburgh 12-14. September. Social Entrepreneurs in Denmark (SED) participated for the first time, and here are a couple of impressions from the conference.


By Per Bach, Social Entrepreneurs in Denmark


International cooperation is important if social enterprises are to grow as a field and create greater positive change and effect. Therefore, SED tries to make a small contribution to raising awareness in Denmark of the great and very exciting work that takes place internationally in the field. That’s why we also have a priority to participate in SEWF this year.


The Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) was held this year for 11th time in beautiful surroundings in Edinburgh, Scotland.
More than 1400 delegates from 47 countries participated in the conference – approx. Half of the participants came from countries outside Britain, so it’s really an international conference, where lots of knowledge and best practices are examples of social-economic business models. The conference is a great opportunity to network and connect with like-minded and international collaborators.


Overall, SEWF is a huge setup that requires great planning, and is only possible through major collaborators and sponsors like PwC, SAP, British Council and Johnson & Johnson.


The conference itself was a cornerstone of presentations and debates in Plemum, workshops and discussion sessions and Masterclasses on various topics about social economy companies.

At the same time there was a display area of ​​40 exhibitors, among them the conference’s sponsors who used the opportunity to show how they cooperate with social enterprises. In regard to PwC and Johnson & Johnson, they commit to buy from social economy companies and bring them into the supply chain. Both companies, together with a number of other large companies, have entered into a “Buy Social Corporate Challange”  agreement to collectively purchase £ 1 billion by social enterprises by 2020.

In regard to SAP, the company has agreed to be the main sponsor and collaborator with SEWF for the next 3 years, offering a free so-called Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) for social entrepreneurs. The course is offered from January 2019, but you can already sign up for the link here


In addition to the conference itself, a number of additional activities have been held in connection with SEWF this year:


Academic conference
The conference focused on the impact the academic world has on the development of social enterprises. It was held at New Caledonia University in Glasgow and had about 100 participants.


Zero Waste & Zero Carbon Symposium 

For last year’s SEWF in New Zealand, it became apparent that many social economy companies work with different types of environmental issues. At the same time, there is a great need to do something active in the environment to change business as usual. At the same time, it is clear that if we are to create a CO2 neutral and waste-free society, social-economic companies need to work with each other and with local authorities. Therefore, a special conference was held for the social economy companies

For this conference, 40 representatives from local authorities participated, companies working best practice models and global solutions.


Young Talents Program

With PwC as a sponsor, SEWF has been able to offer young people between 16-24 in a 5 day Young Talent Program.

The program ran 10.-14. September with workshops and social activities as well as participation in SEWF debates. 100 young people who are employed or otherwise involved in social economy companies have the opportunity to participate in the program. The young people are primarily from Scotland and the rest of Britain, but there have also been single places for young people from other parts of the world. Both SEWF and PwC acknowledge the importance of involving young people in the development of social enterprises. The youngsters have also been really engaged and, moreover, very good at provoking and challenging the otherwise elderly participants in SEWF.


Study tours 

The days were held for conference hiring tours to social economy companies in English and Scottish cities.


The most noteworthy of the conference were the many amazing and fascinating examples of successful social economy companies.


Day 1
Before the official opening of Social Enterprise World Forum 2018 I joined one of the Masterclasses that ran under the Young Talent program. The Social Enterprises Institute from Canada had sponsored this and the 4 other Masterclasses held under SEWF18.
At the Masterclass you could hear Kelly Andrews, who gave up a promising professional football career to stared Vi-Abillity. She has, among other things, played on the national team for Wales and at club teams for Arsenal and Liverpool. The Vi-Ability Educational Program works with young vulnerable people to help smaller football clubs who have financial problems. They help clubs with competence and business development to become sustainable and thriving community gathering places. In the process young people also develop their skills and strengthen their opportunities to get a job later on. This happens through the More Than a Club program.
Read more about Vi-Abillity at: and about the More Than a Club program at:
Kelly is a real entrepreneur, so now she has pulled out of Vi-Ability to form yet another social enterprise The Goodwash Company, for which she is currently the director. The Goodwash Company sells high quality natural shampoo and care products. The company donates 100% of the profits to local projects in Wales, which can improve people’s lives and increase animal welfare. Read more about Good Wash Compay at:


Andres Morales is co-founder and CEO of Minca Ventures Ltd and Living in Minca, and also caries a doctoral degree in social entrepreneurship and social enterprises. He has  a substantial international experience, from work as a researcher and consultant in more than 40 countries. In addition to his empirical work, Andres has published several research works, including journals and books. He has also designed and conducted a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on social enterprises, that has had more than 40,000 participants in 180 countries. Read more about Minca Ventures Ltd and Living in Minca at:


Alastair Wilson is the managing Director of the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE). Each year SSE helps  more than 1,000 people learn how to transform their communities and help people in need. SSE´s activities is carried out through 11 local departments in Great Britain, India and Canada. SSE runs courses that equip social entrepreneurs and social enterprises with the skills and network needed to create lasting change. And SSE also helps them to get food and guidance.
Alastair has also been involved in creating Match Trading, a new form of grant funds.
He was originally involved in the SSE, as a student at the very first team of social entrepreneurs, which SSE had back in 1997 in London.
More about SSE at



The Forum opened with Scottish Pipebag music followed by the sessionssion ”The Best of Social Enterprise: Overcoming Challenges, Changing Lives,” that three exciting examples of social enterprises.

Mike Curtin, director of DC Central Kitchen in the United States, told about the company, which is the first and leading public kitchen in the United States.
The company combats hunger in a different way by training unemployed adults into a career in cooking and then employing more of them to prepare the 3 million meals that the company supplies to homeless camps, schools and nonprofit organizations each year.

DC Central Kitchen also prevents waste of millions of kilos of nutritious food, extending access to healthy, local food in urban areas that have poor access to healthy foods. The company also works for its model nationwide through strategic partnerships with colleges and universities. In 2017, DC Central Kitchen traded for $ 9 million. Mike Curtin has received more awards for his work for DC Central Kitchen

Read more about DC Central Kitchen at:


Helianti Hilman told about the company Javara. Helianti is an original lawyer and adviser to the Indonesian government regarding international development. JAVARA is one of Indonesia’s leading craftsmen. The company works across agricultural value chains from production to distribution to maintain biodiversity and bring organic products from Indonesian communities to a wider market. By doing this, the company helps farmers grow up in the value chain and get it an income that can help them out of poverty.

Read more about Javara at:


David Duke, the founder and director of Street Soccer Scotland, told the company to use football to create positive social change for socially vulnerable adults and adolescents. Davis has also recently launched Change Center Scotland, a new social economy company that aims to remedy homelessness by creating centers for personal development and training in managing themselves. David has received more awards for his work, including The Sunday Times Change Maker of the Year and in 2016 and as CNN Hero.

Read more about Street Soccer Scotland at:


Livestream from the opening ceremony and afternoon session “The Best of Social Enterprise: Overcoming Challenges, Changing can be seen on the link here 


Later in the afternoon on the forst day of the Forum, the plenary session “Raising Social Enterprise Awareness to the Next Level” discussed how the social economy sector can create initiatives that raises awareness of social enterprises, so we can reach the public and have more impact.
Host of the session was Karen Lynch from Belu Water, who mentioned that Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) has launched the Buy Social campaign, which focuses annually on the products that social economy companies sell and how consumers can make a difference by purchasing from social economy companies.
SEUK is also behind the Buy Social Corporate Challenge, where a group of large traditional companies collectively is committed to buying in a billion pounds (8.3 million) at social economy companies by 2020. It is the world’s first program of its kind and includes companies like Amey, Johnson & Johnson, PwC, Robertson Group, Santander, Wates Group and Zurich, as well as Linklaters, Mace and BP.


Presentations were given by:
Amanda Kiessel from Good Market in Sri Lanka
Ben Gleisner from Concious Consumers in New Zealand
Karen Yu of the Legislative Yuan on Taiwan
David LePage from Accelerating Social Impact.
David is also chairman of SEWF.


The late afternoon session “Raising Social Enterprise Awareness to the Next Level” can be seen on the link here


Day 2
In the morning of second day of the Forum there was truly exciting plenary session, “Corporate Social Challenges – a new era of commercial / social collaboration”, where you could hear from the purchasers at Johnson & Johnson and PwC, who both gave tips on how social business can do more to get traditional businesses as customers.
Among some of the main points was the lack of large social enterprises, who are able to offer a stabel delivery and in size and amounts that the large traditional companies need. At the same time, the purchasing managers emphasized that it is important that, as a social enterprise, you adress the social value basis and the CSR strategy of the traditional business you want to sell to and then adjust to it.


A very interesting remark came from Phillip Ullmann, the “Cheef Energizer” at Cordant Group, who told why Cordant was transformed into a social enterprise last year.
Cordant is England’s second largest recruitment agency with 120,000 employees and a turnover of £ 850 million (7.1 billion). The company is England’s largest social enterprise. In connection with the transition to social economy business, Cordant Group, a family-owned company, has locked the amount of surplus that can be paid to shareholders at a fixed maximum amount annually. Also the salary of chief executives  has been locked, so it can not exceed 20 times the amount of the lowest paid worker in the company. (if the lowest-paid, for example, earns 50,000 pounds, the director can earn a maximum of 1 million pounds). After the transition, Phillip Ullmann has experienced a huge interest in hearing about Cordant’s experience. He has held a series of presentations and participated in several debates over the past year. He also hopes that Cordant’s example can inspire other businesses to do the same. As he said: “…if companies are not ethically involved and contribute to society and help improve it, what do we need them for?”.
A remarkable remark from Phillip Ullmann was also. “You do not have to be big to create impact and change the world – if you can change a life for the better, you have changed the world!”


In the second morning session, “The best of social enterprise – overcoming challenges, changing lives”, two exciting examples of social enterprises from Ethiopiawere presented.
Kibret Abebe, director of the social enterprises Tebita Ambulance, told about the company, which is Ethiopia’s first ambulance service and resident in Addis Ababa. There is an acute lack of ambulances and knowledge of first aid in Ethiopia, which means that many people, who suffer after serious traffic accidents do not survive or experience long-term adverse effects. This is why Kibret sold his house and started Tebita Ambulances in 2008.
The company, which currently has 13 ambulances, has treated more than 65,000 people and trained 45,000 in basic first aid. At the same time, the company helps to create employment for a lot of people in Ethiopia.
Read more about Tebita Ambulances: at


After that Bruktawit Tigabu told about the two initiatives she is founder and leader of – Whiz Kids and Tibeb Girls. Bruktawit started Ethiopia’s first educational television program for school students -Whiz Kids Workshop together with her husband in 2005 (WKW). In addition to the television program, Brukty has developed three TV series for young people with educational purposes: “Little Investigators” a science-focused series and “Involve Me”, which is the reality series of one-minute creative short film created by underprivileged youngsters. It is the first of its kind, and it helps to give children a voice. “Tibeb Girls” is a new animation series about three Ethiopian young superheroes, bringing the audience on a fun, imaginative and educational journey. The female heroes help young girls understand and solve the challenges and struggles, that they face every day. In this way Bruktawit tries to help children return to school and maintain their studdies.
Read more about the Whiz Kids Workshop at:
Read more about Tibeb Girls at:


See the whole plenary session “Corporate Social Challenges – a new era of commercial / social cooperation” and The best of social enterprise – overcoming challenges, changing lives here


“Non-traditional business models – rapid four-round focus on innovators and disruptors”
This plenary offered a number of exciting business models, all of which have been the first of their kind or unique in their economic sector.
The enterprises are not describe in detail here. But there are links to the individual companies below, so you can read more:


Alisdair Clements, INCH Architecture + Design (Scotland)
Marcia Nozick, EMBERS (Canada)
Jaison Hoernel, Good Cycles (Australia)
Darcy Wood, Aki Energy (Canada)
Karina Macleod, Senscot Legal (Scotland)
Dave Linton, Madlug (Northern Ireland)
Ayatam Simeneh, Beautiful Minds (Ethiopia)
Sebastian Rocca, Micro Rainbow International (UK)


I will mention one company though, Madlug, who sells bag packs through a “buy one give one model”.  There is about 90,000 children in care in Northern Ireland, and many of them have to move many times in a short period of time, often with their few belongings in a black plastic bag. To give the children back dignity and make the moving around easier, Madlug donates bag packs to them.
Madlug’s goal is to give 30,000 bagpacks for children in care in the summer of 2019.


“Using impact data to build brand credibility and sustainable growth”
This session delt with the importance of social enterprises having good data material and insight regarding their impact. It can make a big difference to their ability to develop the business part of the business.
Presentation were given by:
Karen Lynch, Belu Water (England)
Belu is an asset locked Social Enterprise, so the profits or sale of their business can only benefit those in water poverty. Yet it is very much a business, not a charity and 100% of their revenues come from trading alone.
Belu publishes an extensive impact report annually and uses in addition to hard facts in numbers (how many and how much) the company uses storytelling to describe their effect on humans.


Mick Jackson, WildHearts
WildHearts Group is a portfolio of companies that, through their activities and profits, create global social change. The organization has an office business and a company that handles documents for businesses. The profits from these companies are going to create positive changes in people’s lives locally and globally. The profits include to fund WildHeart’s Micro-Tyco program for young people is a month-long entrepreneurship program that provides the skills to experiment with starting and running a basic business in a safe ‘micro’ environment. To date, 45,000 young people in 25 countries have participated in the WildHearts Groups Micro-Tyco program. WildHearts Groups do much to describe their impact on the website and publish a comprehensive impact report.


I asked the panel if they reported on impact in relation to the SDG´s. WildHearts do report impact in relation to SDG´s and find it incredibly important to do just that, because they are so globally committed. While Belu concentrates on showing effect for Englishmen and here, Karen Lynch does not think that the SDG´s  are so commonly known that it makes sense for use them to describe the company’s impact.


Carrie McKellogg, REDF (USA) REDF (The Roberts Enterprise Development Fund) REDF is the only charitable organization in the United States, investing exclusively in social economy companies focused on employment. The organization advises and connects them, helping them measure their impact, so they can grow and serve more people.
The mission for REDF is clear: Creating jobs – for millions of people who can not get work because of homelessness, imprisonment, mental health issues, substance abuse or limited education.
REDF makes a great effort to communicating the impact of the organization, both through hard facts (numbers) and through storrytelling.


“Tech for good”

This plenary presented a number of exciting examples of social economy companies that create great social impact through technology: Howard Weinstein, Solar Ear (Canada)

Ray Coyle, Auticon (UK)

Nicole Geller, Digital Superheroes Academy (Thailand)

Carolina Andrade, Social Good Brazil


I especially think Solar Ear was an interesting example, the company allows people with hearing impairment in the Ulands to buy cheap hearing aids with solar powered batteries. Since it is often impossible to buy batteries for hearing aids in the outskirts of the Ulands, it is very difficult. There are approx. 600 million people with different types of hearing disorders in the world. Due. many of them live in the Ulands, so there is a great need to do something.


See the entire plenum discussion Tech for Good here


Day 3
“The collaborative economy and the future of business”
This plenary looked at how future companies would look like in a different economy, building more on cooperation.
The panel participants were:

Indy Johar from Dark Matter Labs.
He has among other things started several Impact Hubs for social economy companies in England.
Dai Powell, CEO of HCT Group, major English social economic transport company.

Jan Owen from the Foundation for Young Australians
Faraz Khan from Seed Ventures


Some of the points from this plenary were, that there has been a great development in the way we perceive business operations in the capitalist economy, and especially among young people, there is a significantly greater interest in how to add value to the community than how to extract value from the community.
This proves good for the development of future companies.
Jan Owen mentioned that there has been a great development in understanding the concept of “The Colaborative Economy”. When 10 years ago, participants in Davos asked what that meant, only 2% could answer the question. Today there are more than 20 different concepts and definitions describing the new economy – from Platform Economy, peer to peer economy, sharing economy, etc., etc.
The panel also mentioned that in relation to interest in investment, there has been a major change in recent years.
Indy Johar asked, if social enterprises are actually doing enough compared to the enormous problems facing our world now and the near future. According to him, the sector must collapse and increase the impact considerably. Among other things, he pointed out that there is a need for more large-scale social enterprises to increase the impact and also a need for a greater diversity of businesses in the field.
Dai Powell mentioned,  that HCT in recent years has received inquiries from a myriad of young people who want to make a difference (do good). And he also mentioned that one of the things social enterprises can do to create a more sustainable future is to take market share while driving their businesses ethically. It gives an impression of traditional companies and can make them change value sets. HCT has expanded its market share over recent years by purchasing two traditional companies and converting them to social enterprises.


This plenum offered many more exciting inputs, so it’s definitely worth watching the live stream from the plenary here



SEWF ended as it started with traditional Scottish bagpipe music. Then the hostship was passed on to next years host, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. In 2019 SEWF will take place from 23rd to 25th. October.

Read more about SEWF2019 at


About SEWF

SEWF was launched in 2008, with a conference in Edinburgh based on a desire to strengthen international cooperation between actors working with social enterprises and to learn from each other. Since 2008, the conference has been held in countries in all continents and returned to Edinburgh in 2018. Due to the impact the conference has had on the countries where the SEWF has been held, the organization has gone from just being organizer of a framework to hold the annual forum to also help catalyze the international development of social enterprises .

Read more about SEWF’s history at: