I was very fortunate to be amongst the nearly 2000 delegates at the Social Enterprise World Forum this week in Meanijn (Brisbane, Queensland). It was quite something to be at an international event, the largest that city has hosted since the lockdowns of COVID. The community that gathered in person and online share a common vision for a more purpose driven economy that will deliver social and environmental outcomes, jobs, and impact. There was a deep under current of the wisdom and ingenuity of First Nations people from around the world. There was an emerging clarity of what scale means and a consistent theme of collaboration. There was urgency in the air and a sense this is no longer a sector, it is a movement.
Mobilising for change must include economic models, metrics, tools, and techniques. I was asked this week on the campaign trail if I would declare a climate emergency. My state has already done this and I am looking forward to a council chamber that will do the same if elected to Mayor. But a declaration is not going to take us far enough, quickly enough. There will be a need for an overhaul of all kinds of practices, procurement, behaviours, education, and opportunities. Jurisdictions the world over account for more than 1 billion people who have declared a climate emergency.
I am very fortunate to have a number of people in my life to give me advice around these matters, not the least Prof Peter Newman who is one of my co-trustees for a foundation and we have served together for more than 2 decades. Among other distinguishing credentials, Peter is the Coordinating lead author for the United Nations IPCC on transport. There are also plenty of people in my local community who have been tireless champions for the environment, and I have public servants as dear friends who in their paid and voluntary roles who have generated initiatives, mobilised farmers, community groups, planted trees, cleared land, created regenerative farming zones … and the list goes on. This is not an academic exercise for me. I am pleased I can tap into their wisdom and experience.
The increased attention and activity delivering the circular economy holds many new opportunities, including jobs. I am inspired by Prof Veena Sahajwalla, whose mantra is there is no such thing as waste is offering new models and micro-factories and I can’t wait to see how we might bring some of these to life in my part of the world. I was fortunate to connect with her work in the recent Circular Economy Incubator my co-founders at Collab4Good ran sponsored by Green Industries SA to help build more social enterprises working in the circular economy.
The truth telling that we are about to embark on as a nation as we head towards a referendum on a voice to parliament, will add to this conversation. I expect there is more enlightenment to come. So grateful I got to listen and learn from some of the voices of First Nations at SEWF whose universal message seems to be: we know what to do. (Check out the Climate Council‘s resources on this if you are new to the idea of climate justice.)
So, this takes me back to the beginning of this piece, the Social Enterprise World Forum. Circonomy is now out in the world, born from the World’s Biggest Garage Sale’s Yasmin Grigaliunas. Yas believes many people, not just things, have been put on the scrap heap, and her model “circularity is the new normal, while creating opportunities for people of all abilities.” Yas was one of the first ventures supported by Australian activators of what is now known as Coralus (formerly SheEO). It has been so instructive watching her grow her enterprise, receive numerous awards, generate investment, and most importantly witness the growth and development of an empowered and engaged workforce.
SEWF reminded me we can turn things around. It is not up to one of us, it is up to all of us. We have the tech, the skills, the capacity and now the will has arrived. We can’t wait another minute, it is time to be visible.