Christchurch to host Social Enterprise World Forum in 2017

30 October 2015

New Zealand is to host a major international conference, the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) in Christchurch in 2017.

Ākina Foundation Chief Executive Alex Hannant led a bid for the hosting rights at the SEWF in Italy in June with the backing of a number of partners.

"Hosting the SEWF in New Zealand in 2017 is an opportunity to further accelerate the development of our emerging social enterprise sector. It will give us exposure to the best international practice and strengthen relationships with the global movement. It also gives us a target to work towards in developing a cohesive and ambitious national strategy for the sector," said Mr Hannant.

New Zealand has made significant progress in the couple of years; however, our sector remains young, fragmented and underserved – we still have a way to go in terms of optimising the social and economic benefits on offer. The momentum amongst Kiwi social entrepreneurs and enterprising communities, plus their knowledge and effectiveness, will grow through this conference."

Alex Hannant, Ākina Foundation Chief Executive

SEWF started in 2008 and SEWF founding member, Scotland's Gerry Higgins, was in Christchurch this week to confirm the appointment, view the facilities and be part of the initial planning workshop.

Mr Higgins said the SEWF would be a stimulating gathering.

"The social enterprise movement has an amazing level of social capital – the participants have incredible energy and commitment to social change and this creates the conditions for dynamic events. The last three SEWF events have had more than 3,000 delegates, all committed to social change," Mr Higgins said.

He said: "The two year lead-in to this event means not only do we have more time to design a creative, participative experience for the thousand-plus people we're expecting, but we will also be alongside the development of the New Zealand's social enterprise movement during that period.  As in other locations, this event will definitely accelerate the development of social enterprise and will leave a strong legacy for New Zealand and the wider region."

Mayor of Christchurch Lianne Dalziel said the conference win was a positive reflection on Christchurch.

She said: "Christchurch is an amazing city and a natural choice as the host city. While we continue to face massive reconstruction on multiple levels after the earthquakes in 2011, we are a model of community resilience and innovation – characteristics at the heart of social enterprise."

Christchurch & Canterbury Convention Bureau Manager Caroline Blanchfield said the city was ready for a conference of this size and would be using a range of venues.

"A large conference with a community focus like the SEWF lends itself to using an array of alternative and interesting meeting venues, and by taking a citywide approach we will be able to deliver a great experience," she said.

Mr Hannant said there would be up to 1,200 conference attendees and that international guests would also benefit from being exposed to New Zealand’s best social enterprise efforts.

"We plan to take a collaborative approach to SEWF 2017 and already have many supporters on board," Mr Hannant said. "It will be a team effort and a unique opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the Kiwi social enterprises already driving positive change through business models."

Partners and supporters include Christchurch City Council, University of Canterbury, Ministry of Awesome, Inspiring Stories, Enspiral, Canterbury Development Corporation, Conference Innovators, Rātā Foundation, Philanthrophy New Zealand, Social Traders (Australia), Christchurch Airport, Christchurch & Canterbury Convention Bureau and Tourism New Zealand.

Each year the SEWF examines the conditions needed for social enterprises to thrive, highlighting outstanding examples of innovation and best practice from around the world. The forum provides an opportunity to discuss how social enterprises can develop in the face of changing world and local markets, and in the context of various levels of government engagement, emerging with shared actions to improve sustainability and increase social impact.

Visit www.sewfonline.com for more information.