The growth in social entrepreneurship in the Asia-Pacific region – Is this a key to resolving poverty in the region?
The growth in social entrepreneurship in the Asia-Pacific region has since taken on the roles of not merely providing social capital to rural families in the developing Asian economies, but also create new opportunities for start-ups to set up small businesses, which could be managed by families, and eventually passed down to the younger generations.
In this article, I shall be introducing a definition of social entrepreneurship, illustrate some of the recent developments within the social entrepreneurship landscape, and a conclusion. I hope that readers are able to appreciate the contributions made by social venture capitalists, and other development agencies in helping advance the role of social entrepreneurship, and the value it is expected to bring to the livelihoods of the rural, and potential aspirants seeking to start a business, but are faced with several challenges that could impede their dreams of setting up their own businesses, and provide essential goods and services to the communities which they are serving.
In an academic research article published by The Asian Institute of Management, entitled, “Social Entrepreneurship: An Asian Perspective”, by Marie Lisa M. Dacanay during the 2nd International Social Entrepreneurship Research Conference, April 07-08, 2006, NYU Stern School of Business, New York, New York, USA, the authors defined social entrepreneurship as promotion and building of enterprises or organisations that create wealth, with the intention of benefiting not just a person or family, but a defined constituency, sector or community, usually involving the public at large or the marginalised sectors of the society. Based on this definition, I believe that the whole idea of a social enterprise is not to put profits, self-interests, etc. ahead of the larger societal needs. I believe that the role of a social entrepreneur is to promote awareness of the social causes which a social enterprise is trying to bring to the community, for example providing social infrastructure that support the needs of a community such as building sanitary facilities, creating the distribution networks necessary for the transport of the farm produce, setting up rural schools, providing repairs and maintenance to worn-out rural infrastructure such as leaking roofs, providing expertise that enable farmers to increase their yield volumes of their farm produce, and have the quality necessary to be accepted in the market place, etc.
The main point of this academic article is to illustrate some of the examples of social enterprises being set up within the Asia-Pacific region. An example of an social enterprise was the brief overview of Yayasan Perketi in Indonesia, which was set up in 1975 byy local social non-government organisation (NGO) activists, V. Wullur, C. Partowidodo, B. Ismawan, B. Sianipar, and W. Laliseng, whose mission is to engage in the development and promoting the awareness of rural enterprises in Indonesia, including the indigenous handicraft producers, and marginalised artisans.
Since the founding of Yayasan Perketi, the social enterprise has expanded to include ancillary businesses, including Perketi Nusantara (1979) which is the commercial arm for the export market (assets as of 2002 stood at USD 389.0 thousand), Perketi Cooperative (2000) which is an organisation that provides working capital for artisans, and the indigenous business community. The founder of Perketi is composed of 200 artisans in Yogyarkata, a city located on Java Island, Indonesia.
This brief introduction of how and origins of a social enterprise was being set up provides an example of the causes most of the social enterprises bring to the community, and how it creates value to the community. Based on the academic paper findings, and the various developments of social entrepreneurship, it is believed that the social entrepreneurship movement is likely to expand in the Asia-Pacific region for many years to come, as most of the Asian-Pacific government leaders are trying to develop policies that will uplift the standard of living of its citizens. One of the ways is to embark on massive fiscal spending measures, which in the long-term might do more harm than good, due to the spiralling health care cost burdens it might bring to the present and future generations, and the of lack of infrastructure in many of these developing Asian countries, which are necessary to enable trading and commerce to take place.
Another way will be to create a proactive environment that encourages social entrepreneurs, and potential social enterprises to step forward and start contributing to the greater good of their communities. There could be advantages in developing a vibrant social entrepreneurship spirit among the citizens, as societies could be developed into fostering a more caring and understanding attitudes towards the disadvantaged households, and hopefully lessen the reliance on government assistance, whose roles are being complemented by social entrepreneurs dedicated to serve the needs of the community. This might help lift an entire generation of poverty among these marginalised households, to achieve a higher standard of living for their next generations.