SEWF returns to Europe

Posted in: News.

CEIS Events has just returned from a social enterprise tour of Berlin, Milan and Naples as the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) came full circle, returning to Europe after 7 events on 6 continents.

Following the inaugural forum in Edinburgh in 2008, CEIS has organised a delegation to attend the annual Social Enterprise World Forum as part of an intense educational study tour to learn about social enterprise in other cultures and environments. Study tour participants are offered an enriched experience not just understanding how social enterprise works elsewhere, but having the opportunity to observe, discuss and analyse their experiences with colleagues from Scotland and around the world.

International study tour participants from Scotland, England, Australia, USA and South Korea started their tour visiting Berlin, the social enterprise food capital of Europe, from 27-30th June. Participants were immersed in German culture and hospitality by social enterprise Lebenswelten Events and Catering, who invited the group to attend the launch of the BB King jazz club alongside local social enterprises.

This was followed by a visit to a hostel, restaurant and brewery (no-sampling), at both social firms and sheltered workshops belonging to VIA group who offer training and employment opportunities to people with disabilities. One of the key observations from Berlin is that the social firm sector is well served by productivity compensation payments that assist the ability of social firms to be competitive in securing and delivering business. This assists enterprises to scale and Lebenswelten Catering and Events has grown from €3m when we first visited in 2008 to €50m in the last year.

This year’s SEWF was hosted by ACRA-CCS in Milan from 1-3 July at a number of stunning venues across the city. Day one offered delegates two amazing experiences; starting with a true taste of Italian culture at Teatro alla Scala for an operatic dress rehearsal of Othello; before attending the SEWF Opening Ceremony within the Expo 2015.

This was followed by a two day programme on this year’s theme of ‘Growing a new economy’, where 176 speakers from over 43 countries focussed on sub-topics of:

  • Nurturing ecosystem
  • Social enterprises against poverty
  • Impact investment
  • Feeding the planet

The event culminated in a session with Nobel Laureate, Mohammed Yunus joined on stage with young social enterprise leaders looking at the potential of social enterprise in the hands of the next generation of social entrepreneurs..

THE SEWF Milan programme had a post event study trip to Naples to visit inspiring and brave social enterprises who have worked hard to build thriving businesses in buildings and lands reclaimed from the Camorra (local mafia). Under constant threat, these communities welcome visitors from afar, seeking to build relations and profile in the bid to strengthen their position against, and weaken the power of, the Camorra. Representatives from local social enterprises then joined the group for a three hour authentic Italian lunch, using social enterprise produce prepared by a social enterprise in a restaurant reclaimed from mafia.. While social enterprise as a term is relatively new in Italy and a hybrid legal structure has been introduced to assist its development, social co-operatives have been in existence for decades. This sector is still the preferred model for social enterprise in Italy, the focus is usually on job creation for disadvantaged people and those with mental health problems and disabilities, and the co-operative structures means that many enterprises remain small in scale, focusing on local community needs.

One such social co-operative is a tourism venture established to create employment for young people in a disadvantaged area of Naples and to assist with economic regeneration and opportunity. The tour of the Catacombs of San Gennaro is run by Fondazione di San Gennaro; a social co-operative established in 2004, by Fr Don Antonio Loffredo. This group found three levels of fabulous frescoes, chapels and cubicles neglected beneath the trash strewn streets of Naples, but the religious significance means that the catacombs are in fact legally owned by the Vatican. Successful negotiations with the Vatican have provided an opportunity to recruit youth, some of whom were related to the Camorra mafia, to excavate, renovate and establish this site as one of Naples premier tourist attractions. As visitors increased over the years, over 40 young people have been offered permanent jobs in management, the ticket office or as tour guides and they are looking forward to a papal visit next year to secure permission for further expansion.

For further information on the SEWF this year and the study tours prior and post SEWF follow the link here for the report.

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