Social enterprise declaration signed by sector leaders in Seoul

Global leaders in the social enterprise sector have agreed on six commitments about the future role of governments, corporate businesses and civil society for the development of social enterprises internationally.

The Seoul Declaration was signed during the final day of the 2014 Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) by Peter Holbrook, chair of the SEWF steering committee, and Jongtae Choi, president of the SEWF 2014 Organising Committee. 

Peter Holbrook – who is also chief executive of Social Enterprise UK – said: “We have to take our message out more assertively, more confidently, more passionately and spread the word that social enterprise provides solutions for the future.” 

The six commitments include a pledge to develop a healthy network in which internationally social enterprises actively engage with governments, private businesses and public organizations in order to enhance their competitiveness.

Head of social investment and finance at the UK Cabinet Office Kieron Boyle told the SEWF: “Governments can have a unique role in accelerating the size of social investment markets.”

Government support is not universal around the world however. Kevin Lynch, president and CEO of Social Enterprise Alliance in the USA, said: “In the US – a home of fierce, independent, self-reliant capitalism – there is very little, if any, government support for the idea of social enterprise.”

While this provides the sector with great challenges, it does also result in a breed of  “more fiercely self-reliant social enterprises” that are forced to be stronger without strong government support, he said.

The UK has been referred to at the Forum as the leader in social investment. Yvonne Strachan, head of the third sector, equality and community empowerment in the Scottish Government, told Pioneers Post: “We are not complacent and we never have been. 

“Our view is that we want to continue learning. We want to continue to be placed in a position where our social enterprises can be the best they can be. As part of our international strategy, where we have done something well we want to be able to share it but equally we also know that we can be better.”

At what has been described as the most international gathering of social enterprise leaders in history, Yunjong Wang – senior vice president of the SUPEX Council in South Korea – said: “The challenges are too big and complicated to tackle alone.”

In the closing ceremony the SEWF baton was passed to Elena Casolari from ACRA CCS – an organization working to remove poverty through sustainable, innovative and shared solutions – who will host the 2015 SEWF in Milan, Italy from 1-3 July. 

The 2014 Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) was organised by the Work Together Foundation and took place in Seoul, South Korea. The Pioneers Post team was in Seoul to cover all of the action in partnership with the British Council.

Photo credit: Matthew Herring, Pioneers Post