Social Enterprise World Forum “ah ha!” Moments

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 inspiring “ah ha” moments from our Nova Scotia social enterprise conference participants:

We are more the same than different. Many of the social enterprises I interacted with experience similar issues. Was nice to know we are not alone with the challenges we face. I think for me one of the big things is the continuation of promoting social enterprise to mainstream businesses and to help raise the profile of our sector.
Talking to Tom Dakins of StartSomeGood and using crowdfunding to find the market – brilliant. He is so positive – and lets people learn by doing.
For us the “ah ha” moment came once we touched down back in NS. After talking with my team I had finally figured out how P4G fit into the global market of Social Enterprise. NS has very unique problems, so the solutions are going to be just as unique. One of those issues is the outmigration of youth to cities. If was can work towards a solution to that problem which is a common problem across the globe, then we can share those solutions with the rest of the world. Our goal now is to share our results with the world at the 2020 SEWF here in Halifax.
During the Rural Symposium, it became glaringly evident that our rural communities are suffering from the same issues as other countries around the world. In particular, Scotland, New Zealand, and Australia. The attendees have shared some best practices and tips for policy development so NS can better serve rural.
Hearing about how well developed the social enterprise sector and ecosystem is in Scotland.  Especially on the rural symposium, discussions with community members who said, “I never knew what social enterprise was until a few years ago. It was just the way all business was done in our community.” Social enterprise was pervasive, not considered something as fringe to the ‘regular economy’. It was inspiring to see what is possible in terms of the development of rural and peripheral economies using the tools of social enterprise.
People really need our expertise and services and were really excited about our energy—validating!
The ongoing discussion of community asset ownership and means that it can be achieved was one of my major takeaways from the week. Whether it’s funded by government (Scottish Land Trust) or through philanthropy (Old Beechworth Gaol), the idea of communities owning and managing assets to the benefit of all residents represents a promising middle ground between private and government ownership for rural communities with natural assets that wish to derive benefit without ceding control to private interests who are almost exclusively based elsewhere.
With 47 nations attending it was striking that we all shared a similar deep desire to make our people and place better. Clearly great things with happening within the Social Enterprise space in all part of the world and there was much to learn, and in time-share with others.
With 47 nations attending it was striking that we all shared a similar deep desire to make our people and place better. Clearly great things with happening within the Social Enterprise space in all part of the world and there was much to learn, and in time share with others.
Getting to see how large the sector really is!
Social enterprise in Scotland is a very common way of doing business.  This model is introduced in the school system and to students at a very young age.  It was so inspiring to hear students (Grades 6 onward) from local schools telling their stories about how they started and are sustaining their own social enterprises in their communities.

We need to get out there and engage our young people.

Social enterprises can thrive even in really challenging market conditions! The Shetland Islands are 170 kilometers off the coast of the Scottish mainland and report a population of just 20 000 people. Yet the Shetlands are home to COPE Ltd, who operate four thriving social enterprises that deliver top quality products and divert waste while employing and providing skill development to adults with intellectual disabilities. With the right supports, social enterprise can thrive anywhere!
How circular the economy can be, and how wide the realm of social enterprise stretches. It wasn’t just the traditional business models showcased, it was fascinating to see so many different case studies and organizations.
Seeing the how much Scotland values the voice of their youth and the social issues that are important to them.
This conference was very inspirational and allowed us to explore Social Enterprises throughout the world. I had many “ah ha” moments, little things that I took away with me that I want to incorporate at our work. I feel the biggest moment was when I realised that our little Not For Profit in rural Nova Scotia is definitely on the right track and is providing amazing contributions not only to the adults attending with disabilities but the surrounding communities as well.