Thursday, 8 July 2010

Making a Korea move

I am now in the full swing on an international visit hosted by Better Social Enterprise Network and the Gyeonggi Welfare Foundation.

It's an important part of our work at SEL to learn about the exciting work that is happeneing world wide and to promote the work of London, internationally. But with 10 hour jet lag it takes a lot of energy to sidestep fatigue and give your best.

Having mastered twitter photos, I have been keeping folk up to date with the extraordinary things I am learning and seeing. As I return home tomorrow I made a quick trip to the royal palace at 7am, only to have my outfit critiqued via my favourite comms network, Twitter. Apparently my take on the 'utility maxi' look has overtones of Bulgaria 1954!? Thanks for that Liam.

Social Enterprise made it big in South Korea (termed just Korea by south Koreans) three years ago when legislation was passed in support of social enterprises. This was done in response to their financial crisis and growing unemployment rates. The legislation gave 3 years of subsidy to those who wanted to set up social enterprises. They are now looking at possible exit strategies for those social enterprises and they want to set up an organisation like SEL to support future growth. Hence the Symposium and my presence here.

The Korean Social Enterprise Symposium

The Symposium itself is quite a big deal. Our venue is the Press Centre in central Seoul and has I'm guessing over 1000 delegates. There is a real buzz and so many young people, the atmosphere reminds me of the early VOICE conferences, where people were running round, making deals, nobbling politicians and establishing the objectives for their movement.

The Korean Business Expo

There is of course much debate about definitions, subsidy and the role of the state. The almost exclusive emphasis on providing employment is interesting. Fascinating examples of Korean social enterprises include Happiness Sharing Lunchbox which makes lunches for schools and the elderly - the idea that school kitchens should be producing meals on wheels is interesting, providers subsidising the cost of the school food by selling catering services externally. I also liked hearing about Korean Computer Recycling (KCR) which buys used computers, upgrades them and sells them on the open market. In this way they are diverting hardware from landfill by postponing obselesence. All great examples of businesses, providing those furthest from the labour market with jobs.

I do love creating ties with fellow social entrepreneurs world wide. My vision is to create an international federation for social enterprise. Why you may ask? Because social justice is a global priority and those trying to address it need international support, as for the rest of us we need regular reminding that folk from all over are being very clever too.

Social enterprise Korean style


  1. We are currently in London to study Social Enterprises and sponsored by SK group which runs Happiness Sharing Lunch box you mentioned above. We are curious about your point of view towards the situation in South Korea that highly focuses on employment. Plus, we appreciate if you can give any advice to make organizations like SEL in Seoul.
    Let me give you my email address.
    Thank you very much!

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