• SE Forum SpellAfrica
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    Fighting a dark month with African sunshine and plans for the year ahead

Fighting a dark month with African sunshine and plans for the year ahead

January in Sweden is a dark month, and this year was no exception. Therefore, it was suiting that our colleagues Tove and Svitlana went to sunny Nigeria to follow up on our alumni at just that time. The power of Vitamin D is not to be underestimated. Us who stayed in Sweden, sun-less, focused on planning for the year ahead and reviewing cross-sector development.

Putting the Nigeria trip aside (you can read more about it here), January was a month of focused work in the background. We’ve been putting the finishing touches on our review – Social Enterprises and Municipalities: Cooperation, Partnerships & Synergies – that we’ve written together with partners in Latvia and Belarus. It will be launched soon so please keep your eyes open for it. In the review, we’re examining existing and possible collaboration and partnerships between social enterprises and municipalities in our respective countries. Combined with country overviews and case studies, we’re aiming to raise the bar for how these sectors can cooperate in the future to increase positive social impact in our communities.

On another increasingly exciting note we’re preparing for the GATHER Fellowship incubator we’re arranging together with Seeds of Peace in March. The programme features 16 social innovators working in areas of conflict and we’re proud to soon be able to announce them. During the programme they will visit Parliament House, receive training from world-class trainers and meet with leaders from the business, public and investment sectors. We’re proud to bring this programme to Sweden for the first time, where the mix of peace and conflict with innovation and entrepreneurship sits well with the country’s identity.

Now it’s time to enjoy the last bit of winter to the fullest with [...]

Zoom out 2017 and zoom in 2018

Sometimes you need to zoom out in order to zoom in. That’s what I’ll do in this 2018’s first ED letter in an effort to share reflections from our international work and how that is influencing our strategies moving forward in a national, international and internal way. Ready? Here we go.
International reflections
I’ve had the indulgence of visiting 13 countries this year. Some for pleasure but most for work, in countries like Belarus, Tanzania, Ukraine, Kenya, Australia and Latvia. The trips had different purposes, some to follow-up on past participants of our various programmes, some to speak at conferences, and a number to examine the conditions for social entrepreneurs. The knowledge, understanding and contacts gained during trips like these are invaluable, not just for the specific purpose of the trip, but for understanding the greater context of the systems social entrepreneurs are operating in. It provides an opportunity to zoom out in order to zoom in on the specific projects you’re working on.
My snapshot reflections:

We can see the impact of a new generation acting for positive change. There’s a raw force fighting for a better society, doesn’t matter if it’s in what’s been described as the last dictatorship in Europe, Belarus, in the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, or in Alice Springs, Australia. It’s our responsibility to harness this energy, talent and courage, and enable it. I’m convinced social entrepreneurship is one powerful tool in doing so, letting individuals take charge of theirs and their communities’ future.
However, even though individuals are strong and create positive change, imagine what we can do if there’s an ecosystem built to enable rather than to supervise. Where all players, no matter sector, [...]

  • Social entrepreneurship ecosystem
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    Gaining momentum and growing the social entrepreneurship ecosystem

Gaining momentum and growing the social entrepreneurship ecosystem

We’re almost at the end of 2017 and can look back at a great year where we have, amongst other things, been putting energy into a deeper understanding of the Swedish social entrepreneurship ecosystem. Researching, writing and analysing how to play a part of a systematic change where the number of financially sustainable social enterprises can grow. Where ideas and solutions to difficult problems can foster and scale. And where the impact of our collective actions makes our society stronger and a better place to live.

We have a wealth of experience and knowledge from our previous work. However, it’s vital to sometimes reboot, go on field trips, have the conversations you never make time for, to gain new perspectives. We shared some of our findings at Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth Tillväxtverket’s seminar about the support structure for social entrepreneurs in Sweden. We were joined on stage by social enterprises, other support organisations as well as the Minister for Enterprise and Innovation’s political expert. A key take-away for me was how the government for the first time has packaged an investment specifically for the sector. The amount – 150 million SEK over three years – isn’t a lot to reach the goal of a systematic change in the sector. However, it’s a start for the sector to gain momentum. You can read more about the event here and watch it here.
Do as we preach
In addition to numerous conversations and interviews we also initiated a round table discussion with Swedish social entrepreneurs, support organisations and enablers within the municipality sector. It started off with a look back 10 years to understand where we’re coming from. We then moved on to what [...]

October – a humbling and exciting experience

This month has focused on the understanding of the context of the sector we operate in and preparing for things to come. We’ve travelled to Malaysia, visited social entrepreneurs, researched the Swedish sector and had visitors from afar places like Mexico.

In Malaysia, our colleague Fiona presented our work and how entrepreneurs are making a difference in their communities via their business models. While in Malaysia, we also made sure to visit Anja (who went through the 2016 SE Outreach Accelerator) and Nina who just graduated in September this year. Nothing beats seeing first-hand the difference the entrepreneurs’ businesses are making.
The Swedish eco-system
Back at home we’ve been looking at the Swedish eco-system for social entrepreneurs, preparing for a report due at the end of the year. We’ve examined the relationship between social entrepreneurs and municipalities, how they are currently working with each other and how this relationship can evolve, creating a win-win situation for the two parties and the community. Important for this work is our position on the Advisory Board of Fryshuset’s Institute of Social Effects. It’s a good platform where players from all sectors meet to look at how cross-sectoral collaborations can benefit communities.

In conjunction with this work I’ve participated in the research for Tillväxtverket’s new report on the Swedish eco-system for social innovation. This report will be released at the Social Innovation Summit 14-15 November in Malmö. If you can’t make it you’ll get another chance at an event on 23 November in Stockholm where SE Forum will participate in the panel. I’m excited to read their thoughts and especially interested in understanding recommendations and next steps. We will share our thoughts and hope for a systematic approach where we [...]

A month of action, reflection and future thinking

Wow, what a month! We’ve had delegations from Latvia and Belarus here to examine social innovation in Sweden, and we’ve also welcomed a group of young leaders from South Asia to discuss social entrepreneurship and how we see positive change happening in the world. Lastly, and certainly most intense, has been the final part of our 2017 SE Outreach Accelerator for social entrepreneurs, ending with an exclusive graduation event at KTH and Dome of Visions on 28 September.

Six months is a long time. However, I’m not sure our participants in the SE Outreach Accelerator (read more about the program here) had that feeling when graduating last week. After spending so much time together, sharing tough challenges and successful moments it was strange to see them leave Sweden for their home countries, but we will continue to follow their developments (make sure you do too on our social media channels!).

The graduation event was a great success including guests such as Ambassadors from several of the participants’ countries, CEOs, passionate advocates of social entrepreneurship, NGO leaders, and friends of SE Forum such as members, trainers and mentors. After a great pitching session and Q&A of the participants, the evening ended with an inspirational conversation with Jakob Trollbäck, the creator of the famous icons for UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, giving great insight to the thinking behind them and what they enable. The audience couldn’t have enough!
International visits
In the beginning of the month, the visit from Belarusian and Latvian delegations was an opportunity to learn from each other and discuss how municipalities and social entrepreneurs can work together. A great mix of people from ministerial levels to municipalities, social entrepreneurs as well as support organizations. Two [...]

In the name of good business and the SDGs

September is when Sweden is back at work at full tilt after the summer break. The focus is intense and I like the anticipation of opportunities and ideas it brings. The same goes for us at SE Forum where our focus currently is on the final part of the SE Outreach Accelerator program. When I write this, we’re only a few days away from the return of the eight entrepreneurs and we’re excited to support them here in Stockholm and see them take the next steps on their entrepreneurial journeys.

However, these entrepreneurs are not the only visitors we have this month as we are also welcoming a delegation from Latvia and one from Belarus. They are here on a study visit to explore how social entrepreneurs and municipalities can work together in good partnerships. Exciting. And I bet we will learn a lot through the discussions as we have a lot to learn in Sweden.

Together with our guests, we will visit Sweden’s innovation agency Vinnova, and the social enterprise Basta! We will also hear presentations from municipalities and other organizations working in the social entrepreneurship eco-system. Follow our updates on social media and our website to find out more!

I also must mention a conference I was invited to in Denmark, called Unleash. A fascinating event where 1,000 international talents (young people working with positive change in various capacity) were invited to take part in the lab / idea generation /conference. In eight days they developed ideas that supported UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and could be turned into businesses, with me and a bunch of other mentors gladly engaging in giving feedback to the talents.

A very ambitious project headed by Carlsberg Foundation plus a range [...]

Internal work, the Queen and a week of politics

The Swedish summer is now finally here and SE Forum will take two weeks off. The focus this past month has therefore been on setting us up for success after the holidays. We’ve for example welcomed our newest team member Tove Nordström (who you can read more about here), worked on building a true dream team and setting up new prospects for both national and international projects moving forward.

You can’t write these letters without mentioning the participants in our SE Outreach Accelerator program. They’ve been busy delivering on their goals and you can read about their progress on our blog. We can also  share updates from other program alumni, for example Towett who’s been honoured by the Queen of England. His work fighting counterfeit medicines and health products in pharmacies and stores has gone from strength to strength. It’s truly important work and shows the power of understanding issues in your country and community when developing solutions.

The month also included a trip to Amsterdam where we met with organisations like Kennisland who works to increase collaboration between the civic sector, business and government around social innovation. We then visited Almedalen (a week dedicated to politics on Sweden’s largest island). There I participated in a panel discussion focusing on how we can foster and enhance collaboration between sectors to solve some of our toughest challenges. For our Swedish readers I’ve written a separate piece about Almedalen which you can find here.

After a busy first six months of the year I look forward to some well-deserved rest and I’m proud of what the SE Forum team has delivered so far in 2017. It bounds well for the rest of the year!

Happy holidays,

Nick

Filter out the noise and introduce quality

Not surprising the focus of our work in April has been the SE Outreach Accelerator program. Eight social entrepreneurs from different parts of the world, working in different sectors have all been challenged, given opportunities and delivered results over the course of three weeks.

Having had the participants with us for the last three weeks has provided us with the opportunity to really understand their businesses, working with some of the world’s toughest challenges such as sanitation, financial literacy or energy poverty. Our role is to help and support them in succeeding with their initiatives. And we do that through questioning, challenging and giving them the right tools to achieve their ambitious goals. I guess you might call it tough love. Here’s what two participants said in the two week evaluation:

It’s been more than I ever expected. Well coordinated and I love the clarity in communication and planning. It’s what I needed to reflect on our business!

After the second week, I feel privileged to be part of this program and so much knowledge and experience sharing in such a short time.

To give you a flavor of the people and organisations we’ve connected with during the past month I would like to name a few; Kivra, IKEA, Hand in Hand, Shifo, God dryck and God El, Centigo and Norrsken House in addition to the many trainers and mentors who are part of our network. For us it’s vital to connect the participants with different business models, experts and peers. We can all learn from different views and ideas, and SE Forum is the lens that filters out the noise and bring quality in business development through vetted content, people and networks.

However, in the end it’s the [...]

Sun shine, program preparation and reported impact

Finally the spring has come to Sweden! Even though I’ve always said that the weather doesn’t really affect me, I now must correct myself. I seem to get an incredible energy boost out of this extra sun shine.

In SE Forum land we’ve been focusing on internal work, writing our report to Sida outlining the activities we’ve delivered and the impact they’ve had. In the coming months we’ll share parts of the outcomes in a more accessible format on our social media. The results were also the reason why we decided to put on an event at our new office, Norrsken House, celebrating social entrepreneurship. We simply had results we wanted to share with the wider community. From what we first thought would be a small and closed event turned out to be a sold out 70+ guest gathering. It was a lot of fun and from the conversations we had afterwards we think it gave an energy boost to the guests as well as us.

At the event we promised to send out a quick survey where you can have your say on the Swedish social entrepreneurship sector. Interested? Please click here to take the survey.

At the same day as the event we also held our annual meeting where a new board was elected. It’s a really interesting mix of experience and expertise so I’m excited for the year to come! You can read all the bios on the website, but in short we have people from the corporate sphere, the NGO-world, academia and of course the entrepreneurial sector. There’s also a mix of competences with members having backgrounds in finance, fundraising, business development, leadership and community building.

I have to finish with the preparation for [...]

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    Collecting bottles in Nairobi and coding in Dar es Salaam – seeing our impact first-hand

Collecting bottles in Nairobi and coding in Dar es Salaam – seeing our impact first-hand

Sometimes you feel blessed doing the work we do. This was certainly the case last month. A trip to Kenya and Tanzania enabled us to see first-hand the impact of our social entrepreneurship programs. In February we’ve also run programs in Nairobi and taken a look at the social entrepreneurship sector in the Ukraine, presenting at a 400 people strong conference with the theme, “Social Innovations: New Solutions to Old Problems”.

Let us start with the trip to Nairobi, Kenya. One of the first things that happened to me when arriving in Nairobi was on the journey to the hotel. On the highway, seemingly from nowhere, a Zebra crossed the road. For you who have spent time in or lived in Nairobi that might not seem like much, but for a person who’s grown up with Moose or deer crossing the road, a Zebra was one of the last things I expected. It did set the tone for the trip, however, constantly being ready for surprises and my curiosity on high alert.

Instead of going into details of all the visits I did, I would like to share some overarching themes I noticed. Firstly, we saw once again the importance of belonging to a network of friends or like-minded people. A year after the SE Social Business Bootcamp (formerly known as the Mini-accelerator) the participating social entrepreneurs still have regular contact through their Whatsapp group. They share tips, opportunities, wins and losses. To have peers who understand and value the work you do is important, especially when you as the founder often are alone in your daily work and decision making.

We also saw that when you come up against difficult decisions or challenges it can be [...]