Purpose, inspiration, sustainability, passion… this is what social enterprise thrives on.

The social enterprise concept is not like hoverboards, which are here today, gone tomorrow. Social enterprise has proven to implement so much good into our community that it is only going to continue to grow.

Defining Social Enterprise 

Since the beginning of the 1990s the social economy has gradually come to be recognised as the ‘third sector’ outside of the private and public. Made up of cooperatives, charities, and associations, the social sector has continued to grow through this century. As technology and social needs have diversified, so too has the social economy, breeding subsets like social enterprise. Though the social economy is relatively well understood, its offspring – social enterprise – is less so.

Social enterprise is an up and coming industry and is rapidly becoming more popular. Broadly defined, social enterprise is a commercial operation with a social purpose, formulating strategies and applying tactics with the underlying intention of making improvements to human and environmental well being.

Social Enterprise in Aotearoa

The Misprint Co. is an example of a social enterprise that has been making a substantial impact since 2014. They take hardly used paper from around Wellington’s CBD offices and repurpose it into multi-purpose notebooks. One full Misprint box saves 55% of a 10-15 year old tree.

“Sustainability is the core of what we are trying to achieve. We are using the humble notebook to encourage people and businesses to look at their sustainable practices and see what more they can do. It takes 10 litres of water to make an A4 sheet of paper, and to date we have offset 176,620 litres of water from the paper production process. We’ve also re-purposed over 2 trees worth of paper and… we’re only just getting started”, say the ladies of Misprint Co.

Sir Ray Avery has also been busy implementing his ideas into a social enterprise with the hope of improving access to quality healthcare on a global scale. He is the founder and CEO of Medicine Mondiale and is a key speaker at the Social Enterprise World Forum in September. Among the technology created by Medicine Mondiale, there’s LifePod, an infant incubator which is designed to be indestructible, purifies its own air and water, costs a fraction of a traditional $35,000 incubator and will run continuously for 10 years without the need for replacement parts or maintenance by trained technicians.

Social Enterprise Aligns with kaupapa Māori

While social enterprise is a relatively new term, it’s existed for hundreds of years within Māori culture. The Māori word, kaitiakitanga means guardianship and protection where people have deep connection and relationship to the land and sea. People are becoming keen to learn more and to start their own ‘modern’ ventures and the reason for the rapid growth is because of our genuine care for people and the place we live. Māori businesses and Iwi incorporations are often structured on this principal. Where every commercial goal is driven by a social agenda.

Government Support

New Zealand is a progressive nation where we have the freedom to think through new and ingenious ways to solve problems. We seek out opportunities to use our creativity for good. As people in the community are starting to become more educated on social enterprise, the government is following suit.

A working group has been assembled to build the government’s knowledge of the sector, promote its growth and encourage the growth of social finance. Minister Alfred Ngaro, Minister for the Community and Voluntary sector, describes the group as a big focus for his work. He plans to meet with social entrepreneurs around the country, raise awareness of the sector and ask other government departments ‘to look for ways they can join up to make it easier for social enterprises.’

“We’re really lucky that New Zealand is full of smart and caring people who want to use their business acumen to do good,’ notes the Minister. ‘I’m hugely supportive of this.”

Social Enterprise World Forum 2017

The largest social enterprise conference in the world is being held this year in Christchurch. Shining a light on innovative recovery initiatives after the devastating Canterbury earthquake in 2011, the city has seen a large number of social enterprises emerge and is quickly becoming a hub for entrepreneurial ventures.

This conference, hosted by social enterprise intermediary The Ākina Foundation, will provide New Zealand with the opportunity to showcase our national social enterprise sector to a global audience. A key goal of the conference is to strengthen the sector and cement the story of what it means to be a social enterprise in New Zealand.

“New Zealand has made significant progress in the last couple of years; however, our sector remains young, fragmented and underserved – we still have a way to go in terms of optimising the social and economic benefits on offer. The momentum amongst Kiwi social entrepreneurs and enterprising communities, plus their knowledge and effectiveness, will grow through this conference”, says Chief Executive of Ākina, Alex Hannant.

If you’re interested in immersing yourself in the world of social enterprise, register for Social Enterprise World Forum 2017 to join the movement and create change in your community.

This post originally appeared in the New Zealand Story website and is republished here with permission.