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Social Enterprise World Forum comes to Addis

By | Thursday, 31st October, 2019

As part of our work with Cambridge University’s Social Ventures Incubator, we’ve been introduced to a whole range of things related to social businesses and business with purpose, one of which is the Social Enterprise World Forum. The Forum exists to support growth and development of social enterprises throughout the world, and was held this year in Addis Ababa. Hosted by the British Council at the UN Economic Commission for Africa, we were able to sponsor a number of our Ethiopian colleagues to attend the conference.

As you may know, along with our partner, Journeys by Design, we have helped set up an Ethiopian responsible travel business, Wild Expeditions Ethiopia. Wild Expeditions was established to demonstrate the positive impact that tourism can play in Ethiopia. They are trying to do things differently, and this is typified by the work with Lale’s Camp, where guests can experience a much more immersive, educational and meaningful visit to the Omo Valley, an area that has historically been plagued by irresponsible tourism. Lale’s Camp employs over 20 people from the local Kara community of Dus and Kara Elder, Lale Biwa (who runs the camp), is also a shareholder of Wild Expeditions. We’ve also been developing a community farm alongside Lale’s Camp with the aim of helping empower the community to take control of their food security and livelihood diversification.

Given this, the fact that this year’s Forum took place in Addis presented an amazing opportunty for the team to experience what other people are doing in the social enterprise space. It is a fast moving and rapidly growing area as we continue to see the demand for socially responsible products and services grow. For all of us, having over 1200 social entrepreneurs, NGOs, government organisations and development agencies all convene at the UN Economic Commission in what for many of us is home was quite an experience.

“This is the right time for Ethiopia to host the Forum,’ said Dr Tilaye Gete, the Minister for Education, who opened the event, welcoming the 1,200+ delegates form over 70 countries. He went on to highlight the many positive changes happening in Ethiopia and the role of social enterprises in continuing to support the remarkable development story that Ethiopia delivers.

The conference ran over 3 days and sessions included:

  • Tech for Good – realising the potential for social change
  • Social enterprise – a model for charities to be enterprising and sustainable?
  • Regenerative agriculture, the untapped opportunity to transform rural economies. Perspectives from across Sub Saharan Africa
  • Social enterprises in tourism
  • Future of business and planet

I was amazed by the shear volume of social businesses at the event, especially those from Ethiopia. It opened my eyes to the amazing work going on in Ethiopia, often overlooked and underrepresented, but delivering some incredible impact. A prime example is Temsalet kitchen, which has been set up to create work opportunities for women who are in need of financial support. Temsalet staff provides various programmes from professional trainings like cooking and waiter services to life-skill trainings such as self-leadership, the long-term impact being proving far more effective than mere financial support.

The success of this year’s event was well summed up by Gerry Higgins, founder and managing director of the Social Enterprise World Forum: ‘Ethiopia has been outstanding. If there was a better way to showcase the energy and the enterprising potential of this country, I can’t think of it.’ Clearly, social enterprise has the potential to play a key part in sustainable development in Ethiopia. We’re extremely proud to be part of that, and look forward to a very bright future for this incredible country.

If you would like to learn more about Wild Expeditions, please see here. For a two-minute video showcasing the event please see here.  For anything, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I look forward to sharing more on the Forum, Wild Expeditions and opportunities to support at-risk ecosystems like the Omo Valley.