Social Enterprise World Forum 2019 – Cinnamon’s Report

The 12th annual Social Enterprise World Forum was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 23rd-25th October 2019. Ethiopia is home to 112 million people, and has an estimated 55,000 social enterprises, many of which are supporting the education and empowerment of women and young people. 

Forum speakers covered a wide variety of subjects relating to starting, running and growing social enterprises, such as resourcing, innovation, technology, awareness and profile raising, scaling, social procurement and impact measurement, and the roles of networks, incubators, intermediaries, governments and corporations. Delegates heard how social enterprises are actively responding to some of the world’s big issues, including wealth disparity, gender inequality, employment, migration, ageing, community resilience and the climate and ecological crisis. A number of sectors were profiled, including agriculture, food, health and tourism.
In addition to the main conference, delegates were invited to attend number of additional events, including an Education Forum, a Policy Forum, Urban Study Tours and a Rural Study Tour. The tours provided opportunities to visit social enterprises in Addis Ababa and surrounds. Delegates were also invited to attend evening events featuring Ethiopian food, beer, coffee, music and dance. 
The Forum attracted 1,200 delegates from 68 countries, with more than half the delegates from countries in Africa. Australia had the largest international delegation, with over 70 Australian social enterprise leaders in attendance, around half of whom were from Victoria. The Australian delegation was fortunate to be invited to the residence of the Ambassador of Australia, HE Peter Doyle for dinner and drinks.We also attended other African and Ethiopian cultural events with our colleagues from all over the world.
Social enterprises are complex organisations with layered stories: Stories about products and services and getting these to market.
Stories about beneficiaries and impacts, about people becoming educated, employed and empowered.
And once a year, when social enterprises gather together to tell these stories, a bigger narrative emerges: One in which the social enterprise community is inspiring system change to bring about a just, inclusive, sustainable society.
This is the work of our times.