A new Interim Executive Director with a passion for entrepreneurship and collaboration
This summer, we’ve welcomed our Interim Executive Director, Thomas Kanestad, following the departure of previous ED Nicklas Wallberg, who has stepped down due to personal circumstances. Although we were sad to see Nicklas go, we’re excited to have Thomas on board to continue growing SE Forum and the social entrepreneurship ecosystem, in Sweden and beyond. We caught up with him in the Stockholm summer heat to find out a bit more about him and to check what his first impressions of his new role have been!
Welcome Thomas! What have you done before joining us and what are your passions?
Thank you! For 25 years, I’ve worked at ICA – Sweden’s biggest supermarket chain – where I’ve held several positions such as head of sustainability and social engagement. Over the last 10 years I’ve been supporting the local entrepreneurs that run ICA stores all across the country. I was also responsible for inspiring and empowering the entrepreneurs’ community work in their respective towns and regions, as well as setting up and growing the ICA Foundation with financial resources to support projects and organisations doing good in the community.
What’s been clear during my time working with these entrepreneurs is the lack of a structured process to find and support social entrepreneurs with their ideas. But I’ve also seen the dedication and engagement that happens when an entrepreneur gets the support he or she needs to excel, and how the ideas can be turned into successful business models. This is something I’ve truly enjoyed, especially as I enjoy linking good people who, together, can achieve great things!
I have a passion for releasing the power of entrepreneurship amongst people whose work can’t just be measured in a monetary value. I’m excited about the future where I believe we will be looking at company results differently, where social responsibility has as much value as ROI.
What have been your impressions of SE Forum so far?
The first time I met with SE Forum was just over a year ago when Nick and I shared the same stage in Almedalen, the Swedish annual politics and business week on the island of Gotland. I was impressed with the work and results SE Forum has proved during the last few years and was excited to hear about the global focus of the organisation as I believe international collaboration is crucial on the journey towards 2030 and achieving the Global Goals. It’s a great framework but the power amongst individual entrepreneurs, within a system that works, is what’s going to make a difference in achieving them.
Over the last year I’ve had the opportunity to attend some inspiring SE Forum events, both the SE Outreach Accelerator graduation in the autumn – where I also discussed the Global Goals alongside designer Jakob Trollbäck on stage – as well as the closing session of the GATHER incubator in the spring, with a fantastic speech by Jan Eliasson. Both events allowed me to meet the great team as well as the inspiring and dedicated entrepreneurs the organisation works with.
During my first month at SE Forum I’ve continued to be impressed, especially with the small but efficient team. I got access to everything I needed on my first day at work so I’ve been busy since day one!
What is the summer looking like for you?
I will be working all summer to get in to things. In the pipeline during this summer are discussions on further cooperation on our exciting GATHER Fellowship with US nonprofit Seeds of Peace, discussions on growing social entrepreneurship globally with representatives from different countries such as Mexico, Malaysia, and Chile but we’re also looking at interesting possibilities in Sweden with innovation agency Vinnova opening a call for projects to strengthen the sector in Sweden. And we are of course also securing all our documents and processes according to GDPR following the EU legal changes in May!
And what about after the summer, what are you excited about?
I’m very much looking forward to getting to know the SE Forum Impact Team and working with them to leverage on all our common knowledge.
The future of SE Forum is an exciting one as I believe the need for social entrepreneurship and working together to be able to solve our global challenges are questions that more and more people and companies start to understand and work with.
As for SE Forum I’m also a big fan of the idea around a ‘forum’ – no one can be an expert on everything but there is an inspiring thought behind the idea around working together to find the right people for the right challenges and opportunities. Again, this is where the Impact Team comes in – really skilled people with the network to help open the right doors and the expertise to support entrepreneurs with what they need to grow, which is what we’re here to do.
Photo credit: Thomas in front of our offices at Norrsken House, by Tove Nordström