Social Enterprise is the new black
As some of y’all know, I’m originally from Aotearoa [New Zealand] but spend most of my time abroad, out in the big wide world, seeking my fame and fortune, etc etc. Most of that time I’m in the UK and Europe, with a couple of months of the year in the States, sometimes a few extra adventures for one-off shows and festivals, and then a couple of months back in the OG home of NZ.
This year I took a summer off of shows to focus on a different kind of touring - POLITICAL touring. Not really a thing, per se - but well, we made it a thing. I was the international candidate for the Green Party of Aotearoa, empowering overseas kiwis to vote from abroad and have their say in helping look after our beautiful little country at the bottom of the world.
2017 has been pretty hectic thus far, with me actively campaigning across three continents in the lead up to September's election. Aaaaand (thankfully!) this week we found out that all our mahi [work] paid off, as we celebrate a change of government, lead by diverse team of wise, experienced, inspirational, compassionate and forward-thinking humans, representing the views, values and voices of three different political parties, including my incredible squad from the Greens.
I was actually mid-air from AKL-LAX when the news broke after negotiations had been completed, and when I landed and saw the plethora of messages from people waiting for me on my phone, I burst into happy, exhausted, grateful, hopeful tears. This is a very meaningful step, not just for the politics of New Zealand, but for world-leadership and global potential as a whole. Change is coming, and we OUT HERE on the front line spreading love, joy, kindness and inspiration to help encourage other people to step up and do the same. For the night is dark and full of terrors, and we’ve got a long way to go, but dammmn, we just took a giant leap in the right direction.
So, on my most recent trip home, shortly after the NZ election (as in like 4 days later), I had the privilege of being part of another global movement for positive change, that also just so happened to be taking place in Aotearoa in September: the 9th annual Social Enterprise World Forum. I was, in fact, incredibly fortunate to be attending the forum as a bursary guest, honouring and representing the mahi I’m doing with my music and with INDHE.
For those of you who don’t know (because, let’s face it, the election sort of took over my life this year, and INDHE has been super patient in the wings for a few months while I focussed on the importance of love, freedom and democracy), INDHE is an online community space for artists and musicians to find each other, connect with each other, support each other, inspire each other, and basically just be more awesome and help make the world a little less sh*t.
(Side note: please sign-up, follow us and tell every artist you know about us: @indhecommunity. We need you.)
I describe INDHE sometimes as a 'bad-ass LinkedIn for creative misfits'. Or, if I’m feeling super metaphorical, that 'if all the artists in the world were artisan crafters, producers and market-stall holders, INDHE would be the town square where we'd go to find each other'. INDHE isn’t the artists, the stalls, or even the metaphorical produce. What it IS is the communal starting point where people know they can go when they are seeking art, skills, talents and support from other members of the global artist community. Basically, we are helping forge a creative revolution (nbd), simply by giving everyone an agreed space to meet up when we need each other. Like a beautiful, creative, global lost & found.
And what’s different about INDHE? Well, we’re a social enterprise. And we are run by artists. We aren’t doing this do get rich, or to exploit the needs of a creative diaspora. We are doing it because art and music make the world less sh*t, and because us crazy people who create these things need each other, as well as the time, space, resource and support to help forge our independent and unique paths to do what we do best: make art.
Everyone in the world is consuming or experiencing art and music in one form or another, every single day. And as technology and worldviews continue to evolve and help shift social perspectives on “value” and “contribution”, INDHE is going to help support the global artist community to kick ass, spread love, confront challenges, share messages, disseminate ideas, inspire change and continue to help making the world less sh*t. For artists, by artists - INDHE is where we go to find and be found.
I can go on about this stuff for hours, about health, wellbeing, community, education, addiction, relationships, poverty and more, but instead I'll point you to www.indhe.org where there's ALL the info, and you can sign up too. Plus, you can always just hmu if you want to chat about it all directly. Anyway. I digress...
As an artist, a mana wahine [bad-ass kiwi woman] and the founder of a social enterprise, it was hugely humbling, valuable and important for me to be able to take part in the SEWF this year, on home turf down in Ōtautahi [Christchurch].
For anyone not familiar with the term ‘social enterprise’ it basically just means an organisation that values positive social or environmental impact as highly, if not higher, than making dat sweet, sweet profit.
A social enterprise is not a charity - it is a business that generates income to support its mahi [work] and pay its team, to reinvest into its growth and reach, and help spread its kaupapa [philosophy/values/mission] and positive impact far and wide.
The social enterprise model is fluid and flexible, disruptive in its very nature, so there are no real fixed rules about how things need to be done. Mostly just that your mission statement or intent needs to prioritise your positive impact, and that your outcomes need to demonstrate this impact to any and all stakeholders involved, from your investors, to your team, to your customers, to the communities who will be benefiting from your work, to the world around you. (And also likely your friends and family who will patiently put up with you / house you / feed you / cheer you on while you try your darnedest to make the world a little better.)
When I did my Kickstarter campaign back in 2015, I had no idea that what I was doing with INDHE was "social enterprise". Quite frankly, it’s how all business should be done, and there shouldn’t even really need to be a term for it - ALL enterprise should be social enterprise, regardless of what you call it, and the sooner we can get there, the better off everyone will be.
For the meantime, the #socent movement is growing around the world, and the SEWF gave us hopeful little hustlers an opportunity to meet, learn, connect and be inspired by people from across the planet who are working to make things better for the world. To be able to do it as a guest was a true honour. And to be able to do it in Aotearoa was prettttty moving actually.
I love being based abroad, and I'm grateful asf for all my ridiculous adventures and for the opportunities I get to seize and run with, off into the sunset. A lot of the work I do requires me to be overseas but it is so humbling to be able to bring that global reach, that global dream and that global mission, back to my own doorstep in Aotearoa.
To be able to deepen my learning and love of kaupapa Māori, and understand how these fundamental values, stories and experiences continue to shape the world. These ideas of community, creativity, love, whānau and collaboration that are deeply ingrained in cultures around the world, including the beautiful, indigenous culture of the land I call home. And to develop this knowledge surrounded by so many others from all around on the world, all with their own stories, cultures and experiences, and all on their own missions for planetary-betterment.
I think this handwritten note sums my SEWF experience all up quite nicely. I was in NYC this summer and decided to get my nails painted in rainbows to honour Pride month. As someone who dresses in predominantly black all the time, having bright nails is a little sprinkle of colour in my otherwise emo-swag aesthetic, and I’ve never had so many compliments on my nails in my life!
Kids, grown-ups, people in stores, people at receptions, people in interviews, people at venues, family, friends, strangers - these little rainbow claws have brought joy to many, including / especially myself. They’ve also helped start conversations around love, equality, community and kindness. And so, I’ve kept doing it. And whenever someone comments it gives me a little extra spring in my step to know that I’ve helped remind someone that growing up is… well… not always entirely necessary.
ANYWAY, on day two of the forum, I was sitting in one of my favourite sessions, "The creative economy and social change”, absorbing the sheer presence of these awesome artists hustling for change, just like me. I was exactly where I needed to be, surrounded by people who inspired me PLUS somehow Kendal from Sisters United, a social enterprise using arts to empower young women in New Zealand (ticking ALL dem boxes!) had just got the whole lecture theatre at the Christchurch Arts Gallery dancing to Michael Jackson. It was great. ANYWAY, amongst the awesomeness, a guy sat in the row in front of me, leaned back and handed me this note.
“Your fingernails are spectacular. Ka pai!”
"Ka pai" is a pretty handy term in Māori to use as a positive affirmation, whether it’s about, food, feelings, music or… rainbow fingernails. And thus, the whole ethos of the SEWF experience for me was captured right there, in that moment. In a beautiful gathering of creative minds in the Art Gallery - a beacon of light and joy in itself, amongst the rebuilding of central Ōtautahi - someone had taken a moment out of their day to craft a little snippet of positivity, simply for the sake of giving joy and kindness. It also turned out that the guy, Jeremy, was one of the SEWF organisers, which made it all the more impressive that he even had a moment to spare amidst the conference to decide that would be a nice thing to do!
Sometimes (always) doing something JUST BECAUSE it is a good thing to do, is all the reason you need to take action. Amongst the SEWF whānau, I found more of my people, continued to affirm my ridiculous dreams and journey so far, and spread a little magic of my own. Hell, I even unexpectedly featured on the big screen in the Isaac Royal Theatre, as an advocate for the Conscious Consumers movement!
Being part of a social enterprise is not something everyone will have the drive or the opportunity to do in their lives, but either way, EVERY SINGLE MOMENT is an opportunity to have a little positive impact in the world.