Global good, profit, partnership and movie stars – it’s the Social Enterprise World Forum


Scotland's former cabinet secretary for communities Angela Constance addressing the Social Enterprise World Forum 2017 in New Zealand

Global good, profit, partnership and movie stars will be on the agenda at this year's Social Enterprise World Forum in Edinburgh in September

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28th June 2018 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

A decade ago when social enterprise was still a niche term barely known beyond the world of the community and voluntary sectors, Edinburgh hosted the first Social Enterprise World Forum. Since then, thanks to organisations like Social Bite, social enterprise has captured the public’s imagination so firmly that this year’s world forum will entice social entrepreneurs from across the globe, mainstream business people, politicians, and even a Holywood movie star to Scotland's capital.

Bringing the event back to Scotland in September reflects this country's position as a world-leader in social enterprise. The 2017 census of the sector found 5,600 organisations from reuse and recycling bodies like Edinburgh Remakery to Glasgow’s Freedom Bakery, Callander Youth Project’s youth hostel, Aberdeen Foyer graphics and design company, and Cope’s Orkney Soap.

The Social Enterprise World Forum is providing an opportunity for all of these organisations to showcase their work, sell products, and network with people from around the world, learning from the best.

Chris Martin

Chris Martin

I can’t believe it’s on our doorstep now, one of the biggest gatherings of social enterprise that has ever taken place will be just down the road in Edinburgh. We’re really excited about that.

An impressive array of speakers, including film star and Social Enterprise UK patron Michael Sheen, will share their stories about building up social businesses in different environments with different funding and development challenges.

Chris Martin of Callander Youth Project (CYP) was at the world from in Christchurch, New Zealand last year and Hong Kong the year before. He has discovered how useful it is to connect with people from other countries doing similar work.

He said: “I was lucky enough to go to Christchurch last year and Hong Kong the year before to take part in the Social Enterprise World Forum. Some of the learning I got from that, as well as the networking, was invaluable. I can’t believe it’s on our doorstep now, one of the biggest gatherings of social enterprise that has ever taken place will be just down the road in Edinburgh. We’re really excited about that.”

Martin met Mike Curtin, who runs DC Central Kitchen in Washington, in Hong Kong and the two organisations have since developed a strong relationship which this year saw two young people from CYP visiting DC Central Kitchen.

Chris said: “We both work with hard to reach groups. He works heavily with ex-offenders but we’re more rural isolation and mental health issues.

“For me, it was about scale. Mike took the organisation from somewhere very similar to where we are, just under £500,000 annual turnover, to $70 million.

“They were delivering healthy school meals in their area, and the local authority decided to start paying for this service. They put it out to tender and DC Kitchen won the tender and went from $500,000 to $3m overnight. So, that helped them scale up and develop the business.”

Curtin is returning to the world forum in Edinburgh this year and will be taking the opportunity to visit CYP. The organisation is hosting a study tour including a champagne reception on Sir Walter Scott’s steamship, also a local social enterprise, and a visit to Doune Castle with six actors from Outlander, sourced through the Clanranald Trust. CYP young people are event managing the whole thing, including a black tie dinner with a surprise speaker.

Talking about coming to this year’s forum in Edinburgh, Curtin said: "I think we all want something bigger, we all want to be part of something that makes a difference and literally changes the world; if we didn’t, we certainly would not be in this business. Surrounded by these impressive men and women from around the world, I truly feel part of something way bigger than myself and DC Central Kitchen.

“I hope many others will join us this year to mark the 10th anniversary of the forum but also to celebrate the amazing work that is happening around the world to make our shared communities better, fairer, more welcoming, and more inclusive for everyone.”

Community Enterprise in Scotland (CEIS) was one of the original forces behind the creation of the world forum and the first host ten years ago.

Taking on the role of host again this year, it is keen to encourage a range of different social enterprises, traditional community groups and charities to attend.

In order to do that it has bursaries available for Scottish organisations with an income of less than £200,000 and under 10 employees.

Gerry Higgins, chief executive of CEIS, said: “SEWF delegates tell us that they return from the event with new ideas and approaches that make them more effective and more efficient at work. Some of the learning comes from the sessions featuring a wide range of experts, including speakers from small and community based organisations and new-starts.

“However, much value comes from networking as SEWF offers many opportunities to meet prospective customers, suppliers, or peers who experience similar challenges and issues whether based in Scotland or on another continent.”

The three-day Social Enterprise World Forum will take place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre from 12 to 14 September and a range of study tours around Scotland will take place in the surrounding days.

To find out more about buying tickets, getting an exhibition stand, or applying for a bursary visit

Top speakers on Wednesday 12 September

Global good, profit, partnership and movie stars – it’s the Social Enterprise World Forum

Michael Sheen, Social Enterprise UK patron and actor
Actor and community campaigner Michael Sheen will deliver the keynote address on the opening day of the forum. Sheen, who is also President of the Welsh Council for Voluntary Action, campaigns on a range of issues including fair and accessible finance. He set up the End High Cost Credit campaign.

Karen Chinkwita, Jubilee Enterprises
Karen Chinkwita is the co-founder of Jubilee Enterprise, a local social enterprise and the first Malawian youth-focused business development service provider. She is also the youngest director of the Malawi Scotland Partnership board. She will chair a session with Mike Curtin from DC Central Kitchen, David Duke from Street Soccer Scotland and Helianti Hilman from JAVARA in Indonesia. They will discuss overcoming challenges to change lives. 

Top speakers on Thursday 13 September

Global good, profit, partnership and movie stars – it’s the Social Enterprise World Forum

Ailsa Clark, Inspiralba
Inspiralba was set up in 2009 to deliver development and management support to social enterprises across Argyll and Bute. The range and diversity of social enterprise in the rural and island community delivers significant social impact. Ailsa Clark will join a plenary session on the role of social enterprises in the rural economy alongside colleagues from Australia and Canada.

Karen Lynch, Belu Water
Belu Water is one of the UK’s biggest social enterprise success stories. Its revenue comes 100% from trading but its asset lock means all the profits must go to benefit those in water poverty. Last year, Belu Water generated £800,000 net profit which was passed on to Water Aid, taking total donations since 2011 up to £3m. Its chief executive Karen Lynch will join colleagues from Scotland and the USA to discuss the use of data to build brand credibility.

Top speakers on 14 September

Global good, profit, partnership and movie stars – it’s the Social Enterprise World Forum

Ben Gleisner, Conscious Consumers
Ben is an economist, environmentalist and social entrepreneur who has founded several businesses and charities, and worked for six years at the New Zealand Treasury. Ben co-founded Conscious Consumers while working at the Treasury, and has grown the social enterprise to a thriving New Zealand movement with over 20,000 consumer members, 550 retail stores and 150 suppliers. He will lead a master class on using data to drive business.

Lucy Fraser, Albyn Housing Society
Head of Innovation for Albyn Housing Society and co-founder of the FitHome model, Lucy believes that “we’re all technology companies now” and is a proponent of social led technology innovation. The FitHome project focuses on developing a model of housing, incorporating as standard, innovative technology using machine learning and predictive analytics, to enable people to remain safely in their homes. She will contribute to a workshop on innovations in health.