Mapping the social entrepreneurship ecosystem in South-East Asia

At a time when social entrepreneurship is being discussed as a way to fuse public goods and private initiatives, the long term impact of this sector on regional trade and diplomacy can benefit from more thinking.

In response, Asialink Diplomacy commissioned a report to assess the maturity of the regional entrepreneurship ecosystem. This included the political, social and economic trends, the major funders and contributors for new social ventures, and the key partnerships which are gradually stitching together different organisations into a regional community of expertise and knowledge.

Building on the feedback from the Australia-ASEAN Emerging Leaders Program (A2ELP), a number of factors were identified as crucial to the progress of social entrepreneurs. The standard of living, employment levels, regulatory frameworks, and social awareness are all shaping public interest in this field. With greater attention from financial networks, and growing opportunities for education and training, countries like Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines now play host to a range of incubator programs, professional associations, and academic centres for the study of social impact.

This comes at an opportune time for South-East Asia. As they take steps to deepen the ASEAN Economic Community, promoting social entrepreneurship is one strategy for ASEAN nations to manage the disruptive transition into a region-wide single market. From food and agriculture, health and disability, youth and education, the region will need to address the economic dislocation which can result from trade and investment liberalisation. As market-oriented organisations which deliver social goods, social ventures have the potential to directly address these and other areas of disadvantage and unemployment.

These trends are driving more public attention towards social entrepreneurship in South-East Asia. Social enterprises are increasingly discussed by experts and showcased in global impact investment services. In the coming months, this research will inform the design of the next A2ELP and frame conversations at key track II activities involving Asialink Diplomacy.

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Nisha Srinivasan

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