SEWF 2017 launches with a celebration of Maori culture

The tenth Social Enterprise World Forum began on Wednesday morning in Christchurch, New Zealand with a chorus of Maori schoolchildren beating their chests, stamping their feet and singing.

The influence of Maori culture and that of other indigenous communities in the development of social enterprise was a key theme of the first day. The event takes place from Wednesday 27 to Friday 29 September.

David LePage, chair of the Social Enterprise World Forum board, highlighted that the theme of the event was 'Ka koroki te manu' or 'Creating our tomorrow'. The theme embodies the importance of how the past creates the future and Mr LePage added that the social enterprise community should remember its past. "Here Maori and indigenous communities were trading with social value," he said. "They had a marketplace driven by community value. In our marketplaces we have lost the social value." Social enterprise, he said, was a tool that could recreate a marketplace focused on social value.

This year's event is the largest ever Social Enterprise World Forum with 1,600 delegates from more than 45 countries. It is also the biggest event to be held in Christchurch since the 2011 earthquake. The 80+ speakers over the three days are those involved in social enterprise and policy makers from all over the world. The opening sessions featured key representatives of the social enterprise in New Zealand.

Alfred Ngaro SEWF

Alfred Ngaro, New Zealand's minister for the community and voluntary sector (pictured above), recited an ancient Polynesian chant which he explained was about birds coming together. In the same way, he said, the forum was a gathering of people who had come from different places and this was an opportunity for the delegates to share their stories, then to return home and share what they had learned.

"What makes social enterprise different," he said, "is that it is putting power in the hands of the people." Social enterprise had appeared in places where people had no sense of hope and given them a sense of belonging, he said. Anake Goodall, chair of the Akina Foundation which is organising this year's forum, said: "The time has come us as a sector to lean in and find ways to clarify our thinking."

He said the language with which the sector approached government, philanthropists, investors and corporates needed to be considered. The opening events were held in Christchurch's Isaac Theatre Royal, which was rebuilt after the 2011 earthquake which destroyed the city.

The subsequent regeneration of the city and the approach that has been taken to it is another important theme of the event. Christchurch's mayor, Lianne Dalziel, said that Christchurch had a long history of using business for good, but the earthquake was "a catalyst" for rebuilding the city with positive values at the fore.

"Our message to the rest of the nation and the world is that no-one needs to wait for a disaster for this to occur," she said. She added: "Christchurch is proud to be, this week, the global capital of social enterprise."

Pioneers Post is media partner to the Social Enterprise World Forum. To see all of our Social Enterprise World Forum coverage click here.