Social Enterprise World Conference 2022 Our Insights, a Missing Link and being Greedy for Good
A mass gathering of people coming together who care about creating enterprises with Purpose, who care for People, Profit and the impact on the Planet.
The Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) was held in Brisbane on the 28th and the 29th of September. SEWF is the world’s largest gathering of ‘social enterprises’ in the world - businesses which exist to fulfil a social purpose.
You know when you get a ‘gut feeling’ that you need to do something.
We felt this when Tom Dawkins from Start Some Good organised a roadtrip with other social entrepreneurs & network leaders to Brisbane. We’ve known Tom for over ten years - he and his team have helped launch many social enterprises (socents) through the Start Some Good crowd-funding platform.
In this post, we’ll cover the definitions of social enterprise, why we chose to attend, the bus trip and our insights from SEWF, a missing link and being more 'Greedy for Good'.
Definition of Social Enterprise & Our Distinction
For most people, the term social enterprise is mainly unknown.
There are various definitions of social enterprises. The most overarching one is a business that is ‘doing good’.
The official body for certification for social enterprises in Australia is Social Traders.
To certify to be a Social Trader, there are three requirements:
- “Having a defined primary social, cultural or environmental purpose consistent with a public or community benefit.
- Deriving a substantial portion of their income from trade.
- Investing efforts and resources into their purpose such that public/community benefit outweighs private benefit.”
At Purpose With Profit, we have a planetary impact pillar where we differentiate between three models of giving back; Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), ‘Shared Value’ (CSV), and Social Enterprise.
CSR is well known. It’s how corporations give back to impact organisations aligned with their values.
Shared Value is a term coined by Harvard professors Porter and Kramer. To keep it simple, we think of commercial industries like electronic vehicles instead of petrol vehicles or the solar industry instead of coal. They are commercial in every way and better for the planet. If you are building the ecosystem or helping suppliers improve business practices, this is also deemed shared value.
Social Enterprises, however, are founded with a purpose driver. And the business gives back to impact-related goals through funds or in-kind.
All plant-based businesses can be called social enterprises under the broader definition - since plant-based food consumption is vital for public health and the climate crisis.
Some plant-based businesses that give back could attract wider attention if they work towards becoming classified as Social Traders.
This also applies to us here at Purpose With Profit.
Most don’t know of the advocacy work we have committed to or the extensive work we do in enabling the growth of the broader plant-based ecosystem. Our work is ‘shared value’ and can also be deemed a social enterprise.
Reason to Attend the World Forum
It’s important for the clients we work with to know the supportive environment around them to grow their purpose-led business and how they can differentiate from the mainstream.
This event was right in the middle of the build-up to our Plant-based Revolution Online event. But we knew it was too important to miss.
Since the global financial crisis in 2008, many have talked about business being done differently. At Purpose With Profit, we are part of this change.
Social enterprise is one approach to define businesses that prioritise impact as well as profit.
In our observation, social enterprises have primarily remained a cottage industry.
However, when a well-known social enterprise called Who Gives A Crap attracted venture capital funding to the tune of $41M, we wondered whether the tide is changing.
Was this a once-off event or whether the landscape has changed regarding investment, together with more institutional and government support.
Remember that the Tesla we know today had US government support to start.
The trip was meticulously organised visiting various social enterprises doing good things.
Our first stop was Soul Café in Newcastle, where they serve those who are forgotten by the system, like the homeless, alone, and those addicted to narcotics. They treat everyone as guests serving food at the table – ‘they serve more than a meal’.
Then we ventured off to a digital studio, Grow The Music that helps disadvantaged children with the opportunity to grow their musical talent. These are just two of the many stops along the way.
We were also fortunate enough to stop in Byron Bay for an Aboriginal walking tour and learn about bush food. It was heartbreaking to hear about the devastation done to their families over the last 250 years before finally being allowed to return to their homes after the native title was granted. The vast plant-based food they gathered kept them thriving for many millennia, together with hunting.
The road trip allowed many social entrepreneurs to connect and bond. We were lucky to have a chance tour with Chris Martin from Social Enterprise Scotland. Scotland is arguably the leader in setting up support for social enterprises, with over 6000 socents in the network.
Our SEWF Insights and a Missing Link
1) First Nation Ways – Indigenous business founder Laura Thompson from Clothing the Gaps shared a vital perspective that continues to resonate with us.
‘First Nation businesses are social enterprises from the get-go. They have been for thousands of years as they traded. ‘
Simply, it’s about we, not me and it’s a regenerative approach.
Not every business needs a certification if their work is purpose-led from the beginning.
This can apply to many plant-based businesses founded with certain principles on how they operate.
2) A system approach - We need a systematic approach to bring about change. It cannot be done solo in an enterprise or industry. For example, many successful social enterprises had support from various philanthropic bodies, institutions, NGOs and Government organisations.
It takes a village to raise a child -
Queensland and Victoria governments are far more supportive than others. City of Sydney Council sponsored the bus trip. And on the bus, we had Lucy Brotherton, an intermediary and capacity builder from Parramatta Council. The council supported six social entrepreneurs to join from Western Sydney. Let's encourage more from every council.
3) Self-care – there is a large degree of sacrifice for the cause. This needs to be addressed as well. Many forget that just like a regular business, a founder may have talents in one area and lack the skills in other aspects.
4) Funding & Hybrid Structures – no matter how good a service or product is, it will need funding. Many social enterprises struggle to get financing because of their structure. Some NFP leaders I spoke to said that, in hindsight, they wish they had created a 'for-profit engine’ to attract investors and a separate NFP for impact-related work.
5) Network Leaders & Connectivity – the networks are essentially not-for-profits. Social Enterprise Australia has recently formed as the overarching body for the state and territory social enterprise chapters.
Seed Spaces in Sydney, Start Some Good and Impact Boom are examples of for-profit social enterprises.
Secondly, we realised the extensive support network for purpose-led founders in the ecosystem if they are able to connect.
To give an example, many of the purpose-led social entrepreneurs from Sydney are connected, like Seed Spaces, Fair Trade ANZ , Social Enterprise NSW & ACT /, Social Traders , Start Some Good, Digital Story Tellers , and Social Impact Hub, just to name a few.
Each of these ecosystems helps foster growth for their tribe and support from each other.
You can go fast alone, or go further together.
- African Proverb
6) Scaling up – Attending the SEWF, we wanted to hear about stories of socents scaling up. We had shirts printed for the SEWF event and the bus trip. What should the message be?
Our new tagline for Purpose With Profit is ‘Greedy for Good’.
So wearing these T-shirts attracted founders looking to grow their enterprise.
While speaking to businesses, it dawned on us that our services can apply to any impact-related venture.
The SEWF sessions on scaling up were the most fascinating for us because we had real-life examples of socents growing.
A new term was shared, called Social Franchise, which works like a franchising concept, but the venture is socent.
The other approach that worked is having a for-profit business structure with a not-for-profit arm. Naturally, for-profit business cares about purpose, people and the planet in how they operate their business. One such example is a recruitment service called Gen U from Victoria that helps serve those with a disability, aged care and business services with over 3200 staff. Another scale up is CERES in Victoria with over 200 staff.
7) Food Systems & a Missing Link – Apart from scaling up socents, we were curious about food systems and whether consuming plant-centric foods was being promoted.
The food systems topic focused on regenerative agriculture. Pat Torres from Mayi Harvests shared First Nation practices in growing food. Pat's insights were so rich in ancient ways.
In the food space, we have Food Connect making waves in Queensland.
In Victoria, Streetwise is a social enterprise that has been doing many beautiful projects training the disadvantaged to get into the hospitality sector.
While we appreciated discussions about organic and regenerative food systems, we felt that the imperative to move towards plant-centric diet was completely missed.
It appears the topic of plant-based is still taboo. And we are seeing the climate catastrophe taking place. Even though plant-based diet ticks atleast eight of the Sustainable Development Goals.
We have a global population nearing 8 billion people. And the rising affluence means that meat consumption continues to increase rapidly. The chart below is what we share in our presentation and keynotes. The more affluent we become, the more meat we consume.
What's the problem with meat consumption growth?
About 40 percent of greenhouse gases come from agriculture, deforestation and other land-use changes. Meat—particularly beef—drives climate change in two ways: first, through cows’ emission of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and second, by destroying forests as they are converted to grazing land. - Naomi Oreskes - Scientific American
We don't have enough planets to grow meat. Hence the rise of factory farming.
The public do not realise how much of the planetary catastrophe is due to our global eating habits. There is plenty of research on this topic like species extinction.
David Attenborough's documentary about A Life on Our Planet shared a startling fact about all the mammals on earth; 60% are livestock, 36% human and just 4% wildlife.
Despite the plant-based alternatives, meat consumption is continuing to rise at a rapid rate.
All the conversations about regenerative farming is hypothetical. The majority of the public do not consume like this and cannot afford to do so.
While we try to raise public consciousness and reconnect them with where food comes from, we need to encourage mass public adoption of a plant-centric diet.
The Eat Forum Lancet Study - the most extensive study on food and planetary boundaries drew this conclusion. In Europe, Institutions, Governments and NGO's are supporting the shift towards a plant-centric diet.
It's Easier to Change a persons religion than change their diet - Margaret Meade
8) Daniel Flynn – Thank You Products – In the closing keynote, Dan’s enthusiasm in sharing their success and failures demonstrated his raw journey. Especially their tactics in getting Coles and Woolworths to take on the product with a clever helicopter stunt.
Interestingly he made a note about burning everything and starting again. No matter how you are progressing, be open to this.
This is not for everyone.
How can this translate to you? If you could start again, what would you do? And who would you serve?
Overall, we were really impressed with the effort to bring an event of this scale to life. For those curious, online tickets can still be purchased and the recordings can be viewed.
“My highlight from the Social Enterprise World Forum is the fact that we are no longer alone, whether we are social entrepreneurs or network leaders. We're connecting and seeing what's possible from the many different people solving real-world problems. Many of us are not surrounded by the support system we see here, so we are all in isolation doing our parts. But by coming together, we can leverage each other's strengths, access community capital and all other aspects to help an enterprise, organisation or any form of structure grow and thrive. If I could say one thing, be more 'greedy for good'.”
We didn't share the missing link piece because we only felt after we digested the event in full. We hope all NGO's, Institutions and Governments bodies pick up on this and encourage a plant-centric diet as well fostering the growth of social enterprises around Australia and the world.
Now, over to you!
How would you like to grow your impact-related venture or ecosystem?
For larger companies & institutions - would you like us to share our insights about the plant-centric diet, the need, the success stories and how to activate a product well.
For SME's, we have a pilot group program called Magnify for those with 5-10 staff looking to grow their plant-based food enterprise.
If not now, when?
If not you, then who?
It's time we all became more greedy for good!