Last week, Stephen, Kate and John were fortunate to attend the Social Enterprise World Forum in Christchurch. Organised by the Akina Foundation, the Forum attracted over 1000 representatives from the Social Enterprise and Impact Investment communities from throughout New Zealand and from around the world.  Having supported and invested in the growth and development of social enterprise in New Zealand for many years, The Tindall Foundation was proud to contribute to making the event happen.

Held across six venues in Ōtautahi/Christchurch, the festival-like atmosphere, filled with interesting conversations and delicious local food, was a great opportunity to learn more about social enterprise in action.

Christchurch-based social enterprises like Cultivate, Ohu, Kilmarnock, Pathways, and Rekindle were showcased, along with others like CBEC and KidsCoin from around NZ.

Speaker highlights include hearing from Daniel Flynn, Founder and managing director of Thankyou (Australia); Sacha McMeeking, Head of School Aotahi-Maori and Indigenous Studies UC and Co-Founder of Tu Maia (New Zealand); and Laura Worku, Social Enterprise Policy Manager at the Scottish Government.

Some speakers told inspiring stories that demonstrated the power of social enterprise to change communities and economies. Helianti Hilman from JAVARA in Indonesia told us about her efforts to grow a network of 52,000 farmers that are working to sustain Indonesia’s food biodiversity heritage by producing products made from indigenous food products. They now export 750 products to 21 countries and have halted the decline of farming as a way of life in Indonesia. Her story about rescuing tonnes of threatened vegetable crops at very short notice by making vegetable pasta for export to Italy was a highlight.  Andrea Chen from Propeller in New Orleans spoke about their efforts post-Hurricane Katrina and the Deep Water Horizon oil disaster to support the development of social businesses to sustain local economies, but challenged us to appreciate that real social change will only occur when the structural disadvantage that is built into communities in which those businesses operate is challenged.

Policy makers also contributed to the Forum, including several Government Ministers. They outlined efforts to develop policy and regulatory frameworks that stimulate and sustain social enterprise in their countries, and the role of Government in de-risking and scaling the social enterprise sector.

In addition to a showcase event for social enterprises, there were some interesting discussions, challenges and debates about whether social enterprise is yet sufficiently proven as a model; about the impact of private business/finance becoming involved in the community sector; and about whether social enterprise/impact investment is simply capitalism ‘colonising’ the community sector, or the democratisation of private money?

There was also a focus on investors at the Forum. We attended the ‘Pitch Olympics’ event where five emerging enterprises pitched for investment funds. On the last day of the Forum, the New Zealand Impact Investment Network (IIN) and the Impact Enterprise Fund (IEF) were both launched. The IIN is a web-based platform for those interested in learning about – and investing in – financial products and enterprises that have social impact in New Zealand. The IEF will be New Zealand’s first domestically-focused impact investment fund.  We will follow these new initiatives with interest.

Before the Forum, our hope had been that it would be a springboard event for the social enterprise and impact investment fields in New Zealand. It felt like that happened, and we’ve been left with something tangible to build on. That’s partly the result of the great work done by the organisers of the Forum, but in large part is due to the huge amount of preparation done by Akina and its supporters over many months in the lead up to the event.

Congratulations to the Akina team for such an inspiring and cohesive summit!