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Posted by on Apr 23, 2014 in Community, SE Column | 0 comments

Social Enterprise World Forum held in Rio de Janeiro

Social Enterprise World Forum held in Rio de Janeiro

A global forum on social entrepreneurship was organized from 16 to 18 October in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rachel Lee, a project manager of Work Together Foundation attended this conference to learn more about the current issues and hot topics on social enterprises, and to get in contact with other foundations, funds and philanthropists around the world.

Social Enterprise World Forum

The Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) is the premiere global event focused exclusively on social enterprise and on building global awareness of the effectiveness of social enterprise in solving critical social problems.

The goal of the SEWF 2012 was to build global awareness of the effectiveness of social enterprise in solving critical social problems, and to bring together funders and social entrepreneurs.

The annual SEWF was established in 2008 by an international steering group comprised of leading social enterprise support organizations from around the world. The primary purpose of SEWF is to assemble social enterprise leaders and champions from all continents to collaborate, share best practices, and to catalyze the social enterprise movement in the host country. The inaugural SEWF was held in 2008 in Edinburgh, Scotland, and has since traveled to Melbourne, Australia (2009), San Francisco, California (2010), and Johannesburg, South Africa (2011).

SEWF 2012 in Rio


On the first day of the conference, a so-called Investor Day was presented, gathering a large group of investors and donors, both those who are already involved with social enterprises and those wanting to learn about this new field. The discussion revolved around how to make use of philanthropic and investment capital to help develop and grow social enterprises. Participants included UBS, Coca Cola, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Lemelson Foundation, AVINA and many more.

In his opening keynote about impact investing in social enterprises, Anthony Bugg-Levine (CEO of Nonprofit Finance Fund and co-author of Impact Investing: Transforming how we make money while making a difference) talked about how we are moving from an old world to a new one. He defined the old world as a place where making business means making money, and investing means making a profit. We are now moving into a new world, where impact investors can solve problems and where social entrepreneurs know that the business approach works. According to Bugg-Levine, among the difficulties of this new world are the yet-to-be-established regulations for this novel approach, as well as the immense talent required to solve problems: social entrepreneurs must be as good as business people and be non-profit experts at the same time. Bugg-Levine concluded that impact investing makes sense when government cannot solve the problem alone, and that it is therefore better to give money to an organization that at least recovers some costs.

The opening panel discussion about the emerging market and social enterprises around the world discussed the importance of aligning the expectations of investors and social entrepreneurs. In the words of Nicole Etchart, NESsT co-founder and CEO, ‘Donors and investors need to be patient on the financing needs of social enterprises, the amount of time that it takes them to reach break-even and generate profit, and if and when they can really begin to scale. The expected financial return needs to be reasonable, particularly the need to cover the many social costs of social enterprise. And the social sector also needs to provide clear metrics and to spend time educating the philanthropic and investing communities on what they should expect in terms of social impact. A variety of instruments are needed, and they need to be mixed, and used for the appropriate financing needs.’

The parallel session covered variety of topics from impact investing to social enterprise incubating as well as leadership in young social entrepreneurs. Participants were able to actively choose the topics of their interest to learn and interact with other participant sharing the similar interests.

The venue for the event was an imposing hall, the Centro Cultural Ação da Cidadania (a late 19th century converted storage facility) in the center of Porto Maravilha, which translates to “Marvaleous Port,” and is part of the multi-billion dollar redevelopment effort underway in Rio.

*Written by Rachel Soul Lee

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