The Social Enterprise World Forum will showcase the best of business for good
The best and brightest of the industry come together at this week’s Edinburgh event
by: Hannah Westwater, Liam Geraghty
11 Sep 2018
In the wake of a world reeling from the 2008 economic crash, the social revolution has flourished.
Social enterprises – businesses that put people before profit – have become a fast-growing sector in the last decade, bringing innovation, ideas and action to encourage social change. In the UK alone, the estimated 70,000 social enterprises contribute £24bn to the economy in areas as diverse as health and social care and coffee production.
The best and brightest from the global industry will head to Edinburgh this week for the Social Enterprise World Forum looking to inspire and promote how social entrepreneurs are using the power of business for good.
The Forum will allow social innovators, entrepreneurs and academics to work together on how to boost the social echo that is created every time someone takes their business to a social enterprise. They want to transform industries dominated by the corporate world to places where social enterprises can thrive – taking them from the fringes of our economy to having a central role in all of our lives.
The three-day event doubles as a homecoming for the conference, which launched in Edinburgh in 2008 and has since been held internationally in places like San Francisco, Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro and Hong Kong.
Following the global recession a decade ago, there was a resurgence of interest in social enterprise as many sought to make a positive impact through business. There are now well over 5,000 social enterprises operating in Scotland alone, just a fraction of the global movement which will congregate in Edinburgh to share knowledge and debate best practice.
These businesses are defined by their purpose – they are driven by their social mission first, looking to maximise their positive impact balanced against their financial goals, with profits reinvested. This separates social enterprises from ethical businesses, who try to go about normal operation while minimising any harmful effects on society or the environment.
Also among the speakers is Celia Hodson, CEO of Hey Girls – a social enterprise which addresses period poverty based on a buy-one-give-one system. She will be joined by Sheen, actor and champion of social entrepreneurship, and David Duke, CEO of Street Soccer Scotland (SSS) who previously worked for The Big Issue Foundation. Getting to the heart of communities through football, SSS is much more than a kickabout – the enterprise’s goal is to help homeless and socially disadvantaged people by providing support, guidance and fun.
The programme also features Mel Young, who founded The Big Issue in Scotland and has become well known for his role in establishing the hugely successful Homeless World Cup. He will soon debut his latest venture, The New Ism, which is an inclusive discussion platform created to give social innovators from all around the world the opportunity to brainstorm a more sustainable, fairer economic system.
As Angela Constance, former Scottish cabinet secretary for communities, social security and equalities, said about social enterprise’s contribution to society: “As the world we live in continues to change and bring new challenges, with increasing global interdependence, our social entrepreneurs and social enterprises are helping to find new avenues towards social innovation and improvement.
“They are helping to tackle key issues of poverty and inequality and to transform local communities. They are helping to create a more peaceful, fair and inclusive world, contributing to international development, trade and knowledge.”
Why The Big Issue is a social enterprise
The Big Issue has played a pivotal role in kicking off the social revolution in the UK since the magazine launched in 1991.
Just as we led the charge for the street papers movement, we have also become one of the most prominent social enterprises in the UK.
And that has paved the way for events like the Social Enterprise World Forum as the number of businesses for good swelled to around 70,000 in recent years. As the British Council put it in a 2015 assessment of the sector: “Overall social enterprise has flourished in the UK in recent years, despite the country’s economic downturn.”
The Big Issue chose to become social enterprise because it is the business framework that best fits our motto of a “hand up not a handout”.
Social enterprises take their profits and reinvest them back into the business and their communities to improve lives and enact social change. That could be helping cocoa plant growers in Ghana get a fair deal like Divine Chocolate, or helping homeless people lift themselves out of poverty by becoming baristas like Change Please.
Profits generated by The Big Issue are reinvested back into helping vendors. Like many social enterprises, we tackle social problems, improve people’s life chances and support communities across the country, whether through social investment with Big Issue Invest by selling the magazine or through the Big Issue Foundation, our charitable arm. We also provide a platform for other social enterprises to engage with their customers with The Big Issue Shop.
Being a social enterprise enables The Big Issue to be more than just a magazine – it allows us to be a force for social change. As Big Issue founder John Bird says: “Making picture frames with a social echo – you get what you want while giving somebody in need support – is as I said quintessentially what my work is about. Create a trail of good behind you.”
By leading the social revolution, The Big Issue has done just that, with UK social enterprises now contributing an estimated £24bn to the economy. And every day more are choosing to tread the same path.
The Social Enterprise World Forum is held from September 12-14