Advice from Fellow Social Enterprises

maria Stories

From September 12-14, thanks to the financial contribution from the Nova Scotia Department of Business, fifteen Nova Scotia social enterprises attended the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) in Edinburgh, Scotland. The SEWF is an international event for social enterprises from all over the world to come together, share wisdom, build networks and discuss how to create a more sustainable future.

Read on for some useful advice from you fellow social enterprise owners and managers:

Social enterprises are not the answer to all situations. You must be strategic in your thinking and know what you want to achieve. If a social enterprise model works, then great but sometimes a different approach might get you closer to where you want to be.  Maybe instead of creating your own social enterprise you can find an existing one with similar goals to partner with that way everyone brings their own strengths to the relationship.
Take the opportunity to go and talk to the people you most admire, although you may be nervous be sure to ask those burning questions. You can only get answers when you ask!
There is a lot of language and terminology that is used in social enterprise and for the longest time I have been able to feel all of the impact that SE is having across NS and the globe. The one thing I struggled with was to articulate that into words. It was very refreshing to hear the unique language of SE and now be able to better convey the impact of SE.
We are playing in a much larger sector than we realize! Get outside of NS, outside of Canada, and connect with the movement happening at an international level. We are ahead of others in some ways, but much further behind in others (particularly regarding policy and funding support for developing and growing social enterprises).
The sector has grown incredibly over the last ten years. Countries all around the world are participating and finding ways to build their communities through the use of social enterprise. Even if momentum seems stalled in your local region or the barriers seem large, this movement is unquestionable growing and strengthening around the world. Most social enterprises focus on the local in terms of impact and enterprise, but your best and closest allies or partners may at the global scale.
People need to do their research on the history of the sectors in their respective countries, and the only way to do that is with chatting directly with those older actors, and the only way to meet them is through these networks.
If you’re thinking of it, it’s probably already been done somewhere… so get connected and go find it. I saw several project ideas that I had internally dismissed as “not feasible” executed smoothly in other locales… so why wouldn’t they work here?
For more people to appreciate and understand that social enterprise is more a Movement than merely a different sector of the economy. That people around the world are committed to creating economies based on common good rather than the traditional results of either socialism or capitalism. That people around the world are committed to creating a better way to conduct business and that all people have an opportunity to contribute and lead.
The social enterprise sector needs to work more closely with schools and young people to get them engaged and educated on the benefits of social enterprise and doing business with socially responsible companies.
In many areas of the world, social enterprise has become the norm–it is one way that people are creating and sustaining the prosperity of their communities. It is a vehicle for community transformation, whether that community is within a city, within a small town, or the entire population of a rural area. The work you are doing is making a difference, and we have the potential to do more!
To make sure youth in our community are involved in important conversations about social issues. Their voices matters and they deserve to have a seat at the board meeting table.
One realization is that there is a steep learning curve,  this curve doesn’t end once you are established, it continues everyday that you are fortunate enough to continue to grow the Social Enterprise activities for your employees and community.