ASEAN forum on Social Entrepreneurship

Collaboration across borders to promote Social Entrepreneurship

As part of its efforts to promote social entrepreneurship across the ASEAN region, the Ministry of Social and Family Development and Social Enterprise Association Singapore hosted the ASEAN Social Entrepreneurship Forum to promote dialogue on enabling social enterprises to create greater social impact. Attendees include government officials, thought-leaders, and practitioners from ASEAN member states – Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, and Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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Each country’s delegates came with different stories to share, but with the same level of enthusiasm and optimism to act together collaboratively in building more holistic ecosystems of social entrepreneurship. The event took place in the form of panel discussions, presentations and networking events.

The event kicked off with an opening address by the Minister for Social and Family Development Mr. Chan Chun Sing on the unique value of social enterprises in empowering beneficiaries to contribute back to the society, and the value of private sector players driven not solely by profits but also the mission to contribute back to the society. These messages tied in neatly with the discussions of the first panel titled  “Developments of Social Entrepreneurship in the ASEAN Region”.

In this panel, Mr. Calvin Chu from Eden Strategy Institute, along with Ms. Alison Eskesson from Impact Investment Shujog, Mr. Kevin Teo from Asian Venture Philanthropy Network, and moderator Ms. Watanan Petersik from the Lien Centre for Social Innovation explored innovative Public-Private-People partnership models to move the needle in creating greater social impact. Eden proposed five models where corporations can partner with and support social organizations whilst “securing more dependable sources of supply, innovating new products, developing new markets, enhancing market access, and building their brands”. To achieve that, the panelists all agreed on the government’s role as a regulator, convener, facilitator and catalyst to “reduce risk, compensate for market failures, convene parties, invest, regulate, and develop and coordinate ecosystem building”.

The forum was also a platform for countries to share the state of social entrepreneurship and the challenges faced in each country.  The challenges outlined varied owing to the different level of social enterprise development across different ASEAN countries. For instance, people’s mindset needs to be shifted from looking at social enterprises as businesses rather than charity. Cambodia’s social entrepreneurship focuses on rural development and depends heavily on participation from local communities. Philippines is addressing the lack of recognition of social enterprises by considering a bill that identifies social enterprises as separate legal entities that are given incentives different from private and non-profit sector. Malaysia has witnessed a few success stories in social enterprises that hire people with disabilities or create environmentally sustainable products. The key challenge now lies in encouraging social enterprises to create market-based services and become sustainable. The sharing of success stories and challenges allowed the delegates to better understand growth pathways for social enterprises in each country.

The forum has helped in sparking off conversations among the ASEAN member states on cross-border collaboration to fuel the growth of social entrepreneurship across the region. The night ended with exciting performances by social enterprises such as Beat’abox, De Imperfection.


About Eden Strategy Institute
Eden Strategy Institute is Asia’s leader in social innovation consulting. Eden’s distinctive approach to sustainable advantage helps multinational organizations design new growth platforms, operations, products, and services, by aligning them with market forces and developmental opportunities. Its non-profit research arm provides a fact base of how industries create enduring profits by addressing pressing global issues. Eden also operates a social venture capital fund that invests in social enterprises aligned with its financial, environmental, governance, and social impact criteria, and helps them grow. Eden assists multinational clients develop responsible value chains by conducting ethical audits, building alliances, and setting industry standards and best practices.