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Social enterprise forum highlights world of possibilities

Social Enterprise World Forum attendees Wendy Eynon and Alessandra Keighley with Amy Sao Tui-Huta (centre).
Social Enterprise World Forum attendees Wendy Eynon and Alessandra Keighley with Amy Sao Tui-Huta (centre).

The world of social enterprise has dazzled a group of seven Taranaki people, who received support from the Trust to attend the Social Enterprise World Forum in Christchurch at the end of September.

Each returned hugely enthusiastic about what’s happening in the world of social enterprise - a movement where people respond to social or environmental issues by applying a trading model.

Akina Foundation defines social enterprises as "purpose-driven organisations that trade to deliver social and environmental impact" - social enterprises can come in a wide variety of forms, from global purpose driven businesses to grass-roots, co-operative and community owned.

Kaponga woman Wendy Eynon says she was “blown away” by the world of possibilities around supporting the community through heart and sustainable business models.

Wendy was representing Te Ara Pae Trust in Hawera, which offers counselling services for families, women and men, along with support, advocacy, education, anger programmes and safe house facilities.

“It was amazing, mind boggling. I couldn’t speak more highly of it,” she says of the forum, attended by about 1600 people from all over New Zealand and the world.

“I didn’t realise there were so many social enterprise businesses in New Zealand. It was incredibly over-whelming to find there were so many social enterprises in Taranaki.”

Her “wow” moment happened listening to Daniel Flynn, the co-founder of Thankyou, a social enterprise that sells bottled water, body washes, body products, nappies and baby products and puts 100% of its profits in helping people in need.

Alessandra Keighley from Access Radio Taranaki (ART), says the forum was wonderful. “I came away with tremendous optimism. The values united us, no matter what language we spoke or culture we came from.”

The station manager at ART, which provides a voice for the people of Taranaki, was impressed by a large delegation from Taiwan, especially Chia-Chan Liao from the New Homeland Foundation.

After the 1999 Jiji earthquake, which reached 7.3 on the Richter Scale and killed 2415 people, he devoted himself to reconstruction. This led to the development of an eco-township called Taomi Frog Village & Puli Butterfly Town.

This has provided an economic base for the people in the area, an environmental solution in the aftermath of the disaster and a boost for tourism, culture and education. Now they have a butterfly orchestra for under-privileged children and a dedicated butterfly festival.

“You can’t remain unchanged when you hear people telling you a story like that. The question is how do we put something like this in place without a disaster?” It was also poignant being the middle of a city broken by its own earthquake disaster, especially as it has generated so many successful citizen-led projects, like Gap Filler.

Forum attendees Amy Sao Tui-Huta and Jai Huta each run Taranaki-based self-sustained social enterprises, overseen by the Kaupapanui Charity Trust (Jai got a bursary to attend the forum and Amy paid her own way).

Amy is behind The Bloom Project, a Waitara business that makes plus-size women’s clothing and employs solo mothers, so they can have better lives.

Jai runs Game Changer, which manufactures custom-made team and sportswear and shares its profits with those want to participate in sport. “We are here to reduce the barriers for these kids wanting to take part in sport.” 

“It was very inspiring to learn that people started with nothing but an idea or concept and now they are having a huge social impact in their country,” Jai says.

Like Wendy, they too were uplifted by Daniel Flynn’s Thankyou story. They also enjoyed hearing from Indian speaker Royston Braganza, CEO of Grameen Capital, who talked about micro finance. “One of his key points was that we don’t need to compete with each other – working together will get us there sooner.”

They were also moved by Propeller co-founder Andrea Chen, from New Orleans. Propeller was set up in 2009, following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, to help grow and support entrepreneurs to tackle social and environmental disparities in the areas of water, food, health, and education.

Zara Losch, community manager at Manifold Co-working and Events Space, also found the Propeller story fascinating. “She (Andrea Chen) was passionate and real about the challenges they faced. She has helped hundreds of social enterprises get started.”

Like Propeller, Zara plays an intermediary role through her business, Obst, which offers coaching and peer-to-peer events for social entrepreneurs and freelancers. At the forum Zara was inspired by the many people doing business with their hearts and she enjoyed connecting with others in those intermediary roles. “There was this sense of confirmation that I came away with.”