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:

  1. 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, lettering individuals take charge of theirs and their communities’ future.
  2. 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, gather around specified challenges and work towards a solution. We see time and time again how the mindset of finding common cross-sectoral goals and working towards sustainable solutions are delivering results.
  3. That said, to create an ecosystem for social entrepreneurs takes time and requires investment. Which is why it’s encouraging to see how states like Victoria (Australia) are delivering new strategies for the social enterprise sector. Sweden is for the first time investing in the sector and countries like Latvia have established new organisational forms for social enterprises with support mechanisms connected to the new law.
    The timing of developing ecosystems simply seems to be right in many countries we’ve visited. I’m therefore more determined than ever to make it stick and leverage the opportunities it allows for.

What does it mean for SE Forum?

We believe in individuals who lead the way, persons who don’t settle for status quo but want to act for the change they want to see. However, as stated above we don’t believe it’s as effective it can be if they work in isolation. That’s why we work towards a stronger ecosystem for social entrepreneurs, here in Sweden as well as internationally. Now, that might sound all good and well, but how are we actually doing so? Well, we try to work as we preach and build in the ecosystem mindset in how we work, how we’re set up and how we run our various programmes and offerings. Here are a few examples:

  • In a joint effort with the Social Entrepreneurship Association of Latvia and OMD Brussels (Belarus) we have examined the relationship between municipalities and social enterprises in the three countries (funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers). The findings will be presented in January including country overviews, case studies and recommendations both to social enterprises and municipalities. In the research, we can clearly see the benefits of strong relationships and joint efforts.
  • In March, we’ll launch an exciting partnership with the American organisation Seeds of Peace that’s worked with conflict transformation for over 25 years. In the new joint fellowship called GATHER we’re together selecting 16 participants, eight social entrepreneurs and eight social influencers, from conflict areas to develop their initiatives, leadership skills and in the end their communities. This is a clear example of how we see benefits in combining sectors to leverage each other’s strengths and expertise.
  • We’re constantly developing as an organisation and after having been operating since 2004, we’ve established an impressive network of experts in various fields. 2018 is the year where we’ll aim to maximise this pool of expertise in joint projects where skill sets match project needs. We’re excited to advance this work as we can’t be experts in everything but we can be experts in knowing the experts, enabling greater positive change as a result.
  • We’ll continue to connect our alumni with relevant opportunities from our networks. We have for example Samuel Malinga from Sanitation Africa who’s now selected to Sida’s Innovation Against Poverty with the aim to scale his efforts to provide dignified and innovative solutions to sanitation challenges in Uganda and neighbouring countries.

In the next few months we hope to announce both national and international initiatives. All with the aim to contribute to a stronger ecosystem where enabling is more important than supervising. However, those announcements will have to wait until future ED letters.

There you have it. My snapshot from zooming out 2017 and zooming in on 2018.

Best wishes for the new year from all of us at SE Forum!


p.s. If you have thoughts, ideas or even running projects where you can see how SE Forum can add value, feel free to contact me.