Earlier this year I had the privilege of attending the Social Enterprise World Forum in Scotland. It was the tenth anniversary of this event, first held in Scotland in 2008. Since then it has been held around the world. This year there was a two-day Academic Symposium in Glasgow preceding the main event in Edinburgh. I attended both. The Academic Symposium had 100 delegates from around the world and the World Forum had 1200 attendees from almost every country on the planet! The forum was an opportunity to network, share stories, learn, reflect on the last ten years of social enterprise development and look towards the future of this movement and its role in addressing the complex challenges we as a world collectively face.
I was particularly interested in learning how other parts of the world utilize social enterprise in community economic development specifically in rural areas, similar to Northern Ontario. I was inspired and learned a lot but want to share three key takeaways. In Scotland they actively invest in and support the commons and community ownership, including co-operatives. This is backed by both policy and capital from the Scottish Government and implemented by economic development organizations similar to our Community Futures Development Corporations. Check out the Highlands and Islands Enterprise webpage at www.hie.co.uk to read about some of the interesting work they have done in rural Scotland.
There is a growing interest in hybrid social enterprises and their contribution to social impact. We, as a society are facing social, political, and environmental upheaval. The list of issues that need to be addressed is long and the window of opportunity is diminishing. Making the impact is what is important and getting mired in precise definitions, entrepreneurial stages and legal forms can limit potential positive change. Hybrid social enterprises are ignoring traditional start up phases and definitions and making an impact. One example is private entrepreneurs starting social enterprises and then training the community to take them over. This model is gaining momentum particularly in rural areas around the globe.
And lastly, for your 2019 reading list I encourage everyone to read Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics. This book was widely cited during the Academic Symposium and it presents an alternative economic model that would allow all of us, (other species and ecosystems included), sharing this beautiful planet to thrive while living within the carrying capacity of the earth.
I encourage anyone with an interest in social entrepreneurship to attend the Social Enterprise World Forum. You will come away inspired. The forum will be in Ethiopia in 2019 but rumour has it that it could be coming to Canada in 2020!