What do you think it means to have a life that works?


Social Enterprise World Forum 2017

The Social Enterprise World Forum 2017 was the 10th annual global conference for the rapidly-growing Social Enterprise movement. Hosted in Christchurch, this event was the largest yet with 1,600 delegates from over 30 countries. It was also the largest international conference in Christchurch since the 2010-2011 earthquakes. Read more at www.sewf2017.org.

I was engaged by the Ākina foundation in early 2016 to join the core team leading SEWF in a part time capacity. My role was as a facilitator, and a movement builder, leading the co-design of many of the logistical and experiential elements of the forum, and ensuring the values of social enterprise were woven into the delivery of the event. See the below blog post for more.


Weaving the values of Social Enterprise into the delivery of SEWF 2017

SEWF 2017 has, from the earliest moment, had a focus on growing the size and connectivity of the emerging social enterprise community in New Zealand, and internationally.

We have aspired from an early stage to spend 80% or more of the total budget with Social Enterprise Suppliers, and developed a simple yet robust Social Procurement Policy to inform all spending.

Our foundation document lays out four key objectives which have subsequently influenced everything about SEWF 2017:

  • Bring a high-level international event (and delegates) to Christchurch and New Zealand
  • Connect the emerging New Zealand social enterprise community with best international practice and develop linkages at all levels - policy, practice, investment, research and education
  • Deliver a world-class event that showcases NZ’s innovative community resilience and culture to the world
  • Provide a focus for NZ’s emerging social enterprise sector, and a legacy / roadmap for the sector’s longer term growth and development

The approach of the SEWF team has been to "think like a movement and act like an organisation". We wanted to showcase a few instances of where and how we've worked to these objectives, and brought our values (see bottom of page) to life. 

We are sharing this with the world as part of our commitment to transparency and education - hoping that others may grow their own impact after learning about our work.

Radical Inclusivity and Accessibility

Social Enterprise is about all people thriving, and a successful social enterprise ecosystem has many different stakeholders: social enterprises, young people, indigenous people, policy makers and governments, funders and philanthropists, businesses, investors... the list goes on. Our commitment to inclusivity has unfolded in several ways:

  • Commitment to NZ’s bicultural partnership: Modern New Zealand was founded as a bicultural society, a partnership between indigenous Māori and European settlers. We’ve been fortunate to have a number of partners who share our commitment to this partnership and to the empowerment of Māori. Our core team includes representatives of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, the local Māori tribe who have proven to be invaluable in designing this uniquely New Zealand event in an authentic way.
  • Design Process: The design process began with several months of open conversations with many stakeholder groups, asking "what would we like to make of this opportunity called SEWF 2017?". Over 300 people from the groups listed above were involved in defining the concepts that resulted in our overarching theme and accompanying narrative, our visual identity, and the major programme topics. We’ve had consistent support and coaching from Be. Accessible and are proud to have received a Gold Rating for the entirely of the forum - fonts to venues to website layout. You can read the full Accessibility report and further recommendations here.
  • Ticket price: A three-day global conference event usually costs several thousand dollars, but we know that these fees represent a barrier for many people. Our commitment to accessibility meant that our prices were as low as possible, budgeting to break even at a sell out event. The reality is that the demand for tickets was so high that we had to redesign many aspects of the forum in the final few weeks, incurring significant unbudgeted costs so ensure radical inclusivity. We’re certain it will pay off. Hats off to the team at Conference Innovators for riding the roller coaster with us without ever raising your voice or appearing concerned.
  • Bursaries: Approximately 25% of SEWF Delegates would have otherwise been unable to attend if it wasn’t for generous funding support from our many generous bursary partners. There were dedicated funds to support the attendance of young people, Māori and Pacific social entrepreneurs, existing and aspiring social enterprise leaders, and an array of international funds also.
  • Speaker selection: It has been important to have balance in the voices that will occupy the SEWF stages. Speaker selection has been a jigsaw puzzle to ensure an appropriate mix of capability, gender, cultural background, age, impact area, social enterprise model, technicality and charisma. This process has been ably led by SEWF CIC Board member and Trustee, Gerry Higgins, and SEWF 2017 Project Director Helene Malandain.

Waste Minimisation and Carbon offsetting

SEWF is aspiring to take more carbon out of the atmosphere than it produces. We have set our boundary very wide - including all flights for delegates and speakers, all power and resources used throughout the design and delivery of SEWF and all waste. To help us keep this footprint down we’ve had three strategies:

  • Product selection: At every stage through logistical planning, before purchasing any product we asked ourselves a series of questions (Do we really need this? Can we reduce our need for this? etc.) This resulted in opting out of many traditional approaches to delivering a conference, a redesigning many aspects: handbooks, promotional material, lanyards, catering systems, signage… For example, our venue signs were commissioned by social enterprise Street Seen, and are made from waste offcuts of billboard canvas rolls. Our Social Procurement Policy also prioritises certain providers based on level of impact focus.
  • Compostable Event: The SEWF team have worked closely with Christchurch City CouncilOur Daily Waste, and the many local food suppliers to deliver a catering system that uses only completely compostable packaging and cutlery - the first event in New Zealand to achieve this. This was nudged over the line thanks to support from the Sustainable Initiatives Fund.
  • Carbon offsetting: SEWF 2017 has partnered with Ekos to deliver carbon measurement and offsetting. The CO2 offsets for SEWF 2017 are sourced from the Rarakau Rainforest Carbon Project on Māori land in western Southland. The landowners at Rarakau have given up the legal right to sell rainforest timber in exchange for the opportunity to sell carbon offsets to people like you. This rainforest carbon project is certified to the ISO14064-2 carbon standard, and is New Zealand's first and only rainforest carbon project that protects tall indigenous forest.

Growing the Food Resilience movement

Our Social Procurement Policy includes a community benefit clause that aims to “Connect the New Zealand Social Enterprise community and upscale its ability to reliably deliver goods and services to more customers, more often.” In the context of a city rebuilding itself and a brand new convention centre being built a few metres from our main venue, we wanted to try to template a few key supply chains for future conference events. Food and Catering is one such task.

  • Lunch Boxes: Christchurch has a thriving network of organisations passionate about creating a healthier and more resilient food system. Our boxed lunches are being made by local organisations, using local ingredients, proving many local people with good work. Food systems is a consistent theme throughout SEWF 2017, and it is hoped that the movements of pasture-to-plate thinkers will become the dominant force in the new Christchurch food supply scene.
  • Food trucks: Christchurch is also blessed with a rich melting pot of international foods and flavours in public places. We have worked to include a curated selection of the best food trucks in the city to cater to international tastes and support the locally-owned hospitality providers who have suffered greatly through the earthquake recovery period. This has extended to a small selection of hand-picked cafes and restaurants who also resonate with the ethos of Social Enterprise.

Showcase Christchurch and its people

Christchurch has a lot going on, has come a long way since losing 80% of the downtown building, and still has a long way to go. In a local context it’s easy to forget just how incredible the current context is, so we have tried to walk a delicate balance of ‘showing Christchurch off’ and giving the people who make it tick a chance to stop and reflect, and bask in the sunshine of their own successes:

  • Transitional City and Open Streams: We’ve set up the Transitional City Stream and the Open Stream to help delegates get under the skin of our unique city. We invited delegates to come a few days early and stay a few days late so that they could see, smell, and taste what is on offer here.
  • Tours and Tourism: We’ve arranged 25 tours into 30 local Social Enterprises so that everyone can meet, talk, and learn outside of the Forum. Tourism represents a considerable proportion of NZ’s gross domestic product, and our hope is that the success of these tours might start an ongoing Social Enterprise Tourism sector for Christchurch and beyond.

Commitment to Open Source
This page that you are reading represents part of our ongoing commitment to sharing what we have developed and learned through the design and delivery of SEWF 2017. We are working on a more formal documentation of our process and lessons which will be gifted to SEWF CIC to assist SEWF 2018 and SEWF 2019 organisers in the first instance. Many of the SEWF team have made themselves available personally to share lessons and experiences with those who ask.

The team
Finally, a comment on the team, by the team. Starting with just one person part time, the SEWF team has grown into a geographically spread mix of full- and part-time staff, several of whom are involved with running their own social enterprises as well. Our average age 30, and we have 3 nationalities and even more cultures represented.  SEWF 2017 is hosted by the Ākina Foundation, although the majority of the team are contracted directly to work on SEWF 2017. This demonstrates an impressive commitment to finding ‘the right people for the job’. The team comprises of facilitators, community weavers, designers, communications professionals, professional conference organisers and over 40 members of advisory working groups. It has been a true joy working with everyone on this wonderful event.

SEWF 2017 Values:
SEWF value #1: Commitment to social justice 

  • Encourage a sense of shared responsibility
  • Remain impact-focused
  • Maintain transparency
  • Aim to make a difference beyond the event itself  

SEWF value #2: Equality of opportunity 

  • Ensure accessibility
  • Apply radical inclusion (of culture, gender, age, language, physical ability, sector, background, experience)
  • Develop a collaborative approach and a shared sense of ownership  

SEWF value #3: Emphasis on education 

  • Create the conditions to start national and international conversations and for transfer of knowledge
  • Maximise participation and create a movement that will strengthen the ecosystem
  • Engage and empower the next generation of social entrepreneurs 

SEWF value #4: Commitment to excellence 

  • Aroha ki te Tangata - be welcoming, supporting, inviting, show respect and care
  • With grace (Manaakitanga)
  • With humility
  • With humour
  • With authenticity
  • With creativity and ingenuity