The Social Enterprise World Forum 2015

Day 2 Highlights

The International University of Languages and Media was the setting for the conference today, with delegates enjoying a feast of presentations from a host of different social entrepreneurs, NGOs and Government representatives.

Not far from the restaurant-saturated canals of Navigli Grande on the outer-ring of Milan, the IULM is an architecturally inspired campus with state of the art facilities. Translation services were once again offered in Mandarin, Italian and English for international delegates, and the translators really put in a mammoth effort over the 12 hours of presentations.

There were some captivating presentations throughout the day. I have narrowed them down to the 3 best sessions in this humble reporter’s opinion.

Beginning with the morning session, the plenary: “The hype or reality of data collection: social progress and impact measurement.” Guided by moderator Tim West from the Pioneer’s Post, experts from around the globe discussed the impact measurement landscape for nearly two hours. Once again Michael Green from the Social Progress Imperative shared valuable insights from the Social Progress Index, while Martin Burt from Fundacion Paraguaya gave the crowd something to consider with the Poverty Spotlight. Words don’t do it justice, so check out this video instead, the 5 minutes are well spent:

After the coffee break, it was time to be dazzle by Jack Sim AKA ‘Mr Toilet’. As the description for the following YouTube clip states:

“For those without access to a simple toilet, poop can be poison. Businessman-turned-sanitation-superhero Jack Sim fights this oft-neglected crisis affecting 2.6 billion people”

Jack Sim named the World Toilet Organisation (WTO), loves to say the word ‘shit’ as much as possible in his presentations, and is a wonderfully quirky, straightforward and subversive individual. This video explains it all:

The most powerful thing that Jack Sim left us to ponder was his theory on how to make change when dealing with what is often a taboo subject (human excrement):

“To make a taboo acceptable you first have to make it funny. After making it something that people can laugh about you then make it sexy (or appealing). Once it is sexy you have just made it ‘normal’.”

Finally, the third highlight of the day had to be the hard-hitting and unapologetically honest criticism of social business incubators put forth by Rustam Sengupta, the founder of Boond, a renewable energy start-up based in India. From the Boond website: “The Boond mission is to solve some of the biggest global challenges — adequate lighting, access to clean drinking water and pest control affecting the remote areas of the world. Through its innovative environment-friendly products and sustainable business oriented approach.”

During the plenary: “Incubators and accelerators: do they work? Social entrepreneurs judge five incubation schemes”, Rustam gave insights into his experience as a renewable energy start-up and provided the audience with a type of edgy commentary that had not been heard much throughout the day. He wasn’t negative about incubators and accelerators, rather Rustam simple told it how it was, empowering social entrepreneurs to make sure they get what they want and need from incubators.

Funny, insightful and empowering, this day at the Social Enterprise World Forum had it all.

How the final day can top that I do not know… Well, Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus will be delivering an address …..…

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