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Could hosting 2022’s Social Enterprise World Forum be the kick up the arse Australia needs?

30 June 2021 at 4:39 pm
Nikki Stefanoff
People across the sector are celebrating the news that the SEWF is coming to Brisbane, but those who led the bid are hoping the event's legacy lasts way past September 2022

Nikki Stefanoff | 30 June 2021 at 4:39 pm


Could hosting 2022’s Social Enterprise World Forum be the kick up the arse Australia needs?
30 June 2021 at 4:39 pm

People across the sector are celebrating the news that the SEWF is coming to Brisbane, but those who led the bid are hoping the event’s legacy lasts way past September 2022

After a four-and-a-half-year campaign, the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) is heading to Australia in September 2022. 

The Brisbane-based forum is set to be co-hosted by White Box Enterprises, alongside SEWF’s global body, and for the first time it will be a hybrid event — meaning participants can either attend in person or via a digital platform. 

Winning the bid was the culmination of over four years of work for Tom Allen, CEO of Impact Boom, who led the campaign with an extended advisory team. 

While the sector is rightly celebrating the win, Allen hopes that the forum will act as the catalyst for change that Australia so desperately needs. 

“There’s such a sense of relief and optimism that we finally got this over the line,” Allen told Pro Bono News.

 “There’s so much opportunity here in Australia and I think hosting SEWF will be the catalyst for change that we so desperately need as a sector.” 

An idea is born 

Allen told Pro Bono News that the idea Australia could be a host country came to him after watching New Zealand build momentum for its social enterprise sector after hosting the forum in 2017. 

“When New Zealand hosted the forum in 2017 I remember thinking about the gaps we had in Australia from a sector perspective,” Allen said. 

“I was looking at other nations, like Scotland, and how they were coming into a second 10-year funded resource strategy and thinking ‘there’s so much opportunity in Australia, what is the kick up the arse we need to get things going?’ 

“At that time, a national strategy for social enterprises wasn’t being discussed and the sector didn’t even have state-based networks, other than in Queensland.”

It was this feeling that Australia’s social sector wasn’t where it should be when compared with other countries that drove Allen to start the campaign to bring SEWF 2022 here.

Pulling together as a sector 

Allen is quick to point out that while he led the bid process, he had the help of an advisory board. This included Alex Hannant of the Yunus Centre, Belinda Morrissey of English Family Foundation, Emma-Kate Rose of QSEC and Luke Terry of White Box Enterprises — alongside many other national supporters. 

While Allen believes that winning the bid is an incredible achievement for the whole team, he said the real work and the opportunity for the sector to pull together will come in the run-up to next year’s event. 

“I keep thinking, how might we use the deadline of the forum to start to pull together as a sector,” Allen said. 

“How can we showcase what we’re doing, learn from each other while deciding on clear goals and an understanding about what we want to achieve.” 

Dominiqe Bird is White Box Enterprises’ general manager for the event. He echoed Allen’s views that the forum was a real opportunity to bring the sector together. 

“We see the key outcomes for the event as being connectivity, influence and capability,” Bird told Pro Bono News. 

“We want to build and strengthen connections within the broader impact ecosystem, provide knowledge transfer through open access resources and influence government, business and consumers about the benefits of engaging with social enterprises.” 

Getting buy-in from political leaders 

In the run-up to SEWF a standalone policy forum is being held to help drive the conversation towards the development of a national social enterprise strategy. 

“We’re holding a policy forum in April next year where we’ll launch a series of conversations around a national strategy, which will then continue at SEWF,” Bird said. 

“We’re hoping that a national strategy might be endorsed by government at SEWF. It would be great to look back at the event and say that this was the moment when [the sector] became more organised. It was the place where we had more solidarity and all bought into a national strategy we all agreed upon.” 

Speaking to Allen on the Impact Boom podcast, Belinda Morrissey of English Family Foundation, who is chairing the design of a national strategy, said she believed the greatest impact SEWF could have on Australia is to increase the understanding of the benefits of the sector.

“This increased understanding will be in both our corporations and consumers, but really importantly within our political leaders,” she said.

“We need this buy-in from our political leaders, and other leaders in Australia, to really advance the sector. If we can achieve this then we have truly started to move towards our shared vision of a just and sustainable future for Australia.”

Nikki Stefanoff  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Nikki Stefanoff is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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